by Pastor Ron Thomas
RODGERS BAPTIST CHURCH
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Text: Ezekiel 48:35. "....and the name of the city from that day shall be, The LORD is there."
Introduction: A couple had two little boys, ages 8 and 10, who were always getting into trouble. If anything was disturbed or missing in the neighborhood, their sons were probably involved. Their mother asked their pastor if she could drop her boys off at church, so that he could put the fear of God in them. The pastor agreed, but asked to see them individually. The 8-year-old would go into the pastor's study first, then the older boy would be counseled. The pastor who was a huge man with a booming voice, sat the younger boy down and asked him sternly, "Son, ...where is God?" The boy's mouth dropped open, but he made no response. The pastor repeated the question in a little firmer and louder, "Son, ...where is God?" Again the boy just sat there bug eyed and made no attempt to answer. A bit exasperated, the pastor raised his voice even more, shook his finger in the boy's face and bellowed, "Son! I asked you a question. Where is God?" The boy screamed and bolted from the study. As he passed his brother he said, "We are in big trouble this time, dude. God is missing, and they think we did it."
The Bible teaches us that God is known by many names. Each name reveals a different aspect of His eternal character and nature.
Ezekiel, an aspiring priest, prophecies fourteen years after the fall of Jerusalem. The Temple had been destroyed. God's presence had departed from Jerusalem; from the Holy Place in the Temple; and from the people of Israel, because long before this, ....they had left Him. Over time, they had lost their reverence for God. Their worship became more of a form, something to go through or get through, rather than a heart felt expression of worship. As a result, the frequency and quality of their sacrifices diminished. They began to look at the pagan world around them with all it's sinful pleasures and forbidden gods, as something desirable, rather than as something to be denied.
As a captive in Babylon, Ezekiel is visited by God and given a vision. In that vision, particularly Ezekiel chapters 1-10, Ezekiel describes God's presence leaving His people. The Jews were devastated when God's presence and glory left the Temple and the city of Jerusalem. We need to understand what this meant for the people of Israel. They thought God was supposed to be with them forever. He was to be physically there. After their deliverance from Egypt, God manifest Himself in a cloudy pillar by day, and a fiery pillar by night. Later the Tabernacle was built by the instruction of God, and He came down in His Shekinah glory. The same thing happened with Solomon and the Temple. In the Temple, God's presence dwelt between the two cherubim above the Ark of the Covenant, which was housed behind the thick curtain, in the Holy of Holies.
We can only imagine the shock experienced by Israel when God's presence lifted up from the Holy Place. God had always been there providing, sanctifying, protecting, leading, guiding, sustaining, and now His presence had left town!
Also, God's departure from the Temple was devastating, because it signified that Judgment was on the way. In Ezekiel chapters 11-33, Ezekiel describes that judgment, but then in chapters 34-48, the prophet looks far into the future to the day when God will revive and restore His people! As Ezekiel proclaims his message of revival and restoration, God revealed to him that Jerusalem would one day be rebuilt, and renamed. It would no longer be called Jerusalem. It would be called, "Jehovah Shammah," the Lord is there! The message was unmistakable. God will abide with those who earnestly and obediently seek Him with all their hearts.
Does He dwell with you? Have you experienced God's presence? Have you known His closeness? The name Jehovah Shammah, reveals that God wants us to know He is with us, and wants us to experience Him in a personal way. Sometime ago, Henry T. Blackaby wrote and published a Bible study entitled, "Experiencing God." Blackaby wrote, "Knowing God does not come through a program, a study, or a method. Knowing God comes through a relationship with a Person. This is an intimate love relationship with God. Through this relationship, God reveals Himself, His purposes, and His ways; and He invites you to join Him where He is already at work."
Jehovah Shammah doesn't want to be the God over there, but the God who is here. God desires an authentic relationship with you. He wants you to know His presence, not for moment, but for eternity.
There are many who desire to be religious, but stop short of pursuing a personal relationship with God. We want to keep God contained to a specified day and building, rather than set Him loose to romp through our daily lives. Sad to say, Christians often know how to have a weekly religious experience, but they struggle to have a relationship with God. The truth is, God is still Jehovah Shammah. Our God desires more than ever for us to know, feel, and experience His Presence on a day to day, moment to moment basis. As Jehovah Shammah, God has gone to great lengths to come near us. How?
First, in the person of Jesus Christ, Jehovah Shammah is with us. Given the helpless and hopeless situation of humanity, God did the only thing He could do. God did the thing He promised to do. God came down to the earth to dwell among us. The angel told Joseph in Matthew 1, that the child conceived in Mary was of the Holy Spirit, and fulfilled the words of the prophet Isaiah who said, "Behold, a virgin shall be with child, and shall bring forth a son, and they shall call His name Emmanuel, which being interpreted is, God with us." Why did He come? Why call His name Jesus? He came to redeem us, to take our sins away by the sacrifice of Himself, so that we could be reconciled to Him.
After Jesus was born a baby in Bethlehem, Joseph and Mary could look at Him and say, "God is here. He is with us." Later, as Jesus called out His disciples, and began to teach them and walk with them, they could point to Jesus and say, "God is here. He with us." John testified, "...and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth." Hanging on the cross, dying for our sins, those who beheld that scene could say, "God is here. He is with us."
Second, in the presence of Jesus Christ, Jehovah Shammah is in us. A mother writes, "While my young son Doug was looking at a full moon he asked, ‘Mom, is God in the moon?' I explained that God is everywhere. ‘Is He in my tummy?' Doug wanted to know. ‘Well, sort of,' I responded, not sure where these questions were leading. Then Doug declared, ‘God wants a banana.'"
God came to dwell among us so that He might be in us! Instead of God being over there behind the curtain, God came to be God in here, that is in our hearts! Jesus came to be received. We receive His presence when we believe. John 1:11-13 reads, "He came unto His own, and His own received Him not. 12 But as many as received Him, to them gave He power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on His name: 13 Which were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God." Once the Lord Jesus enters our lives through the door of salvation, the Bible teaches that He actually takes up residence within our hearts! There is a wonderful joy in salvation that comes from our inner most being, when God dwells in our hearts. Psalms 16:11 says, "Thou wilt shew me the path of life: in Thy presence is fulness of joy; at Thy right hand there are pleasures for evermore."
Salvation through Jesus Christ gives us the right to enter into God's presence. While on the cross, that massive curtain that stood between the priest and the Holy of Holies was ripped into from top to bottom, making access through the blood of Jesus Christ. As our risen, eternal High Priest, Jesus became our "new and living way," giving us immediate access to God's presence!
The apostle Paul informs us in I Corinthians 6, that our bodies become His Temple, the place where the Holy Spirit abides! This means that where ever we go as believers, we take Him with us! Whatever we do, He does it with us! The Holy Spirit is ever present in us to comfort us, as well as convict us! He is in us to lead, guide and direct us, but we must acknowledge His voice.
Third, by the power of Jesus Christ, Jehovah Shammah works through us. Salvation does more than simply save us from a devil's hell. We are saved for a great eternal purpose! Life ceases to be about ourselves. Jesus told His disciples in John 15:5, "I am the vine, ye are the branches: He that abideth in me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit: for without me ye can do nothing." It is as we learn to rely upon Christ's presence in us, that we are empowered to live the Christian life! The apostle Paul said in Philippians 4:13, "I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me."
Jehovah Shammah has a place in the lives of the redeemed. No matter where we go or what we do, God is there. We share every experience of life with Him. We know that God is omnipresent, which means God is everywhere. Since God is present everywhere, when we talk about the presence of God, we are really talking about the realization, or becoming conscious of God's presence. Oswald Chambers in his book Run Today's Race makes this observation about God's presence with us. "Unless in the first waking moment of the day you learn to fling the door wide back and let God in, you will work on a wrong level all day; but swing the door wide open and pray to your Father in secret, and every public thing will be stamped with the presence of God." Often when we are at our low points in life, it can feel that God is a million miles away. Those times however can be a doorway into His presence! No matter where we are, when we turn our focus on Him and call His name, immediately we are filled with the presence of His strength, peace, and comfort. Practicing the presence of God means that we make ourselves conscious of His presence and power to help us in every need, every situation.
Jehovah Shammah is with us in temptation. Proverbs 15:3 reads, "The eyes of the LORD are in every place, beholding the evil and the good." When we are tempted to sin, do we visualize the Lord Jesus with us, watching us, being involved with us?
In I Corinthians 6, Paul tells us that our bodies are "for the Lord," not for fornication. He says that when we join our bodies to any sinful practice, we are involving Christ Himself!
In the moment of temptation, we must remember that our bodies are Temples of the Holy Spirit! This means that there is power available to resist sin and temptation!
Jehovah Shammah is with us in our need. We may not have everything in life that we desire, but on the other hand, what is it we desire? Recently in my daily Bible reading, I came across a wonderful Psalm that speaks of God's presence being our greatest treasure in life. In Psalm 21, King David rehearses all the goodies and all the glory that are his because he is king. Everything his heart desired from life and health, to the gold crown on his head, the Lord made sure he had it. But then in verse 6, King David said. "For Thou hast made him most blessed for ever: Thou hast made him exceeding glad with Thy countenance (face or presence)." We may not have everything in life we want, but we have the Lord's presence.
Hebrews 13:5 reads, "Let your conversation be without covetousness; and be content with such things as ye have: for He hath said, I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee." With God's presence comes His promise that He will meet our every need.
Jehovah Shammah is with us in loneliness. Remember Hagar? She was the victim of Abraham and Sarah's little "end around scheme." Instead of waiting on God, they purposed for Abraham to conceive a child with Sarah's Egyptian maid, Hagar. When Hagar became pregnant, Sarah became jealous. The daily tension grew until Hagar finally ran away into the wilderness. There she was, all alone, feeling unloved, unwanted, and abandoned. It was then God made Himself known to her as El Roi, the God who sees. As it turned out, she was not alone! God saw Hagar in her pain and loneliness, because He was with her, He was there!
Today, we can be assured that God not only sees us in our loneliness, He is with us! The great irony is that our isolation can actually magnify His presence in our lives!
Jehovah Shammah is with us in difficult service. When Moses was commissioned with the task of going before the leader of the most powerful nation on earth at that time, and demanding that he let his people go, God assured him that His presence would go with him. It was the same when Moses faced the prospect of leading Israel into the wilderness. In the midst of Moses' anxiety and fear, the Lord promised to be with him. When Joshua stood before Canaan, the Lord assured him that as He was with Moses, He would be with him! As Jesus empowered and commissioned His church to go to the whole world, preaching, baptizing, and making disciples, it must have seemed an impossible task. The Lord Jesus told them, "I will be with you." How many times do you feel overwhelmed by the task God has set before you? You might be a parent, a supervisor, a teacher or administrator. You might be an employer or employee. You might even be a preacher, a minister, pastor, or missionary. Whatever God calls you to do, you can be sure that every step of the way, He is there to uphold you and strengthen you!
Jehovah Shammah is with us in danger. The apostle Paul was often in some dangerous situations as he traveled the world preaching the gospel of Jesus Christ. In II Corinthians 11, Paul chronicles all the things he suffered, yet he never once suggests that God was not with him. Notice his testimony of one particularly difficult moment in II Timothy 4:16-17. "At my first answer no man stood with me, but all men forsook me: I pray God that it may not be laid to their charge. 17 Notwithstanding the Lord stood with me, and strengthened me; that by me the preaching might be fully known, and that all the Gentiles might hear: and I was delivered out of the mouth of the lion."
There is nothing to fear for the child of God. Jehovah Shammah does not shy away from fearful situations and places. He is with you there in that airplane, in the elevator, on the surgery table, or in the recovery room. It doesn't matter if you are in the jungles of Africa, in the piranha filled waters of the Amazon Basin, or in the heartless, savage corporate board rooms of America, Jehovah Shammah is there to be your shield. In the dangerous place, remember God's promise in Isaiah 41:10 that says, "Fear thou not; for I am with thee: be not dismayed; for I am thy God: I will strengthen thee; yea, I will help thee; yea, I will uphold thee with the right hand of my righteousness."
Jehovah Shammah is with us in our sickness and in death. Psalm 46:1 reads, "God is our refuge and strength, A very present help in trouble." God is always quick to respond to our cry at our lowest point. Why? Because Jehovah Shammah is the God of compassion and comfort. It gives God great satisfaction to come to our aid and assistance. When we are facing sickness and death, we are most likely to turn to Him with our whole heart and soul. He becomes our only focus, our only hope.
What did the Psalmist say in Psalm 23:4, "Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for Thou art with me; Thy rod and Thy staff they comfort me."? Certainly Stephen knew this first hand. In Acts 6, as he was being stoned to death for his faith in Jesus Christ, those who threw the stones, "....saw his face as it had been the face of an angel." They could not help but notice the presence of Jehovah Shammah on Stephen's face. Looking up, Stephen witnessed the heavens open, and saw Jesus standing at the right hand of God to receive him!
God has promised His presence no matter what. God is with you, but are you with God? Have you asked Jesus into your heart? This act of faith, qualifies His presence. Are you living your life with an awareness of His presence? Like Stephen, when we practice the presence of God, it will change you and impact others around you. It could be that like the Israel in our text, you have left the awareness and fellowship of God's presence behind. When we chose the friendship and fellowship of sin and the world over the friendship and fellowship of the Lord, we pay a price. The good news is that God is willing to return and restore His presence in your life. Today, your life can be named, "Jehovah Shammah," the Lord is here with you.