The Day The Shekinah Returns To Israel
If anyone ever had a love and burden for the Jewish people, it was the Apostle Paul. He not only expresses his love and concern for them in Romans 9-11, but also God’s. Specifically, in Romans 9:4 he speaks of God giving the Jewish people six things. These were never given to anyone else. They were: (1) the adoption; (2) the glory; (3) the covenants; (4) the giving of the law; (5) the service of God; and (6) the promises.
Every religious Jew of the first century was well aware of these six blessings which God had peculiarly given to Israel. For this reason, Paul had only to use a few words to jog their memory about them. In the case of the glory, it was common knowledge that he was referring to the Shekinah glory.
Definition Of Shekinah Glory
Now, just what is meant by Shekinah glory? Though the word Shekinah never appears in the Bible, Shachan, the root word from which it comes, does appear. It means to dwell. The derivative, Shekinah, means that which dwells. Therefore, it is the glory of God which dwells. It has come to mean a visible manifestation of God’s presence among men. It is seen in various forms. The most common are light, fire, cloud, or some combination of these. The Greeks did not know what to do with the word Shekinah. They merely borrowed the Hebrew word and put it into Greek letters, skene, which bears the same meaning as the Hebrew word. When we think of the word Shekinah, therefore, we are considering God dwelling with man in some form.
Evidences Of The Shekinah Glory With Israel
The Shekinah Glory: God’s Calling
The Egyptian bondage had been heavy on Israel. For four hundred years their tasks had become increasingly difficult. They were about to break because of the yoke of oppression which had been put upon them. Had the God of Israel forgotten His people? Was there no hope? Would they ever be free again?
God had not forgotten Israel. The man He would use to deliver the Jewish people was already chosen. That man was Moses.
It was while Moses was tending his father-in-law’s flock at Horeb that he received God’s call. It came in a very unusual way. A strange phenomenon took place before his eyes — a bush caught fire. This was not an unusual phenomenon in a hot desert. What made it different was the fact that though the bush burned, it was not consumed.
Not only was this extraordinary, but some other thing happened with regard to that bush. God himself was dwelling in the midst of it and calling to Moses. The fire was a manifestation of the Shekinah glory of God. Moses recognized God’s presence in the bush and took off his shoes because the ground was holy. He “ … hid his face; for he was afraid to look upon God” (Ex. 3:6).
God was calling Moses to deliver His people Israel from the oppression and bondage of Egypt. He was to lead them into a land flowing with milk and honey. From the revelation of the Shekinah glory in that bush deliverance was to come to the Jew. God used the Shekinah glory to call Moses and accomplish His purposes for Israel.
The Shekinah Glory: God’s Guidance
To free Israel from tyranny, God brought ten plagues upon Egypt. The tenth plague, which brought death to the firstborn, finally gained freedom for the Israelites. “Free at last!” was the joyful cry. The journey to the promised land started. How should they go? Exodus 13:17 states that God would not lead them along the coast through Philistine territory, lest the people get discouraged and return to Egypt. But how would they know which way to go?
The Shekinah glory was the answer. The Lord would dwell among His people, and His presence would be seen constantly in the pillar of cloud by day and pillar of fire by night. They could literally rest assured of the presence of the Lord, either before, behind, or above them in the pillar. This was a great day in the history of Israel. The Shekinah glory was with Israel, guiding and directing her paths.
The Shekinah Glory: God’s Protection
God was not finished punishing Egypt. Pharaoh would chase after Israel with all his mighty forces, and the sons of Abraham would fear once again until they were assured of the Lord’s deliverance.
Upon their arrival at the Red Sea, Israel discovered they had no place to go. The Red Sea was before them; mountains loomed on either side; the Egyptians were pursuing from the rear. Would they now die in the wilderness? Fear increased! They blamed Moses for leading them into this impossible situation.
In desperation Moses cried out, “…Fear not, stand still, and see the salvation of the Lord which he will show to you today … The Lord shall fight for you . ..” (Ex. 14:13-14). Then in utter awe the children of Israel viewed a miraculous sight. The Shekinah glory moved.
“And the angel of God, who went before the camp of Israel, removed and went behind them; and the pillar of the cloud went from before their face, and stood behind them. And it came between the camp of the Egyptians and the camp of Israel; and it was a cloud and darkness to them, but it gave light by night to these, so that the one came not near the other all the night“ (Ex. 14:19-20). Israel was perfectly safe, protected by the very presence of God in the Shekinah glory.
God, in the Shekinah glory, had catted Moses, had gone before Israel, and had guided and protected her. He would also use the Shekinah glory to direct Israel in her worship of Him.
The Shekinah Glory: God’s Instruction in Worship In the Tabernacle
While Moses led the children of Israel through the wilderness, the Lord also began to lead him as far as worship was concerned. Later in the Book of Exodus, God gave Moses detailed plans for the building of a Tabernacle. It would be a place where God could dwell among His people and where they could come to worship Him. The children of Israel were told to bring an offering to build this Tabernacle. Furniture, curtains, etc., were to be made to exacting specifications. The Tabernacle was to be typical and representative, as well as functional. The Lord had even prepared the skillful hands of Bezalel and Oholiab to build His sanctuary (Ex. 35:30-35).
The people gave far more than required for the construction of God’s Tabernacle. Work was begun. It was not long before all was in readiness as God had commanded. The great day had come! Under the direction of Moses, the structure was raised, the furnishings were installed, and Aaron and his sons began their God-given ritual. The task was completed.
Then the Shekinah glory came. “Then a cloud covered the tent of the congregation, and the glory of the Lord filled the tabernacle. And Moses was not able to enter into the tent of the congregation, because the cloud abode thereon, and the glory of the Lord filled the tabernacle” (Ex. 40:34-35).
The Shekinah glory was abiding in the midst of Israel. The Lord was present in the Tabernacle. Israel saw God’s glory.
In the Temple
Eventually the wilderness wanderings ended. Joshua took Israel into her land. The Tabernacle, a tent, was erected in Jerusalem, God was with Israel, and the land was blessed. Four hundred years later, the king desired to build a permanent dwelling place for the Lord. David lived in a cedar house, but the ark of the covenant “dwelleth within curtains (2 Sam. 7:2) or in a tent.
However, it was not to be David’s privilege to build a temple for the Lord. David was a man of war, so this responsibility could not be his. Following the death of David, Solomon succeeded him as king, and he purposed to build the Temple as the Lord had promised (1 Ki. 5:5). David’s friend, King Hiram of Tyre, helped Solomon by providing timber and workers from Lebanon.
Solomon began the long and difficult process of building in the fourth year of his reign.
When the task was completed and all was in readiness, Solomon assembled the leaders of the land for the dedication of the Temple. The ark of the covenant was brought in and put in its proper place. The question was, would God be pleased and bless Solomon’s Temple with His presence?
Soon they had their answer. The Shekinah glory descended once again. God put His blessing upon His people by choosing to dwell in the newly constructed edifice. The presence of God was there in such power “So that the priests could not stand to minister because of the cloud; for the glory of the Lord had filled the house of the Lord” (1 Ki. 8:11).
It would not be long, however, before Israel would begin her slide into apostasy. Years went by; kings came and went; sin reigned in the land; wickedness abounded; enemies came; Israel began to know defeat. The Assyrians soon wiped out the ten northern tribes. The Temple was still there, but the apostasy moved south into Judah. God promised Judah, through various prophets at that time, that she would go into seventy years of captivity. Ezekiel was one of the prophets whom God raised up to tell this message to the children of Israel. “Jerusalem is doomed,”’ he cried.
In Ezekiel chapter 8, God gave him a vision of the abominations God’s people were committing in the Temple. It was a terrible scene as the leaders worshiped the sun and beasts of all kinds. Some were worshiping Rammuz, the god of the flocks. Various forms of false worship abounded. It is very clear in Ezekiel 8:4 that the Shekinah glory was still in its place in the Temple, but this was not to be for long. Things would soon change. God could no longer continue to dwell among such an apostate and wicked nation. He was going to remove His glory because of her sin.
The Shekinah Glory Leaves Israel
The Shekinah glory left Israel in stages. In Ezekiel 9:3 we read, “And the glory of the God of Israel was gone up from the cherub, upon which he was, to the threshold of the house , …” It had left the holy of holies. It was in the process of departing Israel. God was still giving the Jewish leaders and people a chance to repent, but they would not.
In Ezekiel 10:4 the prophet tells us, “Then the glory of the Lord went up from the cherub, and stood over the threshold of the house; and the house was filled with the cloud, and the court was full of the brightness of the Lord’s glory.” Normally the glory of God was upon the mercy seat between the cherubim, but it was now over the Temple in its progression of departing Israel.
The next step in the departure of the Shekinah glory from Israel is found in Ezekiel 10:18: “Then the glory of the Lord departed from off the threshold of the house, and stood over the cherubim.” We read of the final phase of its departure in chapter 11, verses 22-23: “Then did the cherubim lift up their wings, and the wheels beside them; and the glory of the God of Israel was over them above. And the glory of the Lord went up from the midst of the city, and stood upon the mountain which is on the east side of the city. “
Jewish tradition teaches that for three and one-half years the Shekinah glory rested on the Mount of Olives on the eastern side of Jerusalem and then departed. We do not know if this is true, but we do know it was gone. That which had been so much a part of Israel had left. The people were all alone. Defeat, suffering and heartache would now be their lot. The glory of God was gone.
Israel Without The Shekinah Glory
Babylon came in with her armies as a flood! Israel was taken captive! Millions died! For seventy years her portion was that of a beggar. Then God once again brought the Jews back into the land. The walls were rebuilt, and Jerusalem and Israel were repopulated. They had a Temple again, but not with the magnificence of Solomon’s Temple. Zerubbabel built this Temple and one thing was missing — the Shekinah glory. The people were back in the land, and things looked much as they had in the past, but the presence of God was not there.
Time marched on — over four hundred years went by. Heaven was silent, and the prophets had ceased. Had God permanently shut out Israel? Was there no hope?
The Shekinah Glory In The Flesh
Suddenly, while Jewish shepherds were watching their flocks one night, “… an angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them; and they were very much afraid” (Lk. 2:9). To these frightened shepherds the angel announced the birth of Israel’s Messiah, Jesus. This message was authenticated by “. .. a multitude of the heavenly host, praising God, and saying, Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men” (Lk. 2:13-14).
Could this little baby Jesus be the glory of God? Could He really be that Shekinah glory in the flesh? In Luke 2:29-32, the aged Simeon said, “Lord, now lettest thou thy servant depart in peace, according to thy word; For mine eyes have seen thy salvation, Which thou hast prepared before the face of all people; A light to lighten the Gentiles, and the glory of thy people, Israel.” Here was the Shekinah glory in the flesh dwelling among the Israelites. It was in the person of Jesus, Israel’s Messiah.
The beloved Apostle John declared to us in his gospel, “And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us (and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father), full of grace and truth” (Jn. 1:14).
Throughout His life Jesus presented Himself to the Jewish people. Had not He been born of a virgin? His sinless life was far different than that of any man. The Jewish leaders knew by His miracles that He had to be of God (Jn. 2:23).
The final appeal of Christ to Israel came on what we call Palm Sunday. “Go get the donkey!” was His spoken word to the disciples. All was in readiness. Jesus presented Himself as the King of the Jews. A multitude went with Him from the Mount of Olives down through the Kidron Valley, up the slope into Jerusalem, and finally to the Temple. The glory of God had returned to the Temple in the person of Jesus Christ. He had fulfilled the prophecies of Zechariah 9:9 and Psalm 118:26.
Would the Jewish people accept Him as their King? No! The religious leaders turned their backs on Him, They did not want anything to do with this man. Jesus left the Temple, rejected by men. The glory of God went back out the gate, as it had done in Ezekiel’s prophecy. Back to the Mount of Olives once more He went, where He wept over the city. They would not crown Him King. His crown would be one of thorns. It was His tot to be crucified as a criminal rather than to be accepted as King of the Jews.
A few days after His crucifixion, the Shekinah glory in the person of Christ made its way back up to Olivet’s brow to ascend into Heaven. In a few minutes, He was gone. The Shekinah glory of God, rejected by Israel, had gone. Destruction soon came again to Jerusalem, and in a few years the Jewish people were scattered abroad throughout the nations of the earth. Israel missed her opportunity. She failed to see God’s visitation to her in the person of Jesus Christ.
The Day The Shekinah Glory Returns To Israel
But is God finished with Israel? Is there no hope? Is there no future? Is all lost? Will the Shekinah glory ever return to this undeserving people?
To find the answer, we must once again go back to the Book of Ezekiel. Not only was Ezekiel commissioned to write about the departure of the Shekinah glory from Israel, but he was also the one to reveal its ultimate return. This is yet future. In fact, the last major portion of Ezekiel is millennial. He is speaking of the great Temple to be built, with all of its beauty, but through chapter 42 he merely speaks of a building.
Then in Ezekiel chapter 43 we learn about a great event. In verses 1-5 we read, “Afterward, he brought me to the gate, even the gate that looketh toward the east, And, behold, the glory of the God of Israel came from the way of the east; and his voice was like a noise of many waters, and the earth shined with his glory. And it was according to the appearance of the vision which I saw, even according to the vision that I saw when I came to destroy the city; and the visions were like the vision that I saw by the river, Chebar; and I fell upon my face. And the glory of the Lord came into the house by the way of the gate whose prospect is toward the east. So the Spirit took me up, and brought me into the inner court, and, behold, the glory of the Lord filled the house.”
First, in verse 3 Ezekiel ties this vision together with the earlier one in which he saw the Shekinah glory leave the Temple, Secondly, we see the reverse of the earlier visions of Ezekiel. This time the glory returns from the east, the place to which it had previously gone. Thirdly, the glory returns to the house of the Lord. It had earlier left there when Christ was rejected.
The question arises, is this return another appearance, or is it a permanent return? Ezekiel anticipates this question and answers it for us in chapter 43, verses 6-7: “ And I heard him speaking unto me out of the house; and the man stood by me. And he said unto me, Son of man, the place of my throne, and the place of the soles of my feet, where 1 will dwell in the midst of the children of Israel forever….”
The matter is settled! There is a day, yet future, when the Lord Jesus Christ, who in the Shekinah glory, will dwell forever with Israel. Her sins will be forgiven, her idolatry gone, and her fellowship with God and the Son will be forever.
But Until Then . . .
Where is the Shekinah glory? Israel does not experience the presence of that glory now. Can anyone in this present age realize the manifestation of the glory of God?
Paul answers this question in 2 Corinthians 3 – 4. To make his point, he illustrates using the time God manifested Himself to him. As a result, his face shone with the reflected glory of God. In fact, Moses put a veil over his face so the Jewish people might not see that glory diminish. The Scriptures point out that this veil is still over the eyes of Israel today when they read the Old Testament. However, this veil is done away when either Jews or Gentiles turn to Christ.
The beautiful part of PauFs dissertation is found in 2 Corinthians 3:18, “But we all, with unveiled face beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are changed into the same image from glory to glory, even as by the Spirit of the Lord;” and 4:6, “For God, who commanded the light to shine out of darkness, hath shone in our hearts, to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.”
Paul teaches us that when a person comes to Christ the veil is removed. Furthermore, we are constantly being changed, or metamorphosed, into the very image of Christ. Our daily fellowship with Him should so change our lives that the unbeliever should see Christ in us. His glory has so shined in our hearts that our lives should be as a mirror reflecting that glory. The Shekinah glory will not be revealed to the world until the Messiah comes to the earth once again and all can see Him. But until then, every child of God should be in such a relationship with Christ that in some small way he should reflect His glory to a lost world. In that way some may see Him and come to know Him.