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

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