(March 21, 2023) Dr Robert McQuillan shares…
‘Shekinah Glory’ has been often thought of as the remarkable change in Moses that the Israelites beheld when he came down from Mount Sinai, after having been up there so long in the presence of God. Exodus 34:29ESV reads, ‘… Moses did not know that the skin of his face shone because he had been talking with God.’
NIV says, ‘… he was not aware that his face was radiant…’ Verse 30 tells that all the Israelites ‘were afraid to come near him.’
Remember Charlton Heston playing Moses in the 1956 The Ten Commandments? He looked so different after being in God’s presence when he started down ‘God’s mountain’ to find ungrateful, sinning Israelites.
Moviegoers, including myself, an impressionable teenager, were immediately struck by the change in his face, his hair and beard.
But ‘Shekinah Glory’ is more than that! The presence of God highlighted above is the key!
May we know God’s presence
Now the Bible doesn’t mention the term ‘Shekinah Glory’ at all in either the Old or New Testament… it was introduced by rabbis in their writings in the period between the two testaments. Their reasoning? To explain the very presence of God in certain contexts and associated with a visible manifestation more evidently apparent at certain times.
‘Shekinah’ is from the Hebrew word shākan, which means ‘to reside or permanently stay.’ And so literature by rabbis used the term shekinah to descriptively explain the following scriptures to the Jewish people:
- God’s presence among His people (Exodus 19:16-18; Exodus 40:34-38; I Kings 6:13).
- God’s glory dwelling in the temple (2 Chronicles 7:1).
- God’s dwelling in the mountain (Psalm 68.16-18; Joel 3:17).
- God’s divine appearance on earth!
This last ‘description’ was depicted in the following seven ways as a…
1) Flame of fire out of the midst of a bush (Exodus 3:2ESB).
2) Pillar of smoke guiding by day (Exodus 13:21).
3) Pillar of fire guiding by night (Exodus 13:21).
4) Cloud on the mountain of God (Exodus 24:16-18).
5) Cloud guarding ‘the tent of meeting’ (Exodus 33:9).
6) Cloud in the sanctuary (1 Kings 8:10-12).
7) Wall of fire around Jerusalem (Zechariah 2:5).
In a nutshell, these appearances of God were to do with His glory (Exodus 40:35 and other Pentateuch scriptures). The term glory (kabod OT, doxa NT) is found in 371 verses in the KJV, and in regard of God means to honour, respect and highly deem Him.
May we honour God
Yes, there are those who talk about the shekinah glory of God as being the joy, the glow one receives on the baptism of the Holy Spirit and our awareness of His presence in our lives… but it’s more than that, something that begins when we accept Jesus as our Saviour!
When we’re transformed by Jesus, we change, we’re different and His light… God’s glory… shines through us! (or it should… as we can now be overcomers in life, not ‘okay, under the circumstances of life’ as is often quoted, but okay above any circumstances of life!).
2 Corinthians 3:18 tells us that ‘… we all, who with unveiled faces contemplate the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into His image with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit.’ And in 2 Corinthians 4:6, Paul explains further that ‘For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” made His light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of God’s glory displayed in the face of Christ.’
In Colossians 2:9-10, he shares, ‘For in Christ all the fullness of the deity lives in bodily form, and in Christ you have been brought to fullness.’ We are now meant to shine with God’s glory – in our living as Christians who know their God, spending time in His presence through –
- Confident intimate prayer.
- Trusting Him for everything.
- Bible reading and meditation.
- Worshipping from the heart.
- Honouring Him.
- Sharing Jesus’ gospel message.
- Living as Jesus would have us live!
Regarding Moses’ radiance… it was a fading glory! We who have been born again have Jesus in our hearts and can boldly proclaim His unfading glory in our daily living. Holy Spirit baptism means we have within us the greatest helper around to assist us serve God – His Spirit! And we can avail of the Spirit’s supernatural gifts (1 Corinthians 13:4-11) to minister to others.
In other words, the passing ‘shekinah glory’ of God radiation associated with Moses on ‘the mountain of God’ today is experienced by Christians through our relationship with Jesus who is the ultimate manifestation of shekinah glory.
May we never lose that glory!
Remember the priest Eli who mentored young Samuel? His daughter-in-law gave birth to his grandchild when news came through that the Philistines had captured the ark of God. Sadly she immediately named her child Ichabod – meaning ‘no glory’ – as she said ‘the glory had departed from Israel’ (1 Samuel 4:21)! Now the poor boy hadn’t done anything wrong! But the point here is… may none of us be ‘ichabod types’ due to allowing ‘our Philistine enemy’ the devil, or some life experience or circumstance, rob us of the glory of God and we become backslidden! If perchance we sin in any way, let’s be quick to heed 1 John 1:6-10!
Yes, radiant fire fell at Pentecost… it was a glorious time and the birth of the church as the disciples immediately hit the streets and in power happily, joyously witnessed the risen Jesus! And today we have millions of Christians around the world. But… that Pentecost Sunday experience was not a shekinah glory experience! Scripture doesn’t claim it to be!
And, for that matter, personally speaking, I’ve never witnessed anyone who was as radiant as Moses had been!
Well… the nearest was a 30+ year-old guy wearing what was regarded back in the 50s as a large ‘outlandish Yankee tie.’ With the cheeriest, widest beaming grin he greeted Saturday night attenders at Belfast’s iconic Coalmen’s Mission 600-seater hall, Queens Quay. Never have I seen anyone beam with Jesus as he did! Even on the coldest night hearts were pre-warmed for devil-slamming gospel messages that followed genuine worship accompanied only by piano and violin!
May we all shine Jesus
There is a need today that Christians meet with God through prayer and such (as mentioned above), abide in His presence, know Him and honour Him! Malachi 1:6 challenges: ‘“A son honours his father, and a slave his master. If I am a father, where is the honour (kabod) due me?” says the Lord Almighty.’
May you and I, despite the troubles around in this sorry world, not get sidetracked with trying to understand every precious thing like a theologian must do – but honour our master God however He wants to. We’ll beam radiantly in His eyes!
What joy will be ours on that great day up ahead when we will know what Moses discovered up that mountain. John wrote in Revelation 21:3 that, ‘… I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Look! God’s dwelling place is now among the people, and He will dwell with them. They will be His people, and God Himself will be with them and be their God.”’
As Jesus died on Calvary’s cross (remembered next month at Easter), the veil separating the holiest of holies in the temple has torn in two (Matthew 27:51; Mark 15:38; Luke 23:45). Because of Jesus, our Saviour and high priest between us and God, nothing blocks us today from being in God’s presence through the new covenant, with the Holy Spirit residing in us.
Note: The above began as a Q&A enquiry from someone confused from hearing different Christians say different things about ‘Shekinah Glory’ and asking that I explain the term. Towards my final paragraphs, I recalled that our highly knowledgeable theologian Dr Jim McClure had highlighted God’s presence in his Glory article 10 years ago, and I’ve included it this month, and recommend it! (Link: Glory).
As Dr Jim commented to me, ‘God’s glory is so awesome (literally) that we could not bear to see it so occasionally He may give us signs of that presence.’
Dr Robert McQuillan’s links: OnlinerConnect@gmail.com and Facebook
I remember those gatherings in the Coalmen’s Mission in Belfast many years ago. I also have a very good friend who would often pray earnestly with real conviction that we would know the Shekinah glory, I believe the Lord did make it very real for him in his experience, because he was radiant for His Lord.