Thursday, December 17, 2009

Hebrew Mnemonic #3: Shackin' Up. (Christmas Edition)

The Hebrew word shakhan is a verb meaning "to dwell, settle down, abide." I like to think this is probably the deep etymological root of our English expression to describe two people who are dwelling together as "shacking up together."

Ok, ok, there is actually a very good chance that it is not actually the origin of that phrase. But it does make a good mnemonic device, no? And that's really what this is all about.

It's often a very simple word in the OT, describing the fact that someone 'lives' or 'dwells' in a certain place. But where it really gets interesting is when it appears in some of the sweetest covenant promises of the Lord to his people:
Exodus 29:45 - And I will dwell (shakhan) among the people of Israel, and will be their God.

Here God is committing to not only lordship, but actually dwelling in the midst of His people. So, yes, we might say that God is "shacking up" with His people! This is a great and gracious thing.

And notice the reference of this verse, Exodus 29, smack in the middle of the instructions for building the tabernacle. The supreme expression of God's commitment to dwell in the midst of His people is the fact that He would dwell in the tabernacle/temple placed in the middle of the camp. That was God's tent. And as a free Hebrew bonus, the word for tabernacle is mishkhan, notice the word shakhan dwelling in the midst of that word!

In John chapter 1, as John is searching for words to describe the glory of the incarnation he says,
John 1:14 - And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.

When John says the Word 'dwelt' among us, he is using the Greek verb (skene) which often translated the Hebrew word shakhan. The Greek noun skene means 'tent, tabernacle.' Which is why this verse is occasionally translated very woodenly as "The Word became flesh and tabernacled among us."

John is saying something incredible here. As in the OT God graciously dwelt among his people in the tabernacle, now he is choosing to again graciously dwell among his people. But this time he does so in the form of Jesus. And what is more, in Exodus 40:35, after the tabernacle was completed, the glory of God descended upon it, so that Moses was not able to enter, because the glory was so great. But John says that in Jesus "we have seen his glory." (!!!)

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