Jehovah Shammah-God is There
Psalm 139:7-16-7 Where can I go from your Spirit? Where can I flee from your presence? 8 If I go up to the heavens, you are there; if I make my bed in the depths, you are there. 9 If I rise on the wings of the dawn, if I settle on the far side of the sea,
10 even there your hand will guide me, your right hand will hold me fast. 11 If I say, “Surely the darkness will hide me and the light become night around me,” 12 even the darkness will not be dark to you; the night will shine like the day, for darkness is as light to you. 13 For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb.
14 I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well. 15 My frame was not hidden from you when I was made in the secret place. When I was woven together in the depths of the earth, 16 your eyes saw my unformed body. All the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be.
Ezekiel 48:35 “The distance all around will be 18,000 cubits. “And the name of the city from that time on will be: THE LORD IS THERE.”
A couple had two little boys, ages 8 and 10, who were always getting into trouble. If anything was disturbed or missing in the neighborhood, their sons were probably involved or were at least suspected. Their mother asked their pastor if she could drop her boys off at church, so that he could put the fear of God in them. The pastor agreed, but asked to see them individually. The 8-year-old would go into the pastor’s study first, then the older boy would be counseled. The pastor who was a huge man with a booming voice, sat the younger boy down and asked him sternly, “Son, …where is God?” The boy’s mouth dropped open, but he made no response. The pastor repeated the question in a little firmer and louder, “Son, …where is God?” Again, the boy just sat there bug-eyed and made no attempt to answer. A bit exasperated, the pastor raised his voice even more, shook his finger in the boy’s face and bellowed, “Son! I asked you a question. Where is God?” The boy screamed and bolted from the study. As he passed his brother he said, “We are in big trouble this time, dude. God is missing, and they think we did it.”
This morning I want to highlight that God is never missing. He is never absent. He is never MIA. He is Jehovah-Shammah, the Lord who is there. Before we dip back into Psalm 139 let me make two theological statements that are foundational to our understanding of how God is with us.
First of all, Jehovah-Shammah is with us through the Incarnation of Jesus. “Incarnation” is a theological word that just means Jesus became like us. He became a human being. He became a man. Matthew 1:23 says: “The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel”–which means, “God with us.” Because Jesus left the splendor of heaven and became like us and lived among us, He is with us in our humanity. He sympathizes with our weaknesses and frailties. I guess in contemporary language you could say God is with us in our human condition because He gets us. He not only intellectually knows what it is to be human, but He has lived it Himself. He was a baby like we were. He had to learn submission and obedience to his parents like we do. He had to become educated as we do. He had to learn to walk in His life’s calling like us. He had to deal with temptation and social pressure like we do. What I am trying to say is what Nancy has sung this morning, “No one understands like Jesus!” He gets it because He is with us. He has been there and is there with us as we walk through life.
I don’t think anything screams, “I want a relationship with you” more than the Incarnation of Jesus. Picture it. The God of the universe willingly condescended to become like us and to walk in our shoes. I may have compassion on a friend that is hurting or going through a trial, but I don’t think I have ever thought, “I wish I could experience what they are going through. God, please let me suffer like they do.” But God willingly subjected Himself to the human experience in order to show us how to live and in order to show us how to overcome sin and to possess eternal life.
I like the phrase, “God with us” because “with” is a joining word. Jesus came to us in the flesh in order to join us to God. He is the bridge that makes it possible to know God. Through His death on the cross which paid the price for the sin of all humanity, He joins us with God the Father in salvation.
Jehovah-Shammah is with us through the Power and Presence of the Holy Spirit.
So, Jesus came and lived and died and rose again and went to Heaven. So that we would be able to have the experience of being joined with God, the third Person of the Trinity, the Holy Spirit, came to earth and was poured out in the hearts of believers on the Day of Pentecost. It is the Holy Spirit who is the “God who is there” among us now.
John 16:7 says, “But I tell you the truth: It is for your good that I am going away. Unless I go away, the Counselor will not come to you; but if I go, I will send him to you.” The Holy Spirit is with us as a Comforter, Confident, Care-giver and Counselor. Jesus could say in Matthew 28:20, “And I am with you always, even to the end of the age,” because He knew the Holy Spirit, Jehovah-Shammah, would live in the hearts of believers when He left this earth.
It is the Holy Spirit that will empower us for ministry (Acts 1:8). It is the Holy Spirit that will help us overcome temptation (I Cor. 10:13). It is the Holy Spirit who will enable us to obey God (Ez. 36:27). Let’s examine other ways, Jehovah-Shammah, the Holy Spirit is with us.
Psalm 139:7 asks the question, “Where can I go from your Spirit? Where can I flee from your presence?” The answer is “nowhere” because wherever you go, God is there. Wherever you have been, God was there, and He got there before you. And He was with you way before you were with Him.
Jehovah-Shammah is with us in the womb. 13 For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. 14 I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well. 15 My frame was not hidden from you when I was made in the secret place. When I was woven together in the depths of the earth, 16 your eyes saw my unformed body. All the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be.
What we can understand this morning is that God is with us when we aren’t even able to cognitively recognize His presence. You didn’t know when you were being shaped inside your mother’s womb that God was at work. You didn’t know that Someone was taking care to do detailed work to create your respiratory, circulatory, and digestive system. You weren’t cognizant of the fact that Someone created your heart and set it like a clock to beat with precision. You couldn’t have known that Someone was designing your gender, your eye and hair color and the design of your fingerprints. You weren’t aware that a Designer was at work to infuse you with personality, skills, passions and dreams. You didn’t know, but God was there!
You may have a best friend that you grew up with, went to school with, played sports with, and have raised a family alongside, and you may not remember a time when they weren’t part of your life. You just know you have always known them. They have always been there. God’s involvement with you is way more intense and detailed. Listen, before you knew anything, God knew you, and He was at work to create the masterpiece that is you.
Jehovah-Shammah is with us in times of need. When we are lonely, afraid, or in physical or emotional pain we can count on God to be there for us. The Old Testament tells us the story of Hagar, a woman who was used and then abused by Sarah, the wife of Abraham. God had promised Abraham and Sarah a child in their old age, but when time started passing and Sarah couldn’t imagine that God would fulfill His promise to give them a son, she gave her maid, Hagar, to sleep with Abraham, in order that Abraham would have a son. Once Hagar became pregnant, Sarah changed her tune towards Hagar. She had turned to Hagar for a twisted kind of help, and then once Hagar got pregnant, Sarah started to hate her.
Sarah mistreated Hagar to the point where Hagar ran away and wound up in the wilderness. Alone in her pain, she felt unwanted and abandoned. What Hagar discovered was that she wasn’t alone in her pain. God was right there with her. He made Himself known. He expressed Himself as El-Roi, the God who sees. He was there with her in her crisis.
Friends may forsake you. You may question if your life really matters. You may suffer emotional and physical injustice at the words and hands of other people. You may be left out and overlooked. You may be stepped on or stepped over. You may suffer in silence in your marriage, your workplace, in your family of origin relationships. You may deal with childhood trauma. You may have secrets that keep you living in guilt and shame. All of it may make you feel isolated and afraid. Listen, God won’t forsake you. God will walk down the darkest alley, the loneliest road, and the steepest mountain in order to comfort you and help you. Never once, have you ever walked alone!
In Psalm 22:1, David expressed how lonely and abandoned he felt when he cried out, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me? Why are you so far away?” His words were a foreshadowing of Jesus’ same words on the cross as He cried out to His Heavenly Father. David, perhaps the greatest King of Israel, a man after God’s own heart, someone God used mightily, and Jesus, the Perfect Son of God, the One who did miracle after miracle after miracle and who wrought salvation for all humanity felt abandoned even by God. What are we to make of that?
We know how God used David. We know how God rescued David. We know that God raised Jesus from the dead. We know that God exalted Jesus to the highest place and gave Him the name that is above every name. We know God was there with them in their trials because we know the end of the story. What we can understand is that God is there even when we can’t feel Him and even when our circumstances seem to scream He is not, and whatever you are overwhelmed by this morning, take heart, it isn’t the end of your story. God is with you, and He is walking you out!
When I was 22 I went to live in the Middle East on the island of Cyprus. I was a missionary school teacher. I lived on the fifth floor, the top, of an apartment building (that had no elevator, I might add). The view from my rooftop was spectacular. It was a gorgeous mountain view. I would often eat my breakfast outside and look at the view.
One morning, I went outside for breakfast, and thick fog had overtaken the view. It actually took me a second to process things as I honestly asked myself, “Where did the mountains go?” Now, I knew the mountains hadn’t gone anywhere, but it had just taken me by surprise that something I had counted on seeing, had known to be there, had suddenly seemingly disappeared. The voice of the Holy Spirit literally said to me, “Don’t forget in the darkness what you knew to be true in the light.” The truth was that those gorgeous and steadfast mountains were there whether I could detect them or not.
I know life has a way of obscuring our view of God, but listen. We know from Scripture that God is with us. If we have walked with the Lord for even six months, we have had times of assurance that God is with us. Let’s not abandon what we know just because our circumstances grow cloudy, foggy, or even dark. God will never abandon us. Let’s not abandon Him!
It doesn’t matter how dark or dangerous things get, God is there. If a movie was to be made about the Apostle Paul today, I think it would be a Mission Impossible movie or a movie like Jack Reacher that is out now, a thriller filled with danger, suspense, and lots of narrow escapes.
Listen to a brief description of his escapades: 2 Corinthians 11:24-28-24 Five times I received from the Jews the forty lashes minus one. 25 Three times I was beaten with rods, once I was stoned, three times I was shipwrecked, I spent a night and a day in the open sea, 26 I have been constantly on the move. I have been in danger from rivers, in danger from bandits, in danger from my own countrymen, in danger from Gentiles; in danger in the city, in danger in the country, in danger at sea; and in danger from false brothers. 27 I have labored and toiled and have often gone without sleep; I have known hunger and thirst and have often gone without food; I have been cold and naked.
28 Besides everything else, I face daily the pressure of my concern for all the churches.
Besides dodging the bad guys and their rocks, and being stranded on the open sea, besides breaking out of prisons and dealing with no sleep and being hungry, and running from place to place, Paul had this compelling mission to preach the Gospel and to check on all the churches that he planted. It would be more than enough to try to deal with all of the danger he faced, but he was also trying to plant and pastor several churches at the same time!
Yet look at these remarkable verses from 2 Timothy 4:16-18 16 At my first defense, no one came to my support, but everyone deserted me. May it not be held against them. 17 But the Lord stood at my side and gave me strength, so that through me the message might be fully proclaimed and all the Gentiles might hear it. And I was delivered from the lion’s mouth. 18 The Lord will rescue me from every evil attack and will bring me safely to his heavenly kingdom. To him be glory for ever and ever. Amen.
Isn’t that powerful? Even when Paul was deserted by all of his friends, he testified that he wasn’t alone. Listen, friends may desert you, but God + you is a perfect majority no matter how many are standing on the other side.
Jehovah-Shammah is with us in death.
The Psalmist said in Psalm 23:4 that even though we walk through the valley of the shadow of death we don’t have to fear because God is with us. I have been at the bedside of many people who are making the transition from time into eternity, and I have witnessed the peace and comfort that God can bring in those moments. I have even seen people reach out and up as if they are responding to the reach of Christ Himself.
Even as Stephen was being stoned to death for his confession of Christ in Acts 7 there was something incredible about the way he endured that experience. Acts 7:55-60 (NIV) 55 But Stephen, full of the Holy Spirit, looked up to heaven and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God. 56 “Look,” he said, “I see heaven open and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God.” 57 At this they covered their ears and, yelling at the top of their voices, they all rushed at him, 58 dragged him out of the city and began to stone him. Meanwhile, the witnesses laid their clothes at the feet of a young man named Saul. 59 While they were stoning him, Stephen prayed, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.” 60 Then he fell on his knees and cried out, “Lord, do not hold this sin against them.” When he had said this, he fell asleep.
Even when horrendous violence was being perpetrated against Stephen, he had peace. He was in control. God was holding on to him. (Sometimes I think God wraps us in bubble wrap so that we can’t feel the intensity of the evil that is trying to come against us!) Those who killed Stephen were yelling at the top of their voices. They ganged up on him in mob fashion. They dragged him out of the city. Stephen wasn’t yelling. He wasn’t flailing about trying to be free. He was praying. He was connected with the God who was there. He was able to look up and see the glory of God. He had a glimpse of heaven. He could see what was awaiting him. He could never have had that revelation if God was not with him in that horrible moment.
Listen, God is there when you don’t have the cognitive or spiritual discernment to see Him. He is there when the intensity of abandonment or abuse create isolation and fear to the point where all you are experiencing is the enormity of your feelings. He is there when you face the departure from this life and step into eternity. He is always there!
He is there when no one else is there- Psalm 22:10-11 (NIV) 10 From birth I was cast upon you; from my mother’s womb you have been my God. 11 Do not be far from me, for trouble is near and there is no one to help.
You can count on Him.
And by the way, it doesn’t matter how far you try to run away from Him, wherever you wind up, you will find Him there. Look again at Psalm 139: 7 Where can I go from your Spirit? Where can I flee from your presence? 8 If I go up to the heavens, you are there; if I make my bed in the depths, you are there. 9 If I rise on the wings of the dawn, if I settle on the far side of the sea, 10 even there your hand will guide me, your right hand will hold me fast. 11 If I say, “Surely the darkness will hide me and the light become night around me,” 12 even the darkness will not be dark to you; the night will shine like the day, for darkness is as light to you.
God is there, wherever there is. Some of you here today needed to be reminded that God is with you. He fashioned you on purpose for a purpose before you could even comprehend that He existed. He became like you in order to live a victorious life and a victorious death so that instead of suffering the separation from God that sin creates you and I could be joined to God. He poured out His Holy Spirit here on earth so that we would never have to live detached from God. He is always accompanying us through life, no matter how dark our circumstances get, and He will escort us through the corridors of death into eternal life. This is for real. Do you believe it? Do you sense His nearness today?
And for those of you who are runners, you can’t outrun God. Sooner or later you will have to stop and face the God who is always there. You will either confront Him in this life or in eternity, and the location of that confrontation has major consequences. To run from God here is to live disconnected from God not only now, but for eternity. I believe the Bible is clear about Hell. It is a place of eternal separation from God. It is a place of punishment for sin that created that separation. God has gone to Hell and back to assure that no one would ever have to go to Hell. The choice is ours today.
For those who are in Christ, God is not only here with us, but He is also in Heaven preparing a place for us to dwell with Him forever. I know this: Wherever He is, I want to be THERE forever. How about you?