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Yahweh Shammah: The Lord is There!

First Presbyterian Church of Elmer

107 Chestnut Street

Elmer, NJ 08318

Sermon Notes (Sunday May 1st, 2016)

Rev. Mouris Yousef, Pastor

 

Yahweh Shammah: The Lord is There!

Ezekiel 48:35; 2 Corinthians 3:12-18

 

A couple had two little boys, ages 8 and 10, who were always getting into trouble.  If anything was disturbed or missing in the neighborhood, their sons were probably involved.  One day their Mom asked their pastor if she could drop her boys off at church, so that the pastor could put the fear of God in them.  The pastor agreed, but asked to see them individually.  The 8-year-old would go into the pastor’s study first, then the older boy would be counseled.  The pastor who was a huge man with a booming voice, sat the younger boy down and asked him sternly, “Son, … where is God?”  The boy’s mouth dropped open, but he made no response.  The pastor repeated the question in a little firmer and louder, “Son, … where is God?”  Again the boy just sat there bug eyed and made no attempt to answer.  A bit exasperated, the pastor raised his voice even more, shook his finger in the boy’s face and bellowed, “Son!  I asked you a question. Where is God?”  The boy screamed and bolted from the pastor’s study.  As he passed his brother he said, “We are in big trouble this time, dude.  God is missing, and they think we did it.”

 

Sometimes you and I feel and live as if God is missing!  Twenty-three years ago I graduated from the Presbyterian Theological Seminary in Cairo, Egypt.  A wonderful pastor gave the commencement speech.  I remember him sharing with us the promise of Jesus to the disciples in Matthew 28:20, “Surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”  I believe this pastor wanted to send us to the ministry field with a verse that would be of a great help and encouragement as we prepare ourselves for the future.  He couldn’t find a better one than Matthew 28:20.  The Lord is there.  He’ll be always there.  Matthew uses a Greek phrase: πάσας τὰς ἡμέρας, literally “every single day.”

 

The promise in Matthew 28:20 parallels the name of God that we’re going to look at this morning.  It’s a name that reminds us of Jesus’ promise to be with us always.  We find that name for God at the end of Ezekiel’s prophecy.  In the last chapter, Ezekiel describes the new city that God will make for His people.  Then he tells us the name of that place: “And the name of the city from that time on will be: the Lord is there ~ Yahweh Shammah” (Ezekiel 48:35).  This is the only time God uses this special name for Himself in the Scriptures.

 

Israel needed this name.  They were far from home, exiled in the land of Babylon.  They were waiting for the day they could come home.  Some of them even wondered if the Lord had left them all alone.  He told them about the new name He will give to Jerusalem once they repent and humble themselves before the Lord.  It was Yahweh Shammah ~ a reminder that God is there!

 

Back in the late 1970’s, the Jackson 5, led by a young singer named Michael, took the song I’ll Be There to the top of the charts.  He promised that no matter where he is, no matter what he is doing, he will drop everything to be by the side of the woman he loves.  The song ends with this message: “I’ll be there…whenever you need me, I’ll be there…just call my name, I’ll be there…”  Michael Jackson can’t fulfill that promise.  None of us can.  Yahweh Shammah made that promise a long time ago.  Can He keep it?  Will He keep it?  Absolutely He can and definitely He will.  A quick thought for today:

 

Places Change, but God’s Faithfulness Endures Forever

“And the name of the city from that day shall be, the Lord is there” says Ezekiel 48:35.  So, where is “there”?  Although Ezekiel refers to a certain city, i.e., the city of Jerusalem, I believe, for us today, “thereis those places and times where and when we encounter the Lord.  This can happen as God ministers to us.  Whether we are on the top of the mountain or the bottom of the valley, the Lord is there.  Whether you’re in Israel, or Babylon, the land of captivity, Yahweh Shammah ~ the Lord is there.  Wherever we are and whatever our struggles, we can know the Lord is present!  Friends, our places, roles, and positions in life may change, but the faithfulness of the Lord endures forever.

 

Let me remind you of two great examples of God’s faithfulness toward His children.  The first is the example of Joseph and the second is Elijah’s.  We see Yahweh Shammah in the life of Joseph.  Joseph’s brothers were jealous because their father Jacob loved Joseph more than the rest.  They sold him as a slave to a caravan of traders.  As the 17 year old trudged along behind the camels, he must have wondered, “Where is GodHow can this be happening to me?”  When Joseph arrived in Egypt, a man named Potiphar bought him and put him to work in his household.  “While Joseph was in his master’s house: “The Lord was with Joseph and he prospered, and he lived in the house of his Egyptian master.  When his master saw that the Lord was with him and that the Lord gave him success in everything he did, Joseph found favor in his eyes and became his attendant.  Potiphar put him in charge of his household, and he entrusted to his care everything he owned” (Genesis 39:2-4).

 

The Master’s wife notices Joseph and tried to entice him to sleep with her.  Joseph refused.  Potiphar’s wife lied to her husband because she was so angry with Joseph.  Joseph ended up in jail.  Where is the Lord?  He promised to be with him!  Had he deserted Joseph?  Listen to the next few verses from Genesis 39:20-23: “But while Joseph was there in the prison, the Lord was with him; he showed him kindness and granted him favor in the eyes of the prison warden.  The warden paid no attention to anything under Joseph’s care, because the Lord was with Joseph and gave him success in whatever he did.”  Places change, but God’s faithfulness endures forever.

 

Elijah’s example is another great one!  In 1 Kings 17:3-4 we read, “Leave here, turn eastward and hide in the Kerith Ravine, east of the Jordan.  You will drink from the brook, and I have directed the ravens to supply you with food there (shammah).”  Again, in 1 Kings 17:8-9 we read, “Then the word of the Lord came to him: “Go at once to Zarephath in the region of Sidon and stay there.  I have directed a widow there (shammah) to supply you with food.”  “There” – is where we want to be.  This is the place of joy, blessing, and life!    “Where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom,” says Paul in 2 Corinthians 3:17.

 

Friends, I know that some of us today struggle with huge amounts of stress, fear, and worry.  Remember Yahweh Shammah ~ THE LORD IS THERE!!  As we celebrate Communion this morning, we also celebrate the very presence of Christ with us.  He is Emmanuel.  He is Yahweh Shammah.  The words of God through the Prophet Isaiah in Isaiah 43:1-5 are very encouraging: “But now, this is what the Lord says— He who created you, Jacob, He who formed you, Israel: “Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; I have summoned you by name; you are mine.  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.  For I am the Lord your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior; I give Egypt for your ransom, Cush and Seba in your stead.  Since you are precious and honored in my sight, and because I love you, I will give people in exchange for you, nations in exchange for your life.  Do not be afraid, for I am with you.”  In the Name of the Father, of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.  Amen.

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