The God Who is There (Jehovah Shammah)

February 3, 2005 | Brian Bill

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 2:9: “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.

With that as a brief background, let’s hit a few highlights from the Book of Ezekiel.  God’s people are living in a foreign land and they wonder whether God has left them completely.  God had warned them repeatedly and now, according to Ezekiel 20:44, He has sent judgment so that, “You will know that I am the LORD, when I deal with you for my name’s sake.”  After coming face-to-face with the glory of God in chapter one, Ezekiel is called in chapter two to give a message to this messed-up people.  He does so with some groaning and with a broken heart as expressed in Ezekiel 21:6: “Therefore groan, son of man!  Groan before them with broken heart and bitter grief.”

In chapter 33, Ezekiel is appointed as God’s watchman as he pleads with God’s people to turn back to the truth.  Verse 11 provides some comfort and some hope as we gain insight into God’s heart: “I take no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but rather that they turn from their ways and live.  Turn!  Turn from your evil ways!  Why will you die, O house of Israel?”  God then reveals His desire to restore His people in Ezekiel 36:26-27: “I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh.  And I will put my Spirit in you and move you to follow my decrees and be careful to keep my laws.”  In chapter 37, the prophet speaks to a valley filled with dry bones and commands them to live once again.

When we come to the last section of Ezekiel, we read about plans associated with the rebuilding of the Temple.  It had been 14 long years since the Temple had been trampled and the people were no doubt dismayed and discouraged.  Remember that the Temple symbolized God’s presence among His people (see 43:4-5).  Turn now to the last chapter of Ezekiel.  There are a lot of details here, much of which is beyond my understanding, but don’t let this distract you from the promise of God’s presence as found in the very last verse: “And the name of the city from that time on will be: THE LORD IS THERE.”  This is the name Jehovah Shammah.  Whatever else we can say about this passage, it is essentially a prophecy about the promise of God’s abiding presence.  In their darkest hour they were reminded that [let’s say it together] “God is there, He is here, He is everywhere.

Where Does God Dwell Now?

God’s presence is with people

I’ll never forget the question that a little boy asked when he came to the Birthday Party for Jesus last December.  He came in the doors, looked around, and said, “Where is He?”  That’s a good question.  Where is God today?  We know that He is there and He is here and He is everywhere, but where is He specifically?  Here’s a general principle to keep in mind.  God’s presence is not so much limited to a place as it was in the Old Testament; today, God’s presence is with people.  The Bible describes at least four ways that Jehovah Shammah is present.  

1. Jehovah Shammah is Jesus. 

In John 1:14, we read that “The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us.”  The word “dwelling” can be translated “tabernacled” or “templed” among us.  In John 2:19-20, Jesus referred to himself as the “temple” of God.  In fact, this comment enraged His enemies so much that they brought it up at His trial in Matthew 26:61: “This fellow said, ‘I am able to destroy the temple of God and rebuild it in three days.’”  God’s presence is no longer restricted to a place but was fully evident in the person of His Son.  That’s why He was referred to as “Immanuel” in Matthew 1:23, fulfilling the prophecy of Isaiah, as “God with us.”  Colossians 1:19 states: “For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him.” 

2. Jehovah Shammah dwells in believers. 

When Jesus declared that He was the dwelling place of God, the people were blown away.  This next truth is equally profound.  Those who are born again have become temples of God!  This is the thrust of 1 Corinthians 3:16: “Don’t you know that you yourselves are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit lives in you?”  God displays His beauty and glory today through believers, and as such, we must treat our bodies carefully and make sure they are dedicated to His purposes.  This is spelled out clearly in 1 Corinthians 6:19-20: “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.” The way we live should declare to the world that Jehovah Shammah is present within us.  Or to say it another way, the world will learn about God based upon the way we are living.  That’s a weighty responsibility and a holy charge.

3. Jehovah Shammah is displayed in the church.  

In his book called, “The Church God Blesses,” Jim Cymbala writes: “Even though individual lives are being changed by the power of the gospel, God’s special concern is always focused on local churches that spread his gospel and disciple new converts…Jesus himself wrote seven letters to different local congregations (Revelation 2-3) and was seen walking among them…He has chosen to work here on earth through his church” (Pages 9-10).  We are His temple individually as believers, and the collective church is also His dwelling place.  

As such, we must protect God’s presence and make sure His glory is on display as 2 Corinthians 6:16-17 says: “What agreement is there between the temple of God and idols?  For we are the temple of the living God.  As God has said: ‘I will live with them and walk among them, and I will be their God, and they will be my people.  Therefore come out from them and be separate,’ says the Lord.” As the popular song by Casting Crowns asks, “But if we are the body, why aren’t His arms reaching?  Why aren’t his hands healing?  Why aren’t His words teaching?  And if we are the body, why aren’t his feet going?  Why is His love not showing them there is a way?”

4. Jehovah Shammah is preparing a place for us. 

When Jesus announced to His disciples that He was leaving them, He told them that He was getting a place ready for them and then said in John 14:3: “I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am.” There’s a time coming when we will be in His presence and as John 17:24 says, we will “behold his glory.”  Ezekiel’s prophecy will ultimately be fulfilled when the New Jerusalem is filled with the redeemed.  This scene is breathtaking in its beauty and is described by John in Revelation 21:1-3: “I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband.  And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, ‘Now the dwelling of God is with men, and he will live with them.  They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God.’”

To see the ultimate fulfillment of Jehovah Shammah, drop down to the end of this chapter in verses 22-23: “I did not see a temple in the city, because the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb are its temple. The city does not need the sun or the moon to shine on it, for the glory of God gives it light, and the Lamb is its lamp.”

Action Steps

1. Chose to trust Him.

It’s one thing to profess that God is always present; it’s another thing to really believe it, especially when we go through tough times.  In the 16th Century a man named “John of the Cross” wrote extensively about what he called the, “dark nights of the soul.”  If you’ve not experienced this yet, chances are you will at some point in your life.  In the Psalms David described his times of despair.  Psalm 10:1: “Why, O LORD, do you stand far off?  Why do you hide yourself in times of trouble?” Psalm 69:1-3: “Save me, O God, for the waters have come up to my neck.  I sink in the miry depths, where there is no foothold.  I have come into the deep waters; the floods engulf me.  I am worn out calling for help; my throat is parched.  My eyes fail, looking for my God.”

In the recent issue of Discipleship Journal, Tom Eisenman points out that God has a three-pronged painful process for us to go through.  When the nights are dark, God does some divine demolition in our lives by…

  • Pruning.  John 15:2: “…Every branch that does bear fruit he prunes so that it will be more fruitful.
  • Refining.  Another process is through fire.  Isaiah 48:10: “See, I have refined you, though not as silver; I have tested you in the furnace of affliction.”
  • Shaking.  Just as he removed the rebellion from the Israelites through their captivity, so too, God uses stressful situations and circumstances to help us see what is most important.  Hebrews 12:27: “The words ‘once more’ indicate the removing of what can be shaken-that is, created things-so that what cannot be shaken may remain.”

When you go through problems, remember that God is present with you and claim the promise of Zephaniah 3:17: “The LORD your God is with you, he is mighty to save.  He will take great delight in you, he will quiet you with his love, he will rejoice over you with singing.”  Isaiah 43:2 teaches that whatever we go through, God will be with us: “When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you.  When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned; the flames will not set you ablaze.”  Eisenman concludes by suggesting some ways that we can cooperate with God during these dark times of the soul:

  • Honestly express your emotions to God
  • Fight the temptation to run away from your distress
  • Resist trying harder
  • Seek companions
  • Release your expectations
  • Be patient
  • Call to mind God’s faithfulness

I like what Charles Spurgeon once said, “Whatever your difficulties and trials and sorrows, all is well with you if God is your delight, and His presence your joy.”  The name Jehovah Shammah is a reminder that in our darkest hour, God is with us.  When you feel abandoned or afraid, address Him as Jehovah Shammah.  

2. Live for the Lord right now.

If you know Jesus Christ as your Savior, you are now the place where God dwells.  You are His temple; and therefore you must be clean.  It’s time to come out and be separate.  This week I read about Brian “Head” Welch, a founding member of the popular hard-core heavy metal band called Korn.  I’ve never listened to this group but I went on “Plugged-In Online”  to find out about them.  I learned that their lyrics focus on hatred, homicide and hopelessness.  Their style is aggressive and their emphasis is immoral.  One reviewer referred to them as having “harsh language and venomous rage.”  

According to the group’s management, Brian Welch “has chosen Jesus Christ as his Savior and will be dedicating his musical pursuits to that end.” On February 8th, Brian Welch apparently wrote a letter of resignation to the band’s management, detailing a long list of reasons for leaving the band, including increased moral objections to Korn’s music and videos. 

What about you?  Does your lifestyle demonstrate that God is present in you?  Have you been compromising your commitment?  

3. Don’t Fear the Future. 

While most of us live in the present, some of us are fearful of the future and others of us are piled by the past.  I’m thankful that God is an ever-present help for trouble today, and I’m also glad that Jehovah Shammah has the future covered.  I recently read an article called, “The God of My Future Problems.”  The author begins by defining God’s “prevenient grace.”  This literally means the grace that goes before.  In every situation of life God is already at work before I get there.  He is working creatively, strategically and redemptively for my good and His glory in order to accomplish His purposes.

Since God is already in the future, you can trust Him today and put your hope in Him for tomorrow, even if trials come your way

While I am struggling with the problems of today, God is at work providing solutions for the things I’m going to face tomorrow.  He’s working in situations right now that I haven’t even faced yet.  He’s preparing them for me and me for them.  Or to say it another way: “While I’m living in Sunday, He’s already in Tuesday.”  Are you worried about next week?  Chill out.  He’s already there.  How about next year?  Don’t sweat it.  He’s got it covered.  Since God is already in the future, you can trust Him today and put your hope in Him for tomorrow, even if trials come your way (and they will).

It would be enough if God simply walked with us through the events of life.  But He does much more than that.  He goes ahead of us, clearing the way, arranging the details of life, so that when we get there, we can have confidence that God has already been there before us.  Knowing that God holds the future in His hands should provide us with comfort today.  

We have some promises about the presence of God.  Claim these as your own as you call out to Jehovah Shammah in prayer.


Haggai 2:4: “Be strong, all you people of the land, declares the LORD, and work.  For I am with you, declares the LORD Almighty.”


Hebrews 13:5: “Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.   


Matthew 28:20: “And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”


I’d like to close by making ten statements that I’d like you to respond to by saying, “God is there, He is here, He is everywhere.”  


When you feel alone…

“God is there, He is here, He is everywhere.”  


When your boyfriend or girlfriend breaks up with you…

“God is there, He is here, He is everywhere.”  


When you get bad news from the doctor…

“God is there, He is here, He is everywhere.”  


When your child makes bad decisions…

“God is there, He is here, He is everywhere.”  


When you wonder why you hurt so bad…

“God is there, He is here, He is everywhere.”  


When you feel like hurting yourself…

“God is there, He is here, He is everywhere.”  


When you’re tempted to do something wrong…

“God is there, He is here, He is everywhere.”  


When you make a mistake…

“God is there, He is here, He is everywhere.”  


When you can’t pay your bills…

“God is there, He is here, He is everywhere.”  


When you’re afraid about the future…

“God is there, He is here, He is everywhere.”  

Do you have any thoughts or questions about this post?