What’s Christmas About? God’s Desire to Dwell With Mankind

Yes, it is the Christmas season. I hope it is common knowledge that as Christians come to celebrate this time of the year, we have no concrete evidence Jesus was born Dec 25th. But that’s not the point of this post. For those that try to focus on the celebration of the coming of Jesus, one theme that we may want to meditate on is God’s desire to dwell with man. There are more than enough texts in the Jewish Scriptures that speak about this topic. For example:

“If you walk in My statutes and keep My commandments so as to carry them out, then I shall give you rains in their season, so that the land will yield its produce and the trees of the field will bear their fruit.  Indeed, your threshing will last for you until grape gathering, and grape gathering will last until sowing time. You will thus eat your  food to the full and live securely in your land. I shall also grant peace in the land, so that you may lie down with no one making you tremble. I shall also eliminate harmful beasts from the land, and no sword will pass through your land.  But you will chase your enemies and they will fall before you by the sword;  five of you will chase a hundred, and a hundred of you will chase ten thousand, and your enemies will fall before you by the sword.  So I will turn toward you and make you fruitful and multiply you, and I will confirm My covenant with you.  You will eat the old supply and clear out the old because of the new.Moreover, I will make My  dwelling among you, and My soul will not reject you.  I will also walk among you and be your God, and you shall be My people.  I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt so that you would not be their slaves, and I broke the bars of your yoke and made you walk erect.” Levitcus 26:11-12

“My servant David will be king over them, and they will all have one shepherd; and they will walk in My ordinances and keep My statutes and observe them. 25 They will live on the land that I gave to Jacob My servant, in which your fathers lived; and they will live on it, they, and their sons and their sons’ sons, forever; and David My servant will be their prince forever. 26 I will make a covenant of peace with them; it will be an everlasting covenant with them. And I will [h]place them and multiply them, and will set My sanctuary in their midst forever.27 My dwelling place also will be with them; and I will be their God, and they will be My people. 28 And the nations will know that I am the Lord who sanctifies Israel, when My sanctuary is in their midst forever.”’-Ezekiel 37: 24-27

Of course, the Jewish people thought God’s presence was dwelling in their midst in both the Tabernacle and Temple.

Image result for pictures of the tabernacle

As I have said before, in the Bible, the Shekhinah is the visible manifestation of the presence of God in which He descends to dwell among men. While the Hebrew form of the glory of the Lord is “Kvod Adonai” the Greek title is “Doxa Kurion.” The Hebrew form Schekhinah, from the root “shachan,” means “dwelling” while the Greek word “Skeinei” means to tabernacle. The Shekhinah glory is seen in a variety of visible manifestations such as light, fire, a cloud, the Angel of the Lord, or a combination of all of these.

For the Jewish people, the ultimate manifestation of the Shekhinah was seen in the giving of the Torah at Mt. Sinai (Ex.19:16-20). Therefore, in relation to the incarnation, the Shekhinah takes on greater significance in John 1: 1-14. As John says, “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.” “Dwelt” ( σκήνωμα), means to “live or camp in a tent” or figuratively in the NT to”dwell, take up one’s residence, come to reside (among).”   As already stated, the Greek word “Skeinei” means to tabernacle. John 1:14 literally says,” the Word became flesh and tabernacled among us.”

Regarding the Shekhinah, N.T Wright also says:

In particular, in postbiblical Jewish writing the idea of the presence of God in the Temple was given the name Shekinah, the “tabernacling, abiding divine presence,” the personal presence of the glory of God. So, when John continues by saying, “We gazed upon his glory, glory like that of the father’s only son, full of grace and truth” (1: 14), we should get the point loud and clear. All this means that we should be able to read John with more sensitivity to the nature of his “high Christology.” Obviously he thinks Jesus was and is fully divine (as well as fully human, but he doesn’t need to make that point in the same way). But this doesn’t mean he is simply saying “Jesus is God” in the way of some rationalist apologists. John’s “high Christology” remains very, very Jewish, very much rooted in Israel’s scriptures. His chosen vehicle for his matchless opening statement, the logos, draws not so much on Platonic or Stoic ideas as on the living Word of the Old Testament, as, for instance, in Isaiah 55, where the word goes out like rain or snow and accomplishes God’s work (55: 10– 11). This work, God’s great act of rescue, rooted in the accomplishment of the “servant of the LORD” in chapter 53 and the renewal of the covenant in 54, brings about the new creation in 55, with the thorns and thistles of Genesis 3 and Isaiah 5 replaced by wonderful trees and shrubs (55: 12– 13). It is (in other words) the creator God, and it is Israel’s God, who has become human in and as Jesus of Nazareth. Once we get the speaker turned to the right volume, we can hear this clearly and hear it in relation to everything else, rather than allowing it to drown out all other voices and strands of early Christian music. With this as our framework, we should be able to read right through John and discern what he is actually doing. His Jesus is a combination of the living Word of the Old Testament, the Shekinah of Jewish hope (God’s tabernacling presence in the Temple), and “wisdom,” which in some key Jewish writings was the personal self-expression of the creator God, coming to dwell with humans and particularly with Israel (see Wis. 7; Sir. 24). But this Jesus is no mere ideal, a fictional figure cunningly combining ancient theological motifs. John’s Jesus is alive; he moves from one vivid scene to another, in far more realistic dialogue with far more realistic secondary characters than in most of the synoptic gospels.-( N. T. Wright, How God Became King: The Forgotten Story of the Gospels (p. 103).

Before Jesus rose from the dead, he made a promise that was related to the New Covenant passages:

Just like the giving of the Torah (with Moses), the New Covenant needs someone to inaugurate it. As Jesus says:

“And I will pray the Father, and He shall give you another Comforter, so that He may be with you forever, the Spirit of Truth, whom the world cannot receive because it does not see Him nor know Him. But you know Him, for He dwells with you and shall be in you.” John 14:16,17

So we can conclude with following syllogism:

1. If Jesus rose from the dead, He can send the Spirit and inaugurate the New Covenant.
2. Jesus rose from the dead
3. Therefore, Jesus is the inaugurator of the New Covenant.

To see evidence that Jesus rose from the dead, see here:

To see more on the New Covenant, see here:

The Temple of the Holy Spirit 

As Paul told his audience in Corinth to flee from sexual immorality, he said, “Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your body” (1 Cor 6: 19-20). But by choosing the word “temple” to describe the Spirit’s dwelling, Paul wanted his audience to know they are the sacred place, in which the Spirit not only lives, but is worshiped and honored.

Conclusion

In the coming of Jesus, God has come closer to humanity. He has taken the initiative to provide a way for humans to be in his presence 24 hours a day. We should be forever grateful for this awesome truth.

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