Wednesday, June 23, 2010

The Shekinah Dwelling (Part 2)

Read Part 1
Christ in you, the hope of glory. (Colossians 1:27)
King Jesus the Messiah is the Word who became flesh and tabernacled among us, manifesting the divine presence, the dwelling place of the shekinah glory of God. Since then, He has ascended, in His body, to the right hand of the Father, where He now rules over heaven and earth forever. But what of the shekinah, the glory of the divine presence?

In the Old Testament, the dwelling place God chose to manifest His presence was the Tabernacle in the Wilderness, then the Tent of David, and finally, the Temple in Jerusalem. With the sacrifice of Messiah Jesus for our sins, the temple system of burnt offerings and sacrifices, which served as a type or foreshadow, was fulfilled, and the temple itself was rendered obsolete. This was one of the points the author of Hebrews emphasized:
The Holy Spirit indicating this, that the way into the Holiest of All was not yet made manifest while the first tabernacle was still standing … But Christ came as High Priest of the good things to come, with the greater and more perfect tabernacle not made with hands, that is, not of this creation. (Hebrews 9:8, 11)
Jesus came as the mediator of a new covenant, the one foretold by Jeremiah and Ezekiel (Jeremiah 31:31-33; Ezekiel 36:25-27), in which God would write His law upon our hearts and place His Spirit within us. This required a temple not made with human hands.

But God has not left Himself without a place to manifest His presence, His shekinah, on earth. The apostles teach us that there remains yet a temple on earth, a dwelling place where God has chosen to reveal His glory. It is not a temple of wood and stone, but a temple made without hands. It is the people of God themselves. The apostle Paul says,
Do you not know that you are the temple of God and that the Spirit of God dwells in you? If anyone defiles the temple of God, God will destroy him. For the temple of God is holy, which temple you are. (1 Corinthians 3:16-17)
Again, Paul says, quoting Ezekiel,
For you are the temple of the living God. As God has said: “I will dwell in them and walk among them. I will be their God, and they shall be My people.” (2 Corinthians 6:16)
Those who have received King Jesus the Messiah are now the temple of God, because He has placed His Spirit in us, just as He promised in Ezekiel. Collectively, as a people, we are the place where God dwells on earth. But even individually, we are, each one, the temple of God. He dwells in our bodies as well as our spirits:
Or do you not know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and you are not your own? For you were bought at a price; therefore glorify God in your body and in your spirit, which are God’s. (1 Corinthians 6:19-20)
The apostle Peter likewise understood his own body to be a tabernacle, or tent.
Yes, I think it is right, as long as I am in this tent, to stir you up by reminding you, knowing that shortly I must put off my tent, just as our Lord Jesus Christ showed me. (2 Peter 1:13-14)
The Greek word for “tent” here is skenoma, which is used of the divine dwelling. And indeed, that is how Peter would be thinking of it here, fully aware, as he wrote just a few verses earlier, of the “exceedingly great and precious promises” God has given us and that those who belong to Jesus the Messiah have become “partakers of the divine nature” (2 Peter 1:3-4).

God’s promise of a new covenant and a new temple was not just for the Jews but also for all the nations. In his letter to the believers at Ephesus, Paul speaks to both the Jewish and Gentile believers in Jesus:
Now, therefore, you are no longer strangers and foreigners, but fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, having been built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ Himself being the chief cornerstone, in whom the whole building, being fitted together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord, in whom you also are being built together for a dwelling place of God in the Spirit. (Ephesians 2:19-22)
Paul makes the point again in Colossians: Jesus the Messiah comes to dwell in believing Gentiles as well as believing Jews.
To them God willed to make known what are the riches of the glory of this mystery among the Gentiles: which is Christ in you, the hope of glory. (Colossians 1:27)
Messiah — God, the Word that became flesh and dwelt among us — now dwells in us. Paul calls it “the hope of glory.” The Greek word for “hope,” speaks of a positive expectation, a joyful anticipation. Surely, the glory of God’s presence dwelling in us is the shekinah. Because King Jesus the Messiah dwells in us by His Spirit, we can expect and anticipate the shekinah glory of God to be made known in us, to us and through us.

(For more about this glory manifesting, see The Shadow of Glory.)

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

The Shekinah Dwelling (Part 1)

And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth. (John 1:14)
The Greek verb for “dwell” is skenoo and means to tent or encamp. The noun form is skenos, which speaks of a tent or tabernacle. In the Septuagint (or LXX), which is an ancient Greek translation of the Hebrew Old Testament, skenos is used to translate the Hebrew word for “tabernacle,” which is mishkan. Mishkan is from the Hebrew verb shakan, which means to dwell or inhabit.

The Hebrew root for mishkan (משכנ) and shakan (שכנ) are the three Hebrew consonants shin, kaf, nun (שכנ). Note how similar these are to the consonants in skenos (the s-k-n sound). This may be an indication that the Greeks borrowed the Hebrew word shakan and transliterated it into skenos.

Not to overburden you with too many ancient and foreign terms, but I would like to talk to you about shekinah. It is from the same root as mishkan and shakan and speaks of dwelling, resting, abiding, even nesting. In ancient Jewish writings, it is used to speak of divine presence, the manifestation of the glory of God. In the Old Testament, the Tabernacle (mishkan) was the place God chose to reveal His presence in a special way to His people. The Targums, ancient translations of the Old Testament from Hebrew into its sister language, Aramaic, speak of God’s manifest presence as the “shekinah of His glory.”

The tabernacle was the place of God’s divine presence, the place where He manifested His glory. This manifestation was the shekinah, the divine glory resting and abiding with His people.

The Gospel of John says, “And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us.” John is speaking of Jesus as the Word (Greek, Logos), which was consistent with the Jewish practice of referring to God by the Hebrew and Aramaic equivalents for “Word” (see The Memra Became Flesh), because God revealed Himself by His Word.

That is the point John makes: God has now revealed Himself in human flesh as Jesus, the Word who was with Him from the beginning and, indeed, is God (John 1:1-2). He is that Word by which God created the heavens and the earth, the Word by whom all things were spoken into existence.

This same Word became flesh — incarnation is the theological term — and dwelt among us, tabernacled among us, manifesting the presence of God among us. “And we beheld His glory,” John says, and the Jews of his day would have understood this as the Shekinah. The divine glory was revealed uniquely in Him, “the glory as of the only begotten of the Father.”

This shekinah glory, John says, was “full of grace and truth.” In the Old Testament, the combination of “grace” and “truth”, or rather, the Hebrew equivalents, hesed and emeth, spoke of God Himself. Hesed is the word by which God was revealed in His mercy and kindness; emeth revealed Him in His faithfulness and truth. The word “full” speaks of completeness, leaving nothing lacking. As Paul says, “For in Him dwells all the fullness of the Godhead bodily” (Colossians 2:9).

Jesus is the Living Tabernacle, where the presence of God is fully manifested among His people. His glory, the shekinah glory, fully reveals the faithful love and mercy of God.

Part 2

Friday, June 11, 2010

What Do You Seek? Where Do You Dwell? (3)

Part 1 | Part 2
They said to Him, “Rabbi” (which is to say, when translated, Teacher), “where are You staying?” (John 1:38).
The Greek word for “stay” in this verse is meno and means to abide, to continue, to dwell.

“Where do you dwell?” the disciples asked.

“Come and see,” Jesus answered.

They came and saw and became His disciples. They dwelt with Him for over three years, the length of His ministry. On the night of the Last Supper, Jesus told His disciples, “In My Father’s house are many mansions; if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself; that where I am, there you may be also” (John 14:2-3). The word for “mansions” here is mone, which is derived from meno. It is the place of abiding, a dwelling place.

Many people believe Jesus was talking about the Second Coming, that is, when He returns at the end. They imagine He is spending all of this time between now and then preparing a big house for us. But I don’t think that is what He is talking about here. I believe the place He went to prepare for us has already been prepared for us long ago.
  • It happened at the Cross, where Jesus prepared the way for us.
  • It happened at the Resurrection, when Jesus came again to the disciples.
  • It happened at the Ascension, when Jesus ascended to the throne in His Father’s house.
There is a place for us with Jesus on that throne at the right hand of the Father, far above all principality, power, might and dominion. Paul tells us,
But God, who is rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in trespasses, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), and raised us up together, and made us sit together in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus. (Ephesians 2:4-6)
God has made us alive with Jesus, raised us up with Jesus and seated us in the heavenlies, where Jesus is seated — the place of ruling and reigning. Notice carefully the tense. It is not future, a promise of what will be. It is past tense, more precisely, the Greek aorist tense, which signifies completed action. In other words, it is a “done deal.” Jesus has prepared a place for us in His Father’s house and He has received us there, on His throne at the right hand of the Father (see Ascension: Receiving Us Unto Himself). It is our dwelling place, our mone with Him.

There is only one other place where this noun, mone, is found in the New Testament, and that is just a few verses later, in John 14:23, where Jesus says:
If anyone loves Me, he will keep My word; and My Father will love him, and We will come to him and make Our home [mone] with him.
Not only has Jesus prepared a dwelling place for us with Him, He has also prepared us as a dwelling place for the Father and Himself. If we love Him and keep His word — that is, believe what He says — He and the Father come and make their home with us (see The Abodes of God).

“Where do you dwell?” the disciples.

“Come and see,” Jesus answered.

He comes to dwell with us and invites us to dwell with Him.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Pressing for the Kingdom

Kingdom of God, come! Will of God, be done one earth as it is in heaven! (Matthew 6:10, my paraphrase)
This is how Jesus taught His disciples to pray. The mood is imperative, “Your kingdom, come! Your will, be done on earth as it is in heaven!”

This is not a one-off prayer. It is not plaintive and passive. It is active and authoritative. It is not a “wait and see” prayer, the kind many people pray. It is a prayer that fully expects God’s kingdom to enter in to any given situation, and the will of God to be done in that situation just as it is being done in heaven. It is not, “Your kingdom, come — if it be Thy will,” or, “Your kingdom, come — whatever will be will be,” or “We’ll see.”

The kingdom of God is His rule and reign, His will being done on earth exactly as it is in heaven. Jesus teaches us to press for it to come — and to keep coming — into the world. Wherever we find anything out of joint with the will of heaven, we press for it to line up — and keep lining up — until it is perfectly aligned with God.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

What Do You Seek? Where Do You Dwell? (2)

Part 1 | Part 3
They said to Him, “Rabbi” (which is to say, when translated, Teacher), “where are You staying?” (John 1:38).
Two disciples of John the Baptist began to follow Jesus. They were seeking a place to dwell, an abode with God (see Part 1).

David said, “I will dwell in the house of the LORD forever” (Psalm 21:6). And now here was the Son of David dwelling among men. “And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us,” John’s Gospel says (John 1:14). This is the same Word that was with God in the beginning, and indeed, is God (John 1:1).

The Greek word translated “dwelt” here is the verb form of a noun that literally means “tent” or “tabernacle.” In the Old Testament, the Tabernacle in the Wilderness was the place where God manifested His presence and met with His people. And when David recovered the Ark of the Covenant, he brought it into Jerusalem and set up a tabernacle, a tent for it, and he danced before the Lord, whirling and leaping with great joy (2 Samuel 6:16-17). It was the “House of the Lord,” God’s dwelling place on earth, and the only place David wanted to be in all the world.
One thing I have desired of the Lord,
That will I seek:
That I may dwell in the house of the Lord
All the days of my life,
To behold the beauty of the Lord,
And to inquire in His temple.
(Psalm 27:4)
This is echoed by another psalm writer:
How lovely is Your tabernacle,
O LORD of hosts!
My soul longs, yes, even faints
For the courts of the Lord;
My heart and my flesh cry out for the living God.
(Psalm 84:1-2)
Now Jesus, the Word that was in the beginning with God, and is God, came to tabernacle among men, and the disciples of John the Baptist wanted to meet with Him in His dwelling place.

“Where do you dwell,” they asked.

“Come and see,” Jesus answered.

It was an invitation from God.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

What Do You Seek? Where Do You Dwell? (1)

Then Jesus turned, and seeing them following said to them, “What do you seek?” (John 1:38)
One day, two disciples of John the Baptist heard him say, as Jesus passed by, “Behold the Lamb of God!” So they followed after Jesus. Realizing this, Jesus turned and spoke the first “red letter” words that show up in the Gospel of John.

“What do you seek?” It is a significant question. John didn’t waste any words on chit-chat in his gospel, and certainly, every word Jesus spoke had import. Here were two disciples who formerly followed the Baptist; now they were following Jesus. Did they even know what it was they were seeking?
They said to Him, “Rabbi” (which is to say, when translated, Teacher), “where are You staying?” (John 1:38).
The Greek word for “stay” is meno. It means to abide, to remain, to dwell. “Where do you dwell?” they asked Jesus. They were seeking a dwelling place, a habitation. Not a physical abode — they were not homeless — but a dwelling place in God.

They had heard John say, “Behold! The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!” (John 1:29), and it was full of prophetic significance. Some people thought John himself might be the Messiah, or Elijah, or “the Prophet.”

“No,” he said.

“Then, who are you? What do you say about yourself,” they asked.

“I am the voice of one crying in the wilderness, ‘Make straight the way of the Lord.” He identified himself as the one spoken of in Isaiah 40:3.

“Then why do you baptize, if you are not the Messiah, or Elijah, or the Prophet?” His ministry of baptism had prophetic significance. God had promised, through the prophet Ezekiel,
I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you shall be clean; I will cleanse you from all your filthiness and from all your idols. I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; I will take the heart of stone out of your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. I will put My Spirit within you and cause you to walk in My statutes, and you will keep My judgments and do them. (Ezekiel 36:25-27)
Now here was John, with a baptism of repentance, of purification. Surely, he must be the Messiah. But no, he is a forerunner. He can only baptize with water, not with the Holy Spirit. So he answered them, “I baptize with water, but there stands One among you whom you do not know. It is He who, coming after me, is preferred before me, whose sandal strap I am not worthy to loose” (John 1:26-27). Later, when he finally recognizes who Jesus really is, he says,
“I did not know Him; but that He should be revealed to Israel, therefore I came baptizing with water.”And John bore witness, saying, “I saw the Spirit descending from heaven like a dove, and He remained upon Him. I did not know Him, but He who sent me to baptize with water said to me, ‘Upon whom you see the Spirit descending, and remaining on Him, this is He who baptizes with the Holy Spirit.’ And I have seen and testified that this is the Son of God.” (John 1:31-35)
John could only baptize with water, but he understood that Jesus is the Lamb of God who can cleanse us from all filthiness and shame, and baptize us with the Holy Spirit. John identifies Him as the Son of God, which, according to the expectation of the Old Testament, identified Him as the Messiah.

These things were not lost on John’s disciples, so when they heard him say, “Behold, the Lamb of God,” as Jesus walked by they recognized that He was the One. They called Him, Rabbi, Teacher. They were ready to be His disciples now, to learn of Him and find their dwelling in God with Messiah.

“Where do You dwell?” they asked, and I think they were saying, “We want to dwell there, too.”

“Come and see,” Jesus answered.

Part 2 | Part 3

Monday, June 7, 2010

Bearing God’s Image

Bearing God’s image is not just a fact, it is a vocation.
~ N. T. Wright, The Challenge of Jesus
God created man in His image and to be like Him and gave him the job of being fruitful, filling the earth, subduing it and having dominion (Genesis 1:26-28). When creation beheld the face of Adam, it beheld the image and likeness of God. Thus, Adam was well suited to fulfill his divine vocation, his calling in the world. Subduing the earth means to bring it into line with the purpose of God. Having dominion means to exercise the divine authority we have been given and the divine likeness in which we have been made, for divine purposes.

The destiny of man and the destiny of Creation are thus closely related. In Quantum Physics there is a theory called Entanglement, which says that two particles that have ever been connected are so related to one another that, even if they are separated on opposite sides of the universe, the state of one affects the state of the other (Praise, Increase and the Theory of Entanglement).

Genesis 2:7 tells us that God formed Adam from the dust of the ground. No wonder, then, that when Adam rebelled and separated from the life and glory of God, creation came under curse (Genesis 3:17-19). And now all creation is groaning, waiting for the manifestation of the sons of God, to be delivered from the bondage of corruption into the glorious freedom of the children of God (Romans 8:18-22).

This has already begun for us, and for creation, in the resurrection of King Jesus the Messiah, who taught us to pray, “Kingdom of God, come — and keep coming! Will of God, be done — and keep being done — on earth as it is in heaven!” (Matthew 6:10; my translation). The goal is heaven on earth, the two becoming one. The resurrection of King Jesus from the dead is the sign that new creation has already begun and what we do in accord with our divine calling in the world will not be in vain (1 Corinthians 15:58). In Jesus the Messiah, our divine calling is restored.

Friday, June 4, 2010

Blowing the Lid Off

Recently (last night, in fact), a friend of mine posted this quote on a forum I frequent:

On the whole, I do not find Christians, outside the catacombs, sufficiently sensible of the conditions. Does anyone have the foggiest idea what sort of power we so blithely invoke? Or, as I suspect, does no one believe a word of it? The churches are children playing on the floor with their chemistry sets, mixing up a batch of TNT to kill a Sunday morning. It is madness to wear ladies’ straw hats and velvet hats to church; we should all be wearing crash helmets. Ushers should issue life preservers and signal flares; they should lash us to our pews. For the sleeping god may wake some day and take offense, or the waking god may draw us out to where we can never return." (Annie Dillard, Teaching a Stone to Talk: Expeditions and Encounters)
Then, this morning, one of my Facebook friends posted this quote by Robert Farrar Capon: “The truth that makes us free is always ticking away like a time bomb in the basement of everybody’s church.” I’ve located the fuller quote, in The Mystery of Christ ... and Why We Don't Get It:
The Gospel is always weird enough to break right through anything our particular traditions may have gotten wrong. The truth that makes us free is always ticking away like a time bomb in the basement of everybody’s church. And that truth isn’t a bunch of ideas. It’s Jesus. Sooner or later, if we just sit still and listen, he’ll blow the lid off any prison we’ve built.
As we learn of Aslan, the Christ figure in the Narnia tales, “He’s not a tame lion.”