One of the biggest misconceptions people have about God is that is He withdraws His presence from our lives because of sin in our lives or some other mysterious purpose that cannot be easily explained. This is why some people believe God has left them when things get hard.
If you have ever felt that way, I have good news for you. The seventh redemptive name of God in the Bible is The-Lord-Is-There or Jehovah-Shammah. This means He will never leave or forsake us. This name leads to an important question; why did God reveal Himself as The-Lord-Is-There?
God revealed Himself as The-Lord-Is-There is because for a season He wasn’t there. Look at Ezekiel 10:18:
18 Then the glory of the Lord departed from the threshold of the temple and stood over the cherubim.
God’s glory left the temple as a judgment on the sin, depravity, and idolatry that was running rampant during Ezekiel’s day. God used Ezekiel to prophecy to the children of Israel to repent and return to Him, however, they did not so He eventually left the temple. Many years later the temple was destroyed and the Jews were carried off into Babylonian captivity.
Before we go further, you are probably thinking, “Brian, I thought you said that God doesn’t withdraw His presence from our lives because of our sin. This is exactly what happened to the Jews in Israel’s day. How do you explain that?”
I’m glad you asked. God did withdraw His presence in Ezekiel’s day because Ezekiel prophesied under the Old Covenant. Under the Old Covenant, the promises of God were conditional. If Israel obeyed, they were blessed and if they disobeyed, they were cursed. The withdrawal of God’s presence because of sin was a curse on the children of Israel. Under the New Covenant, we aren’t blessed because we do good and we aren’t cursed because we do bad. Look at Galatians 3:13-14:
13 Christ has redeemed us from the curse of the law, having become a curse for us (for it is written, “Cursed is everyone who hangs on a tree”), 14 that the blessing of Abraham might come upon the Gentiles in Christ Jesus, that we might receive the promise of the Spirit through faith.
When Jesus went to the cross He was cursed on our behalf. He took the curse of disobedience to the law on His body. This means we are no longer cursed because of our individual acts of disobedience. It also means that we don’t earn the blessing of God based on our individual acts of obedience. We receive the blessing of God simply by believing in Jesus.
When we understand that under the New Covenant we aren’t blessed with the presence of God based on our personal performance, but rather it is a free gift that comes by grace, it changes how we relate to God. We can now always expect His tangible presence when we go to Him in prayer. This is Hebrews 13:5 says I will never leave you nor forsake you.
As good as everything I have just shared is, it gets better! Let’s look back at the book of Ezekiel. Ezekiel 40-48 prophecy of the rebuilding of Jerusalem and the restoration of the temple where God would reside. Before we go further it is important to realize that there is a double-fulfillment on these prophetic words. The first fulfillment occurred when Jerusalem and the temple it contained were physically rebuilt during the time of Nehemiah and Ezra about 70 years after the Israel went into Babylonian captivity The second fulfillment occurred when the New Covenant was inaugurated and we became the city and the temple where the Holy Spirit would reside.
Look at Matthew 5:14:
14 “You are the light of the world. A city that is set on a hill cannot be hidden.
Now look at Revelation 21:2:
2 Then I, John, saw the holy city, New Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband.
The Bible teaches the church is the bride of Christ and Revelation says the bride is a city called the New Jerusalem that is coming down out of heaven. This city is where the presence of God will reside forever. This city is not a physical city, it is you and me, which is where God always longed to live.
This same principle holds for the concept of the temple. Throughout the Bible, God looked for a place to dwell. In Exodus, He gave Moses instructions for a portable structure called a tabernacle in which He would dwell. Years later, Solomon built God a temple where He would reside, but ultimately God never wanted to live in buildings made with hands. He always wanted to dwell inside of you and me. We are the permanent resting place for God’s spirit. Look at Ezekiel 48:35:
35 All the way around shall be eighteen thousand cubits; and the name of the city from that day shall be: THE LORD IS THERE.”
God declared Jehovah-Shammah or the Lord is there. He is living in the middle the temple in His city, which is on the inside of you and me. Because of what Jesus did at the cross, God permanently dwells within us and will never withdraw His presence from us once we are born again. This means when we mess up, He is there to help us.
Since He is always there, it also means when we don’t discern His presence, He didn’t leave us, we left Him in terms of where we put our thoughts and affections. When this happens, we don’t need to condemn ourselves, we just need to put our focus back on His word and begin to think what the word says and eventually we will get our thoughts focused on Him. As this happens, we will begin to sense His presence and what He is doing in our midst.
One last important point I want to make is that many well meaning believers try to focus on calling heaven down or pressing in and this usually leads to frustration. We don’t need to stress ourselves out by striving to experience God. We just need to relax and experience the one who inside of us. One of the major ways to pick up on the Holy Spirit’s frequency is when we are at peace because He is the spirit of peace!
I hope this article has encouraged you and hopefully helped you understand Bible symbolism a little bit better. When we learn that the Lord is always there, we will experience eternal life. If you would like to learn more about eternal life, check out the rest of my articles in this series here.