Summary: This name means, “God is there.”
My mind goes back to an experience I had when we served as missionaries in Mexico City. One day I took the Metro (subway) to the far southern part of the city to teach English to a couple businessmen. I had to make several transfers to different lines and finally arrived at my stop about an hour and a half later. When I got off the subway, I walked about ten blocks and suddenly I became aware of how alone I was. My heart started racing. I didn’t know anyone around me and I knew I stood out as an American. I tried not to look lost even though I sort of was. No one knew where I was, and I started to get afraid. And then, the Lord reminded me that He was with me. In a city of 24 million people, I was lonely but not alone because Jehovah Shammah was with me. This name means, “God is there.” To help us remember this truth, let’s repeat this phrase together: “God is there, He is here, He is everywhere.”
In the Garden of Eden we read that everything was perfect because the Creator (Elohim) wanted Adam and Eve to live in a place of beauty and comfort as seen in Genesis 1:9: “And the Lord God made all kinds of trees grow out of the ground—trees that were pleasing to the eye and good for food.” As beautiful as the creation was, the real joy was that “God himself walked in the garden in the cool of the day…” (Genesis 3:8). God’s presence was to be their greatest pleasure. But because Adam and Eve chose to disobey, the entire human race was plunged into darkness and death. Thankfully, God continued to reveal Himself and make His presence known. Genesis 5:22 tells us that Enoch “walked with God 300 years.”
We’ve learned in this series that El Shaddai also talked with Abraham. He allowed Jacob to wrestle with Him to teach him the truth that God is always present. Moses, who doubted God’s presence, had an encounter with the Almighty at the burning bush, and later declared in Exodus 33:15: “If your Presence does not go with us, do not send us up from here.” Moses wasn’t going to mobilize unless God moved with him. Yahweh demonstrated His powerful presence to the Israelites while they were in the desert of despair by using two symbols. By day, a cloud led them, and by night a pillar of fire pronounced His presence. God was personally and powerfully present with His people at all times and in all places. Let’s repeat this phrase again: “God is there, He is here, He is everywhere.”
On top of that, the Israelites had a portable tabernacle that symbolized the fact that God was with them. This tabernacle replaced the tent of meeting that Moses set up (Exodus 33:7-11). The tabernacle was to be constructed with specific details, that I won’t go into right now, but suffice it to say that according to Exodus 25:8, this was to be the “dwelling place for God.” This helped the Israelites know that God was present with them.
Now let’s fast forward to the time of King David and look at Psalm 139:7-10: “Where can I go from your Spirit? Where can I flee from your presence? If I go up to the heavens, you are there; if I make my bed in the depths, you are there. If I rise on the wings of the dawn, if I settle on the far side of the sea, even there your hand will guide me, your right hand will hold me fast.” This passage establishes one of the Almighty’s attributes referred to as the Omnipresence of God. Simply stated, this means that God is always wherever He needs to be to do whatever needs to be done. He’s everywhere present at the same time. He is there, He is here, and He is everywhere.
King David was eager to build a permanent place for God but was not allowed to. Instead, his son Solomon had the privilege of constructing a place for God’s name to dwell. Using enormous resources, this project took over 7 years to complete. The temple symbolized the fact that God was there for his people, and yet Solomon recognized that a building could not contain the awesome glory of God in 1 Kings 8:27: “But will God really dwell on earth? The heavens, even the highest heaven, cannot contain you. How much less this temple I have built!”
Unfortunately, even though they now had the Temple, and the assurance of God’s presence, the people compromised spiritually, and fell away from the Almighty. In one sense, they were more preoccupied with the place than with the presence of God Himself. God then brought numerous prophets on the scene to bring them back, but they were often met with resistance. Finally, because of their disobedience, God mobilized the Babylonians to come and attack Jerusalem, and 400 years after it was constructed, the Temple was destroyed, and the people were deported to what is modern-day Iraq.