Spring is sprunging! I have tulip and daffodil shoots popping up in my front yard. It is officially here. Haven’t you noticed the days getting longer?
Just like there is a newness in the air, on the trees, and springing from the ground, we finished Ezekiel today with an encouraging note of newness. I am always so blessed when I read the last line of the book. “And the name of the city from that time on will be: “THE LORD IS THERE.” Ezekiel doesn’t put it in all caps because he is yelling at us. It is a name- Yahweh Shammah.
Something is up with this word ‘there.’ It is such a basic word, used all over the place. Thousands of times in the Bible I am certain. But it finds its way right at the beginning of the book in an interesting way. It almost makes an inclusio of sorts. In 1:3, Ezekiel in sort of a third-person voice says, “There the hand of the LORD was upon him.” The book starts with a specific note that Yahweh is there, however, as we read through the book, Father’s presence and holiness are despised and ignored by Judah. A bit further in the book in 8:1 another significant sense of Father’s presence is evident when Ezekiel says, “the hand of the Sovereign LORD came upon me there.” So this idea of ‘thereness’ is not a casual idea or use. When we read further in Ezekiel Ten, the presence of the Lord departs. The word is Ichabod. Father’s glory no longer reigns there. His people have so prostituted themselves with other gods, He says, “Enough.” Discipline must come. We know the story.
For the last nine chapters of Ezekiel we tour a new temple and a new city. With surgeonesque precision and detail, Ezekiel provides specifics almost too minute to grasp. He describes a city, but he doesn’t call it Jerusalem. It isn’t even a renovated Jerusalem. Ezekiel has gone to great lengths to portray the temple as the place par excellence of God’s dwelling, he now wants it to be understood that God’s presence was not confined within those protecting walls. The city too, the focal point of the people’s ordinary ‘secular’ working lives, would be the place of God’s presence. Not everybody could live in the temple! Not even all of the tribe of Levi had access to the inner court and the temple itself. But the concluding message of the book is not merely that God has returned to his temple, but that God is wherever his people are. Ezekiel’s twelve-gated, foursquare city represents the whole people of God- all the tribes of Israel.
Yahweh Shammah. John heard the same truth amplified as a loud voice from the very throne of God himself within the Holy City, “Now the dwelling of God is with men, and he will live with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God” (Rev. 21:3). And in the meantime we, who live in certain hope of that great day, have the equally certain promise of the Lord’s presence in whatever present earthly city we are called to live and witness. “For where two or three come together in my name, there am I with them” (Matt 18:20).
Yahweh Shammah. When I read this I thought about the scripture in Revelation that says that when one enters heaven they are presented with a white stone with a new name on it? Do you ever think about what your name is going to be?
I spent some time in prayer about the name Yahweh Shammah. Is that a name I can place upon myself? Is ‘the Lord there’ with me? Is there evidence in my life that the Lord is ‘there’ with me? This is my prayer for the moment. Lord be ‘there’ — here with me. Let it be obvious from the fruit of my life that your presence dwells in and around me.
Here is a picture of what some Bible scholars believe to be the tour Ezekiel goes on in the new temple.
Some of the material above collected and read from Christopher J.H. Wright in “The Message of Ezekiel” in The Bible Speaks Today. (Leicester, IVP: 2001), p. 368.