Jesus Plus Nothing Bible Studies
Knowledge of the Holy: Ezekiel sees Jehovah Shammah - The Lord is there!
by I Gordon
Ezekiel 48:35 "... and the name of the city from that day shall be, 'The LORD is there.'"
The next name of the Lord that I want to study is found preciously one time in the Bible and that is the name Jehovah Shammah (meaning 'the Lord is there'). If I were to tell you that it is found in the book of Ezekiel somewhere, you would do well to start from the end (with the intention of working backwards) for it is found in the very last verse of the very last chapter of Ezekiel. Not a bad way to end don't you think? There are a lot of prophecies of judgement in the book of Ezekiel and a lot of warnings that Ezekiel himself had to give to both Israel and the surrounding nations, but it is comforting that it ends on this truly high note of seeing a vision of the future city of Jerusalem which will have a new name - Jehovah Shammah, the Lord is there!
So let's explore this name a little, both for our own personal life today and also in regards to this glorious day that is prophesied to come. Let's start with... um which one... ok, the prophetic and then look at a personal aspect. Got it? Right...
Background background background. Never forget the background.
The Believers Bible Commentary gives the following background to the book and days of Ezekiel:
"Ezekiel (God strengthens or strengthened by God)
was one of those who was taken to Babylonia with the second group of
captives, eleven years before Jerusalem was destroyed.... Ezekiel ministered
to his fellow-exiles immediately before and during the first twenty-some
years of the captivity. They falsely expected to return to Jerusalem, so he
taught them that they must first return to the Lord. Ezekiel's prophecy is
divided into three parts.
First, he rehearses the sins of Judah and warns of God's impending judgment in the captivity of the people and the destruction of the capital. This is all vividly announced in unusual visions and symbolic acts. A bright, shining cloud, a figure of God's presence, is seen lingering over the temple, then reluctantly departing. This meant that God could no longer dwell among His people because of their sin, and His sword of judgment must soon descend on the polluted temple. The glory of the Lord is one of the key thoughts running throughout the Book of Ezekiel.
In the second section, Judah's neighbors are condemned because of their idolatry and their cruel treatment of God's people. These are the Ammonites, Moabites, Edomites, Philistines, Tyrians, Sidonians, and Egyptians.
Finally, in the last section, Ezekiel tells of the restoration and reunion of the entire nationóboth Israel and Judah. When the people repent of their sins, God will put His Holy Spirit within them. The Messiah will come to His people and destroy their last enemies. The temple will be rebuilt, and the glory of the Lord will return to it. These prophecies have not yet been fulfilled, but look forward to Christ's one-thousand-year reign on earth, the Millennium."
Ichabod - the departure of the Glory in stages
Now it is easy to just quote the very last verse in the book of Ezekiel and think 'Great, the Lord will be there. Wonderful. All is well!' But the significance of this is undermined without knowing what else Ezekiel saw. You see, before seeing this prophetic vision of a future city of Jerusalem with the Lord present within, Ezekiel saw the departure of God's glory from Israel. Ezekiel actually saw this happening in stages:
Ezekiel 10:4 Then the glory of the LORD rose from above
the cherubim and moved to the threshold of the temple. The cloud filled the
temple, and the court was full of the radiance of the glory of the LORD.
So first of all Ezekiel saw the glory cloud of the Lord, symbolising the very presence of God, rise from Ark of the Covenant in the Holy of Holies in the Temple and move to the very edge of the temple. Judgement from the Babylonians (allowed by the Lord) was coming and the Lord was departing. Yet at this stage Ezekiel may not have know what this vision foretold.
Ezekiel 10:18-19 Then the glory of the LORD departed from over the threshold of the temple and stopped above the cherubim. (19) While I watched, the cherubim spread their wings and rose from the ground, and as they went, the wheels went with them. They stopped at the entrance to the east gate of the LORD's house, and the glory of the God of Israel was above them.
From the edge of the temple, Ezekiel next sees the glory of the Lord moving away to the east gate. This would have been a devastating vision for Ezekiel to see because God was essentially writing 'Ichabod' - meaning 'there is no glory' over Judah. He was leaving, judgement was coming and it wasn't clear at this stage when or if He would return!
Ezekiel 11:22-23 Then the cherubim, with the wheels beside them, spread their wings, and the glory of the God of Israel was above them. (23) The glory of the LORD went up from within the city and stopped above the mountain east of it.
From the east gate of the city, Ezekiel next saw the glory of the Lord depart outside the city to the mountain on the east. thus, it would have passed over the Kidron valley to the Mount of Olives. The glory had departed to the east and left... but for how long? Would the glory return? The Bible knowledge commentary adds here:
"This departure signaled Jerusalemís doom. The city would be devoid of Godís blessing till the glory will return via the Mount of Olives. It is no coincidence that Christ ascended to heaven from the Mount of Olives (Act 1:9-12) and promised to return to the same place (Act 1:11; cf. Zec 14:4)."
This departure occurred during the days of Ezekiel and was played out again with the rejection and departure of the Lord Jesus. But is that the end of Judah and Israel as a whole? Or did Ezekiel see more than would give hope for the future?
YES! He saw the return!
Yes! You know it! God may have departed but his plan and promises are never thwarted! We now live nearly two thousand years since Jesus returned back to Heaven from the Mount of Olives on the east of Jerusalem. For much of that time the land of Israel has lay abandoned. And yet Ezekiel saw a tremendous final vision of a restored Jerusalem and, most importantly, the return of the glory of the Lord from the east!
Ezekiel 43:1-7 Then the man brought me to the gate facing east, (2) and I saw the glory of the God of Israel coming from the east. His voice was like the roar of rushing waters, and the land was radiant with his glory. (3) The vision I saw was like the vision I had seen when he came to destroy the city and like the visions I had seen by the Kebar River, and I fell facedown. (4) The glory of the LORD entered the temple through the gate facing east. (5) Then the Spirit lifted me up and brought me into the inner court, and the glory of the LORD filled the temple. (6) While the man was standing beside me, I heard someone speaking to me from inside the temple. (7) He said: "Son of man, this is the place of my throne and the place for the soles of my feet. This is where I will live among the Israelites forever. The house of Israel will never again defile my holy name--neither they nor their kings--by their prostitution and the lifeless idols of their kings at their high places.
Ezekiel saw the glory of God depart but thank God, he also saw it return. God NEVER gives up on those that are His and He will NEVER fail to fulfill His many promises. So Ezekiel saw the glory of the Lord return through the east gate. Today, this gate is called the 'Golden gate' or 'Beautiful Gate' (Acts 3:2) and is pictured to the right. It is believed that the present gate was built in the 520's on top of the remains of the previous gate destroyed by the Roman Empire. Under the Ottoman Empire, Sultan Suleiman the Magnificent sealed off the Golden Gate in 1541 and a Muslim cemetery was placed in front of it in the belief that this would prevent the Jewish Messiah from coming back (good luck with that!).
But man's effort will in no way stop the scripture from being fulfilled and this passage will come to pass with the second coming of Jesus Christ and His rule and reign from Jerusalem. He is the glory of God and Jerusalem is the place of His throne during His reign. It is a day when no one will even speak or think of the Ark of Covenant anymore because the very real presence of God will with man. Just as the prophet Jeremiah said:
Jer 3:16-17 In those days, when your numbers have increased greatly in the land," declares the LORD, "men will no longer say, 'The ark of the covenant of the LORD.' It will never enter their minds or be remembered; it will not be missed, nor will another one be made. (17) At that time they will call Jerusalem The Throne of the LORD, and all nations will gather in Jerusalem to honor the name of the LORD. No longer will they follow the stubbornness of their evil hearts.
The Lord Jesus, the Messiah of Israel and the world, will return and the gates will be opened to Him as shown in Psalm 24:
Psa 24:9-10 Lift up your heads, O you gates; lift them up, you ancient doors, that the King of glory may come in. Who is he, this King of glory? The LORD Almighty-- he is the King of glory. Selah
Truly, as Ezekiel states in the last verse of his book 'And the name of the city from that time on will be: Jehovah Shammah - THE LORD IS THERE."
Jehovah Shammah - The personal application
We've seen a brief glimpse of what 'Jehovah Shammah' means for the future and that is that Jesus Christ, who is the very presence and glory of God, will dwell in the earthly city of Jerusalem. But what of Jehovah Shammah for our lives now? There are many verses that could be looked at but one example is Psalm 46 which emphasizes the closeness and ever-present God we serve. It is a wonderful Psalm which gave the theme for Martin Luther's great hymn, "A Mighty Fortress Is Our God."
Psa 46:1 God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble.
God is an ever-present help... Especially in times of need or trouble. He is Jehovah Shammah - the One who is there! Have you experienced that? Have you seen that He is close when your need is greatest? Maybe it is health problems. Maybe it is family or relationships. Maybe you are going through difficult financial trouble. Know this today - God IS an ever-present help in times of need. He is the One who is with you (if you are a believer) and upholds you. I can state from experience that God has been very kind to me in my times of real difficulty. He has been present. He has encouraged me, strengthened me and upheld me. Often I have had to continue in the difficulty longer than I would choose but He like a Father holding the hand of His young son, so God has kept me from falling through many dangers, toils and snares.
Heb 4:15-16 For we do not have a High Priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin. Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need.
He is Jehovah Shammah. The One who is there. Have you learned to experience this name of God? Look at what the Psalmist found:
Psa 46:7-11 The LORD of hosts is with us; The God of Jacob is our stronghold. Selah. (8) Come, behold the works of the LORD, Who has wrought desolations in the earth. (9) He makes wars to cease to the end of the earth; He breaks the bow and cuts the spear in two; He burns the chariots with fire. (10) "Cease striving and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth." (11) The LORD of hosts is with us; The God of Jacob is our stronghold. Selah.
The LORD of hosts is with us. He is not a God who is distant or far away but One that is present with His people. That knowledge becomes our stronghold, our security, our foundation in tough times. Do you know this? Are you putting into practice the command of the Lord in this passage to 'cease striving (or be still) and know that I am God.' We struggle and strive a lot do we not? We feel the weight of problems and rush around trying to find an answer and a way of escape. Jehovah Shammah would say to us this day 'Be still and know that I am God'. 'I am with you - right unto the very end of the age.' 'It is in hand... I am present and all that you need'.
The Psalmist ends with a 'Selah' - that is, stop, think and meditate on this. It is important... then and now. Finally, our response to this knowledge is in verse 2 and 3:
Psa 46:2-3 Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea, (3) though its waters roar and foam and the mountains quake with their surging. Selah
In the days ahead may you experience more of Jehovah Shammah!