Shekinah (Shechinah) is a transliteration of a Hebrew word meaning “the one who dwells” or “that which dwells” and was used to describe the light on the mercy-seat of the Ark of the Covenant in the Holy of Holies, the Shekinah symbolizing the Divine presence (Exodus 25:8).
Shekinah is not found in Scripture but the root word shakan(to dwell, to settle down, to tabernacle with, to have a habitation) and the related word mishkan(tabernacle) are both frequently used and both are associated with the presence of God (and His glory) dwelling with man.
The meaning of the word Shekinah (the One Who dwells) reminds us that we did not seek to dwell with God but He with us and this truth should evoke continual thanksgiving in those who have been brought into covenant with Him under the shelter of His wings.
And so in Exodus, we see that it was God Who first expressed His desire to dwell among men, instructing Moses to tell the people to
construct a sanctuary for Me, that I may dwell (shakan) among them. According to all that I am going to show you, as the pattern of the tabernacle (mishkan from shakan) and the pattern of all its furniture, just so you shall construct it." (Exodus 25:8-9)
the visible manifestation of the presence of God. It is the majestic presence or manifestation of God in which He descended to dwell among men. Whenever the invisible God becomes visible, and whenever the omnipresence of God is localized, this is the Shechinah Glory.
The usual title found in the Scriptures for the Shechinah Glory is: the glory of the Lord. The Hebrew form is Kvod Adonai which means “the glory of the Lord,” and describes what the Shechinah Glory is. The Greek title, Doxa Kurion (kurios), is also translated as “the glory of the Lord.” Doxa means “brightness,” “brilliance,” or “splendor” and it depicts how the Shechinah Glory appears.
Other titles give it the sense of “dwelling,” which portrays what the Shechinah Glory does. The Hebrew for Shechinah, from the root shachan, means “to dwell.” The Greek word skeinei (see study of related words - skenos and skenoma) means “to tabernacle,” and is derived from the Hebrew Shechinah.
Shekinah originally was used in the Jewish Targum (Aramaic translation of Hebrew Bible) and rabbinic literature whenever the Hebrew text would mention the presence of God in a way that implied certain human limitations. The Targum Onkelos for example paraphrases Jehovah's declaration in Exodus 25:8 as And they shall make before Me a sanctuary and I shall cause My Shekinah to dwell (shakan) among them.
In summary, the term Shekinah as commonly used describes the visible manifestation of God's presence and glory usually in the form of a cloud as discussed below under Past Glory.
The picture of the Shekinah cloud of glory dwelling on the Temple has a parallel "fulfillment" in the New Testament (obviously written by Jews familiar with the Shekinah in the Old Testament) where John writes that the Word became flesh, and dwelt (tabernacled) among us, and we beheld His glory, glory as of the Only begotten from the Father, full of grace and truth. (John 1:14)
We see a manifestation of the Shekinah Glory at the Transfiguration…
While he was still speaking, behold, a bright (photeinos = splendid, full of light, well illuminated) cloud overshadowed them; and behold, a voice out of the cloud, saying, “This is My beloved Son, with whom I am well-pleased; listen to Him!”
For when He received honor and glory from God the Father, such an utterance as this was made to Him by the Majestic Glory, "This is My beloved Son with whom I am well-pleased" (2Peter 1:17)
- Thus, Christ is visible presentation of the Shekinah Glory, or as the writer of Hebrews says… the radiance (apaugasma) of His glory (doxa) (Hebrews 1:3)
Paul writes that Christ is "the Lord of glory" (1Corinthians 2:8). This same Shekinah glory now rests (dwells) upon all those who are in Christ.
Paul reminds the Colossian saints that
God willed to make known what is the riches of the glory of this mystery among the Gentiles, which is Christ ("dwelling") in you, the hope of glory. (Colossians 1:27)
Ponder on this truly awesome thought for a moment - the Shekinah Glory of God in us as Christ followers! How can we comprehend such mystery and majesty? And yet it is our privilege to show forth the Shekinah glory for all the world to see! How?
- The presence of the Holy Spirit is also a representation of the Shekinah as when the Spirit descended and remained on Jesus (John 1:33) and at Pentecost the Spirit came down and rested on the 120 disciples appearing to them tongues as of fire distributing themselves, and they rested on each one of them” (Acts 2:3)
"The Indwelling of the Spirit" makes the believers body a temple for the indwelling of the Lord Jesus Christ, the Shekinah Glory (Romans 8:9-11; 1 Corinthians 3:16; 6:19-20; 2 Corinthians 6:16).
The Holy Spirit indwells every believer in order to provide a temple for the indwelling of the Shekinah Glory, the Lord Jesus Christ, which serves as the principle of victory over the indwelling old sin nature.
2Corinthians 12:9 And He has said to me, "My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness." Most gladly, therefore, I will rather boast about my weaknesses, that the power of Christ may dwell (episkenoo) in me.
The verb episkenoo means literally to pitch a tent upon and thus to descend and abide upon or rest upon. This is the only use of this verb in Scripture. The power of Christ is not only thus manifested in the weakness of His people, but in the means that He employs to achieve his purposes. Believers are in all cases utterly inadequate in themselves and the means disproportionate to the results to be obtained. This treasure is in clay jars so that the excellency of the power may be God’s.
- By the foolishness of preaching he saves those who believe.
- By twelve illiterate men the church was established and extended over the civilized world.
- By a few missionaries heathen lands are converted into Christian countries. So in all cases the power of Christ is perfected in weakness.
And so in God's final manifestation of perfect communion and oneness with His redeemed children, we will enter into the true HOLY OF HOLIES illuminated by the SHEKINAH GLORY of the King of kings and Lord of lords. And "In His temple everyone shouts, "GLORY!"
Let us Pray:
Father by Thy Spirit strengthen us with power in our inner being (Ephesians 3:16), so that as we hope for what we do not see, we will with perseverance “wait expectantly and in great anticipation for” (Romans 8:25), the appearance of “the Son of Man coming on the clouds of the sky with power and GREAT (Shekinah) GLORY” (Matthew 24:30). Amen.
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