November 12, 2020

JEHOVAH SHAMMAH: God, Who Is Present

Speaker: Dr. Harold J. Sala | Series: Guidelines For Living | The distance all around will be 18,000 cubits. And the name of the city from that time on will be: THE LORD IS THERE.  Ezekiel 48:35

Only those who have been through very difficult hard times can understand the reality of knowing that God had his hand on their lives, that He is the one who sustained and preserved them. That realization, of course, is humbling because when you have been through the fire and you made it, you know it wasn’t your cleverness or your strength that brought you through. It had to be God.

Frank Worsley would have agreed.  This tough, optimistic New Zealander was captain of the ship, HMS Endurance when in 1914 Sir Earnest Shackleton took 27 brave men and headed for the South Pole. Everything was put on hold, however, when the merciless ice pack crushed the Endurance.  A long, difficult journey brought the group to Elephant Island, but then Shackleton realized they would die, if he did not go for help.  Taking Worsley and one other man, Shackleton–against all odds–took a small whaling boat about 20 feet long and made it through eight hundred miles of hurricane-force storms with sub-freezing temperatures to South Georgia.  But then having arrived, their problems were only beginning.

They had to cross the island to the little whaling settlement.  Never before had a human done that.  Twelve to fourteen thousand-foot peaks with crevasses filled with glaciers and snowpack had to be crossed. Three routes were selected and three times they led to dead ends.  Wearily they climbed back to the top and chose another route.

Finally, they succeeded.  In his book Endurance, named after their little ship, Worsley tells of the exciting adventure.  Describing their trek across South Georgia island, he wrote, “Whenever I reviewed the incidents of that march, I had the sub-conscious feeling that there were four of us, instead of three.  Moreover, this impression was shared by both Shackleton and Crean.”  And who was the fourth? Worsley never said.  Was it an angel?  Was it the presence of the Lord, guiding, sustaining, and protecting?  The fact is, they made it; and Shackleton saved every man. (F.A. Worsley, Endurance, p. 164).

Scores of individuals can testify to the fact that in difficult times God made a difference one way or another.  Of the beautiful names of God revealed in the pages of Scripture, there is one which confirms this beautiful truth. Ezekiel calls God, Jehovah Shammah, which means “The God who is present.”

When a publisher asked me to write about my favorite verse, I had to ponder the issue for several months.  “What is my favorite verse?” I asked myself, thinking that to select one from so many would be an impossibility.  Finally, I decided.  I said, there isn’t one but two which both speak of a great truth.  The references:  Matthew 28:20 and Hebrews 13:5. The first phrase is, “Lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the world.”  The second records the words of Jesus Christ saying, “Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.”

The stark reality is that God never promised to protect us from the ice packs that would crush our little vessels, the storms of life that come with hurricane force, the bitter driving winds that threaten us.  But God promised to be with us in the storm, to walk with us through the fire, and to be present as we go through the dark valley.

“But why don’t I feel this?” A friend put the very question to me this past week.  The unsatisfying but truthful answer is that there are some things which you accept and believe as truth no matter whether or not you feel them.

Jehovah Shammah, God who is present with us, can make all the difference.  As Frank Worsley put it, “there was no doubt that Providence had been with us.”  Indeed, it was (in his words), “a thing that has given me much food for thought, and which I have never been able to explain.”  It’s still true.

Resource reading: Daniel 3:1-30