Proverbs 18:10 says, “The name of the Lord is a strong fortress; the godly run to him and are safe.” God’s names reveal His character and help us to know Him. Today, I want to consider the name Yahweh-Shammah, which means the Lord is there. We will see it is a name for God and also for a great city that Christians hope to inhabit one day.
Ezekiel was a prophet of Israel that lived in captivity in the time of the Babylonian Empire. Babylonia conquered Jerusalem and set up a puppet government that promised to be loyal to Babylonia. Then, Babylonia took several important people captive as hostages back to Babylonia. Ezekiel was among the captives. A few years later, Jerusalem rebelled and Babylonia returned to reconquer and destroy the city. When Ezekiel and the Israelite captives in Babylon heard the news of Jerusalem's destruction, they were devastated. But God gave them a vision through Ezekiel. God said Jerusalem and the temple had been destroyed because of Israel's sin of idolatry. However, God was going to one day build a new eternal city and temple and Israel's heritage and way of life will be built into the very walls of the city.
30 “These will be the exits to the city: On the north wall, which is 1 1⁄2 miles long, 31 there will be three gates, each one named after a tribe of Israel. The first will be named for Reuben, the second for Judah, and the third for Levi. 32 On the east wall, also 1 1⁄2 miles long, the gates will be named for Joseph, Benjamin, and Dan. 33 The south wall, also 1 1⁄2 miles long, will have gates named for Simeon, Issachar, and Zebulun. 34 And on the west wall, also 1 1⁄2 miles long, the gates will be named for Gad, Asher, and Naphtali. Slide – Yahweh-Shammah
The New Living Translation translates the Hebrew Name for God and the eternal city as "The Lord Is There". The original Hebrew word was Yahweh-Shammah. Yahweh means "I Am" or "I Am Who I Am". Usually, this is translated into English as LORD with all capital letter to indicate the original word was Yahweh. Lord is decent translation; it captures something of the original meaning. A lord is sovereign. You can't tell a lord what to do; the lord tells you what to do. God (Yahweh) is Lord of all. He is sovereign over everything. He is who He is. We can't control or manipulate Him.
Shammah means There. Ezekiel 48:35 is the only time Shammah is used in the entire Bible.
Yahweh-Shammah is the last word of the last sentence of the last chapter of Ezekiel. The Prophet ends his vision of God’s restoration of the broken dreams of God’s people with this hope: “Something new is coming. I know our homes have been destroyed. Our culture is demolished. Our city and temple are gone and we are prisoners in a foreign land. But One Day the Lord will build a new city and it’s eternal name will be “The Lord is There.”
Do you know the Lord is there? Some people struggle to know the Lord is there. Thy think of God as an old man in the sky, or a distant deity, or some ethereal energy or spiritual force. However, the Bible repeatedly tells stories that reveal God is real, tangible, and personable.
God spoke to the prophets. God was a friend to Abraham. Genesis says God walked with Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden during the cool of the day.
If that weren’t enough, God took the form of a man and came down to earth. He was born as a baby named Jesus. We read how Jesus was dedicated at the Temple. Luke tells us about a time when Jesus got separated from his parents during a trip when he was 12. The Gospels tell so many amazing stories about Jesus’ miracles and teachings, but it is also clear that, in Jesus, God is a man with flesh and blood who gets thirsty and hungry and who, in the end, even bleeds and dies.
So God is real and He is there. God is not something vague or far off or impersonal. He is there.
God is there when a baby is born and a new life comes into the world.
God it there with the mother as she struggles through the pain of childbirth.
God is there with the father who can't do anything but watch and pray as the woman he loves gives birth.
God is there when your kids go back to school in uncertain times and with the teachers trying to educate them and keep them safe.
God is there when a young couple gets married or when a person struggles to remain single.
God is there when you start a new job—with the uncertainties and the hopes for the future.
God is there when you lose a child and you feel like your heart is utterly broken and you don't knwo how you can go on.
God is there when someone betrays you or when you are the betrayer.
God is there loving you even when you are being disciplined. He was with the Israelites consoling and encouraging them with a new vision--even as they learned their homeland had been destroyed.
God is there when we celebrate, when we laugh, when we cry, when we live, and when we die.
For them in their time, the temple was where God lived. The temple gave the people access to God’s presence. The temple’s destruction meant they no longer had a place to be in God’s presence. However, Ezekiel shared a vision for a new city called, Yahweh-Shammah, “The Lord Is There”.
Jesus came to start building that city in our hearts. Do you remember how Jesus once told the religious leaders, “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.” (John 2:19). The people thought he was crazy. It had taken them 46 years to build the Temple. However, Jesus wasn’t talking about a physical temple. Jesus was talking about His body, which the Bible says was crucified and buried in a tomb and rose back to life on the third day.
This is part of a New Covenant God made with people. If you repent of your sins and turn to God as your Lord, He forgives your sins and He is there for you. In fact, His Holy Spirit lives in your heart!
You don’t have to travel to Jerusalem and seek God’s presence in some ancient temple. God is right here, right now. 1 Peter 2:4-5a says, “4 You are coming to Christ, who is the living cornerstone of God’s temple. He was rejected by people, but he was chosen by God for great honor. 5 And you are living stones that God is building into his spiritual temple.”
When Christians gather together, we form a spiritual temple where God is present. Isn’t that amazing! Remember how the presence of God filled the two holy places in the Old Testament. First, there was the Tabernacle in Exodus. As the Israelites were living in tents traveling from Egypt through the wilderness to the Promised Land, God also lived in a tent called the Tabernacle. It was the Israelites first Holy Place to worship in the presence of God. The presence of God was revealed through a pillar of smoke by day and a pillar of fire by night. Later, when the Israelites were settled in the Promised Land, King Solomon built the first temple and dedicated it to the Lord as the holy place where people worshiped in the presence of the Lord. And the Lord revealed His glorious presence to the people through a great cloud of smoke that filled the temple. Then we fast forward to the New Testament, to the book of Acts in the second chapter. Jesus' disciples are gathered together in an upper room and the sound of a mighty rushing wind filled the place as the Holy Spirit filled the believers and it was as if tongues of fire were dancing above each disciple's head. It was just like in the Old Testament stories, except this time the presence of God did not inhabit a building; God filled people who believed in Jesus! Christians are no the temple of God!
What’s more, Ephesians tell us the church is the body of Christ. When we put our faith in Jesus, we are His body and His temple and the Lord is there.
We still long for a day when all that is wrong with the world will be made right. That Day is coming. It is closer today than it was yesterday. Jesus promised He would return One Day to separate the sheep from the goats and the wheat from the weeds--His faithful from the unfaithful. That Day is coming and no one knows the day or the hour, so we have to always be ready.
One Day, God will make a New Heaven and a New Earth where everything is the way it was meant to be. In that day, we will live together in the City of God on Earth. Picking up on the vision God revealed to Ezekiel, the Revelation of John describes the New City named “God is There.”
1 Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the old heaven and the old earth had disappeared. And the sea was also gone. 2 And I saw the holy city, the new Jerusalem, coming down from God out of heaven like a bride beautifully dressed for her husband. Holy Communion
Whenever we celebrate the sacrament of Holy Communion, it reminds us of what Jesus did to reconcile us to God. It also reminds us of His presence with us now. Finally, it reminds us of our role to be the Body of Christ in this broken world until He returns.