Sounds like: shaw-kahn
This week begins the Fall Feast of Sukkot. I wrote about the meaning of the word sukkot last year. To review, it is a temporary shelter made as a remembrance of the time when the Jewish people wandered through the desert without a permanent home. The idea of a dwelling is important to every culture on the planet… throughout all time. Even today, in our Canadian election (which is happening right now), one of the top election issues is affordable housing. People want, and need, a safe and affordable place to dwell.
In the Tanakh (Old Testament) the word shakan (to dwell) takes an interesting journey. The first time the word was used it described the designated dwelling place for the cherubim, at the east of the Garden of Eden, guarding the Tree of Life. The cherubim were the first ones to find a specific spot, set up ‘camp’, and to live (with a purpose) in that space:
Then YHWH God said, “Behold, the man has become like one of Us, knowing good and evil; and now, he might stretch out his hand, and take also from the tree of life, and eat, and live forever”— therefore YHWH God sent him out from the garden of Eden, to cultivate the ground from which he was taken. So He drove the man out; and at the east of the garden of Eden He stationed [dwelt: wa-yash’ken] the cherubim and the flaming sword which turned every direction to guard the way to the tree of life.
Connected with the word dwelling, is the concept of purpose. If you dwell somewhere, you have a purpose to be there!
God is a Dwelling Place of Refuge
In the Torah, the Hebrew people had no dwelling place of their own, so God became the place of refuge where Israel could dwell:
“The eternal God is a dwelling place [refuge: m’ohnah], and underneath are the everlasting arms; and He drove out the enemy from before you, and said, ‘Destroy!’ So Israel dwells [wa-yish’kohn] in security, the fountain of Jacob secluded, in a land of grain and new wine; His heavens also drop down dew.”
In the days after God pulled the Hebrew people out of Egypt He remained with them. They didn’t have a dwelling place and so He became their wandering home. As challenging as it was to wander the desert for 40 years, having God dwell among them was a significant bonus!
“I will dwell [w-shakahn’ti] among the sons of Israel and will be their God. They shall know that I am YHWH their God who brought them out of the land of Egypt, that I might dwell [l-shak’ni] among them; I am YHWH their God.”
For humans, a dwelling is where you put down roots… where you hang your hat, so to speak. But how do you meet or speak with God in the formation of a cloud by day and fire by night? They need a tangible place to connect with YHWH. The tabernacle was raised to provide a specific spot for God’s presence to be housed.
“Let them construct a sanctuary for Me, that I may dwell [w-shakahn’ti] among them. According to all that I am going to show you, as the pattern of the tabernacle and the pattern of all its furniture, just so you shall construct it…
After laying out the construction in great detail, YHWH told them to build a mercy (or atonement) seat which would be placed on top of the Ark of the Covenant. Recalling the first dwellers (the cherubim guarding the Tree of Life), the mercy seat would include the representation of two cherubim facing each other with wings outstretched. From that location, the Life force of God would dwell and meet with the High Priest:
There I will meet with you; and from above the mercy seat, from between the two cherubim which are upon the ark of the testimony, I will speak to you about all that I will give you in commandment for the sons of Israel.”
And so God’s presence sat above the mercy seat of the Ark of the Covenant, which rested in the Tabernacle. It was the specific spot for God to dwell among the people as they traveled through the desert.
Dwelling in the Promised Land
But this was not enough for the people. Although God was, and is, the perfect dwelling place, they longed for a homeland, the final place for God’s people to gather. In response to their needs, YHWH promised a land where His name would dwell and where His people could live under the watchful eye of His Presence:
Deuteronomy 12:5, 8-12
“But you shall seek YHWH at the place which YHWH your God will choose from all your tribes, to establish His name there for His dwelling [l’shik’noh], and there you shall come…
…You shall not do at all what we are doing here today, every man doing whatever is right in his own eyes; for you have not as yet come to the resting place and the inheritance which YHWH your God is giving you. When you cross the Jordan and live in the land which YHWH your God is giving you to inherit, and He gives you rest from all your enemies around you so that you live in security, then it shall come about that the place in which YHWH your God will choose for His name to dwell [l’shaken shemoh], there you shall bring all that I command you: your burnt offerings and your sacrifices, your tithes and the contribution of your hand, and all your choice votive offerings which you will vow to YHWH. And you shall rejoice before YHWH your God, you and your sons and daughters, your male and female servants, and the Levite who is within your gates, since he has no portion or inheritance with you.”
God dwelling in Zion/Jerusalem
YHWH’s specific plan was for the people to live in Israel, and for Jerusalem to be His home base. If ‘to dwell’ is where you are settled and where you feel at home, then for YHWH, that was Jerusalem.
Joel 3:16-17, 20-21 (see also Psalm 135:19-21)
YHWH roars from Zion and utters His voice from Jerusalem, and the heavens and the earth tremble. But YHWH is a refuge for His people and a stronghold to the sons of Israel. Then you will know that I am YHWH your God, dwelling in Zion [shoken b’Zion], My holy mountain. So Jerusalem will be holy, and strangers will pass through it no more...
…But Judah will be inhabited forever and Jerusalem for all generations. And I will avenge their blood which I have not avenged, for YHWH dwells in Zion [YHWH shoken b’Zion].
After the Hebrew people settled in Israel and set up a kingdom in Jerusalem, they were able to turn the wandering Tabernacle into a solid, immovable, Temple.
Solomon would build, what he thought would be, a permanent House of God:
1 Kings 6:11-14
Now the word of YHWH came to Solomon saying, “Concerning this house which you are building, if you will walk in My statutes and execute My ordinances and keep all My commandments by walking in them, then I will carry out My word with you which I spoke to David your father. I will dwell [w’shakahn’ti] among the sons of Israel, and will not forsake My people Israel.” So Solomon built the house and finished it.”
The spiritual glory days of Solomon eventually eroded and those who worshipped God turned away from YHWH and towards idolatry. They stopped dwelling with God, and relied on their own dwelling places. The people had abandoned YHWH, so YHWH took Himself out of the Temple:
Yet they tempted and rebelled against the Most High God and did not keep His testimonies, but turned back and acted treacherously like their fathers; they turned aside like a treacherous bow. For they provoked Him with their high places and aroused His jealousy with their graven images.
When God heard, He was filled with wrath and greatly abhorred Israel; so that He abandoned the
dwelling place Tabernacle at Shiloh, the tent which He had pitched [dwelt: shoken] among men. And gave up His strength to captivity and His glory into the hand of the adversary.
Eventually this Dwelling Place of YHWH was destroyed by the Babylonians. How could that be? Where did YHWH go? What did that mean for the people of Israel?
YHWH had evacuated Himself from the Temple when the Hebrew people had rejected Him. And so when the Babylonians attacked the structure, His presence was already gone. He did not go down with the ship. YHWH abandoned the Temple, but did He reject the people?
Psalm 74:1-2, 7-10
O God, why have You rejected us forever? Why does Your anger smoke against the sheep of Your pasture? Remember Your congregation, which You have purchased of old, which You have redeemed to be the tribe of Your inheritance; and this Mount Zion, where You have dwelt [shakahn’ta]…
…They have burned Your sanctuary to the ground; they have defiled the dwelling place of Your name [mish’kahn sh’meka]. They said in their heart, “Let us completely subdue them.” They have burned all the meeting places of God in the land.
We do not see our signs; there is no longer any prophet, nor is there any among us who knows how long. How long, O God, will the adversary revile, and the enemy spurn Your name forever?
YHWH may have abandoned the Temple, but He had not abandoned His people:
For YHWH will not abandon His people, nor will He forsake His inheritance. For judgment will again be righteous, and all the upright in heart will follow it.
Who will stand up for me against evildoers? Who will take his stand for me against those who do wickedness? If YHWH had not been my help, my soul would soon have dwelt [shak’nah] in the abode of silence.
The Israelites came to recognize that without YHWH, they were lost; their homeland was nowhere without God.
Jerusalem, as God’s dwelling place, was permanent in God’s eyes, but the human-made structure that “housed” YHWH was not. God consistently (2 Chronicles 6:5-6, Ezekiel 43:1-9, Jeremiah 3:17, Jeremiah 33:7-11, Zechariah 1:16, Zechariah 8:8 etc.) announced that Jerusalem was the place He would hang His proverbial hat, whether there was a Temple there, or not.
“Thus says YHWH, ‘I will return to Zion and will dwell in the midst of Jerusalem. Then Jerusalem will be called the City of Truth, and the mountain of YHWH of hosts will be called the Holy Mountain.’”
Rebuilding the Temple for YHWH to dwell
After the Temple was destroyed by the Babylonians, Nehemiah prayed for help to sway the mind of king Artaxerxes to allow him to return to Jerusalem, and to rebuild the city. In his prayer Nehemiah reminded YHWH of the promise He had made to Moses:
“Remember the word which You commanded Your servant Moses, saying, ‘If you are unfaithful I will scatter you among the peoples; but if you return to Me and keep My commandments and do them, though those of you who have been scattered were in the most remote part of the heavens, I will gather them from there and will bring them to the place where I have chosen to cause My name to dwell [l’shaken].’”
Basically God put it this way to Moses: You return to me and I’ll return you to the place where My Name dwells. You will come back to Jerusalem! Nehemiah held onto the promise that they would always return to place where God’s Name dwelt. His faith was rewarded and the petition to the king was successful. A portion of the Jewish people were allowed to return to Jerusalem to rebuild the city walls.
The Messiah Dwelling on Earth
But YHWH had a bigger plan. He planned to save humanity from the terrible mistake they made in the Garden of Eden. He planned to restore humanity to the Garden and give it to them as their eternal dwelling place. Although on the surface Jeremiah’s prophetic statements seemed to address the immediate needs of the exiled people (to return to their homeland), there was a grander, future, promise embedded in prophecy:
“Woe to the shepherds who are destroying and scattering the sheep of My pasture!” declares YHWH. Therefore thus says YHWH God of Israel concerning the shepherds who are tending My people: “You have scattered My flock and driven them away, and have not attended to them; behold, I am about to attend to you for the evil of your deeds,” declares YHWH. “Then I Myself will gather the remnant of My flock out of all the countries where I have driven them and bring them back to their pasture, and they will be fruitful and multiply. I will also raise up shepherds over them and they will tend them; and they will not be afraid any longer, nor be terrified, nor will any be missing,” declares YHWH.
“Behold, the days are coming,” declares YHWH, “When I will raise up for David a righteous Branch; and He will reign as King and act wisely and do justice and righteousness in the land. In His days Judah will be saved, and Israel will dwell [yish’kohn] securely; and this is His name by which He will be called, ‘YHWH our righteousness.’”
YHWH promised to bring them out of captivity and back to their “pasture”. Just like He had done when they were in Egypt. They were always meant to dwell in Israel. But one day they would permanently dwell under the reign of the righteous King, in Jerusalem. This Anointed Messiah, who Jeremiah referred to as “the righteous Branch” would come and dwell amongst the people. Who was the Branch? Jeremiah mentioned the righteous Branch of David again, later in his writings:
‘Behold, days are coming,’ declares YHWH, ‘when I will fulfill the good word which I have spoken concerning the house of Israel and the house of Judah. In those days and at that time I will cause a righteous Branch of David to spring forth; and He shall execute justice and righteousness on the earth. In those days Judah will be saved and Jerusalem will dwell [tish’kohn] in safety; and this is the name by which she will be called: YHWH is our righteousness.’
After the exile, it was difficult to feel that YHWH was among the people, but the prophet Zechariah had great hope that YHWH would dwell amongst the people once again:
“Sing for joy and be glad, O daughter of Zion; for behold I am coming and I will dwell [w’shakahn’ti] in your midst,” declares YHWH. “Many nations will join themselves to YHWH in that day and will become My people. Then I will dwell [w’shakahn’ti] in your midst, and you will know that YHWH of hosts has sent Me to you. YHWH will possess Judah as His portion in the holy land, and will again choose Jerusalem. Be silent, all flesh, before YHWH; for He is aroused from His holy habitation.”
Note that YHWH started off speaking in the first person and then suddenly there was a switch and someone sent from God hijacked the conversation, saying, “and you will know that YHWH of hosts has sent me to you”. YHWH started the paragraph, someone else finished it. This flipping of the Father and the Son, God and Messiah, YHWH and the Angel of YHWH, happened consistently in the Tanakh. In this instance YHWH was coming to dwell and YHWH was sending someone to dwell amongst the people.
The Branch who SAVES us, Dwells among us
YHWH, through the prophets, had been promising, over and over, that He would dwell amongst His people once again. He would physically walk alongside His people… but not in the way one might think. He was not coming as the Almighty Creator, but rather He would come as a vulnerable human infant.
Isaiah 7:14 (see also Matthew 1:18-25
“Therefore the Lord Himself will give you a sign: Behold, a virgin will be with child and bear a son, and she will call His name Immanuel.”
The name Immanuel meant God with us. Yeshua would walk on the earth as God and as human. John, the disciple, emphasized that Yeshua (Jesus) was YHWH in human form. The One who made the world, walked in it:
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things came into being through Him, and apart from Him nothing came into being that has come into being. In Him was life, and the life was the Light of men. The Light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not comprehend it…
…There was the true Light which, coming into the world, enlightens every man. He was in the world, and the world was made through Him, and the world did not know Him. He came to His own, and those who were His own did not receive Him. But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, even to those who believe in His name, who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God. And the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us, and we saw His glory, glory as of the only begotten from the Father, full of grace and truth.
And the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us… this was John’s main message. Yeshua was, and is, our dwelling place. He dwelt among humans so we can dwell among YHWH.
There is so much here to unpack… John was reflecting back on Genesis 1 and the creation of all things. God spoke the world into existence and His words turned into solid, tactile, things. And so when God’s Word becomes flesh, it was calling back to the days when all things were made new. God created humanity, and God dwelt among the people in the form of a New humanity. Yeshua was the reNewal of humanity… the perfect human. He was the human, the adam, as they were meant to be, before the fall.
Many scholars think that the Yeshua was born not in December (what we call Christmas time) but rather He was born during Sukkot (the Feast of Tabernacles). He came to dwell on earth while the people commemorated dwelling in the desert under God’s protection. He arrived at the perfect time to begin dwelling amongst the people of Israel.
Yeshua was the anointed, God-made-flesh, Messiah who came to save. He came to bring the Kingdom and to begin the long-term plan for a renewed Earth. He would bring us out of the dark domain and towards the Kingdom of light:
For He rescued us from the domain of darkness, and transferred us to the kingdom of His beloved Son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.
He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. For by Him all things were created, both in the heavens and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things have been created through Him and for Him. He is before all things, and in Him all things hold together. He is also head of the body, the church; and He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, so that He Himself will come to have first place in everything. For it was the Father’s good pleasure for all the fullness to dwell in Him, and through Him to reconcile all things to Himself, having made peace through the blood of His cross; through Him, I say, whether things on earth or things in heaven.
According to Paul, God dwelt fully in Yeshua. He was the firstborn of all creation and the firstborn of the dead.
What does that mean (firstborn of the dead)? Yeshua was the first to rise from death; His sacrifice changed everything.
Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth; for the first heaven and the first earth passed away, and there is no longer any sea. And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, made ready as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne, saying, “Behold, the tabernacle of God is among men, and He will dwell among them, and they shall be His people, and God Himself will be among them, and He will wipe away every tear from their eyes; and there will no longer be any death; there will no longer be any mourning, or crying, or pain; the first things have passed away.”
And He who sits on the throne said, “Behold, I am making all things new.” And He said, “Write, for these words are faithful and true.” Then He said to me, “It is done. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end. I will give to the one who thirsts from the spring of the water of life without cost. He who overcomes will inherit these things, and I will be his God and he will be My son.”
Yeshua was the tabernacle of God among mankind, bringing salvation and conquering death. But salvation, to the Hebrew people, wasn’t just personal redemption, it was returning YHWH’s glory to the land of Israel. Yeshua brought personal redemption SO THAT the endgame could come to fruition. The plan was always to return to the Garden. The first exile was out of the garden of Eden. YHWH had always meant for humans to return there.
Dwellers of the Earth, unite!
All you inhabitants of the world and dwellers on earth [w’shok’neh aretz], as soon as a standard is raised on the mountains, you will see it, and as soon as the trumpet is blown, you will hear it.
The Feast of Trumpets outlined in Leviticus 23 and Numbers 29 is considered, by many, to be the Feast that will announce the return of YHWH to Jerusalem, and the raising of the dead. The Messiah was the firstborn to rise from the dead, but He would not be the last:
As the pregnant woman approaches the time to give birth, she writhes and cries out in her labor pains, thus were we before You, O YHWH. We were pregnant, we writhed in labour, we gave birth, as it seems, only to wind. We could not accomplish deliverance for the earth, nor were inhabitants of the world born.
Your dead will live; their corpses will rise. You who lie [dwell: shok’eneh] in the dust, awake and shout for joy, for your dew is as the dew of the dawn, and the earth will give birth to the departed spirits.
We will all die and lie in the dust for a time, but that is not our final place of dwelling. Death is not a dwelling place, life is where we will live!
God dwells WITH us
Not all of us can make our way to Jerusalem these days, and although that is where YHWH will ultimately dwell, we can be safe in the knowledge that wherever we are on the planet, God dwells with us:
Where can I go from Your Spirit? Or where can I flee from Your presence?
If I ascend to heaven, You are there; if I make my bed in Sheol, behold, You are there. If I take the wings of the dawn, if I dwell [esh’k’nah] in the remotest part of the sea, even there Your hand will lead me, and Your right hand will lay hold of me.
If I say, “Surely the darkness will overwhelm me, and the light around me will be night,” even the darkness is not dark to You, and the night is as bright as the day. Darkness and light are alike to You.
We cannot escape the presence of YHWH even if we tried. YHWH dwells on high but He sees everything from the highest peak to the lowest low:
Isaiah 57:14-15, 18-19
And it will be said, “Build up, build up, prepare the way, remove every obstacle out of the way of My people.”
For thus says the high and exalted One who lives [dwells: shoken] forever, whose name is Holy, “I dwell [esh’kohn] on a high and holy place, and also with the contrite and lowly of spirit in order to revive the spirit of the lowly and to revive the heart of the contrite…
…I have seen his ways, but I will heal him; I will lead him and restore comfort to him and to his mourners, creating the praise of the lips. Peace, peace to him who is far and to him who is near,” says YHWH, “and I will heal him.”
No matter where we are, far or near, YHWH dwells with us.
We dwell in the world, the Spirit dwells in us
There is a veritable shift in Biblical narrative with the death and resurrection of Yeshua (Jesus). The focus in the Tanakh was YHWH dwelling among His people. They built Him a man-made home for Him to settle, but when that Temple was destroyed they felt that God left with it. When the Temple was rebuilt, the Presence of God remained quietly behind the curtain, with only the High Priest facing YHWH once a year on Yom Kippur.
That Temple remained the House of God until the Romans destroyed it in 70 CE. Yeshua, in his day, wandered through this Temple, preached there, ministered there, and prayed there. But there was no indication that He acted as High Priest or went behind the curtain to enter into the Holy of Holies. As the Son of God, there was no need to seek God’s presence because He WAS the presence of God. He was God’s presence dwelling among the people.
But the powers of the day hated him for it… and they put him on trial and executed him. They thought they had ended Yeshua’s life on earth, but they couldn’t hold Him down. Yeshua resurrected and became the firstborn of the dead.
Before He left He he made a promise this to his disciples:
“I will ask the Father, and He will give you another Helper, that He may be with you forever; that is the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it does not see Him or know Him, but you know Him because He abides with you and will be in you. I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you. After a little while the world will no longer see Me, but you will see Me; because I live, you will live also. In that day you will know that I am in My Father, and you in Me, and I in you. He who has My commandments and keeps them is the one who loves Me; and he who loves Me will be loved by My Father, and I will love him and will disclose Myself to him.”
Judas (not Iscariot) said to Him, “Lord, what then has happened that You are going to disclose Yourself to us and not to the world?” Jesus answered and said to him, “If anyone loves Me, he will keep My word; and My Father will love him, and We will come to him and make Our abode with him.”
Yeshua was using dwelling language here. The Spirit abided with the believer and would be IN the believer. Yeshua dwelt with the Father, and His disciples would dwell in Him and He in them. YHWH/Yeshua would make Their ABODE within each and every disciple who loved Him.
Paul put much emphasis on this idea that God dwells WITH us, but He also dwells IN us, and he used Temple language to make the point:
1 Corinthians 3:16-17
Do you not know that you are a temple of God and that the Spirit of God dwells in you? If any man destroys the temple of God, God will destroy him, for the temple of God is holy, and that is what you are.
The man-made Temple was destroyed but that Temple was never meant to stand forever. Living people were meant to be the dwelling place of God. We are the Temple of the triune God. YHWH, His Anointed Messiah, and the delegated Spirit-Helper are in humans who love God and keep His Word:
However, you are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God dwells in you. But if anyone does not have the Spirit of Messiah, he does not belong to Him. If Messiah is in you, though the body is dead because of sin, yet the spirit is alive because of righteousness. But if the Spirit of Him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, He who raised Messiah Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through His Spirit who dwells in you.
The dwelling place of God isn’t a building, it isn’t the Temple… it’s you.
Thus says YHWH of hosts, the God of Israel, “Amend your ways and your deeds, and I will let you dwell in this place. Do not trust in deceptive words, saying, ‘This is the temple of YHWH, the temple of YHWH, the temple of YHWH.’ For if you truly amend your ways and your deeds, if you truly practice justice between a man and his neighbour, if you do not oppress the alien, the orphan, or the widow, and do not shed innocent blood in this place, nor walk after other gods to your own ruin, then I will let you dwell in this place, in the land that I gave to your fathers forever and ever.”
The Temple was just a building, and not something we should put our unquestionable trust in. But we are the dwelling place of the Spirit of God… and so we have purpose. YHWH works through His people. We are to are to practise justice; we are to lift up those in need- the foreigner, the orphan, the widow, the ostracized, the poor. If we love Him and follow His command, and do not follow the gods of this world, then when all is said and done everyone will dwell together in the land God gave to His people… forever and ever.
Yeshua, as the “New Human”, was the first step towards the New Heaven and the New Earth. He promised that He would prepare a dwelling place where we could be fully united with Him:
“Do not let your heart be troubled; believe in God, believe also in Me. In My Father’s house are many dwelling places; if it were not so, I would have told you; for I go to prepare a place for you. 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.”
We are a dwelling place for YHWH and we are meant to live our lives out loud for Him… until that day when we are called home to the dwelling place prepared for us by the very One who lives within us. It’s a mind-bender, but also a beautiful portrait of a loving God who trusts in the humans who love Him. He trusts that we will carry forward His mandate of continual lovingkindness.
I urge you to be a dwelling place worthy of the One who dwells within you… and treat yourself with the greatest respect, because you are meant to be the living, active, Temple of the Creator! You were made with purpose and wonder… an advocate of YHWH and the dwelling place of His Spirit.
Next week: polluted