“The Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son of the Father, full of grace and truth.”
I really want to promise to move on from this verse, but I think I’ve got another week or two in me at least. There’s just so much depth to these 28 words. Today we are again looking at the word skenoo (dwelt), next week we will spend some time with the idea of glory.
The Word Crouches Down To Our Level
Obviously, the idea of God dwelling with man has really hit home with me. The thought that we are of such infinite value to God–that we are precious to him–is astounding. I know what we are. I know how imperfectly we stumble through life. I know how mean, how base, how self-centered, how self-protecting, how self-glorifying we can be. I live in a house with seven other human beings and it is a constant choice to not merely pass my days with them, but to truly dwell. I find I must lower myself in my own estimation, must position these children and this husband above myself, must esteem and serve them daily as opposed to my own interests, and it is not just in body that I do so. To do it well, I must do it with heart and mind and spirit–my whole being, my entire glory.
Jesus came and put on flesh, and he did it with his whole heart, so to speak. He did it with all that he is, so he did it in the fullness of his glory. It’s like you or I crouching before a toddler and actually seeing them, truly listening to every word they speak in that childish moment, and making note in the book of our hearts who the child really is. The Word became flesh and he didn’t just show up in a body–no, he dwelt. He squatted down to our level, he looked us in the eye when we spoke, he set aside his position and his eminence, and became like us, the way we do at the best of our parenting moments.
The Word Tabernacled In The Desert
Now, turning a bit more theological, in looking at the idea of dwelling–the word dwelt–we are referring to the word skenoo in Greek. Skenoo is the verb form of skene, as I’ve written before, and it means to tabernacle—to build a tent/shelter and set up residence. To the New Testement Jewish mind, when John said the Word became flesh and dwelt, he was making an obvious correlation to the skene in the wilderness in which the Creator God had once placed his presence and from which he had dwelt among humankind. Having already confirmed that the Word was the Creator, John’s claim was bold–look, Jesus is God, and this God has taken on flesh, and he has dwelt with US, just like he did in the Holiest of Holies in the most holy of all our stories. His words were either true, or they were blaspheme.
If you are unfamiliar with the Exodus story and the tabernacle in the wilderness–which really is a backdrop to John’s language–take a look at Exodus chapter 40. During the 40 years’ wandering in the desert which followed the departure of the Israelites from Egypt, the emancipated Hebrews lived in tabernacles, or tents, in the desert. And just as Christ dwelled with us in a physical body during our wandering in this wilderness of sin–and just as the Holy Spirit dwells with us in the secret places of our hearts as we live out our journeys in the invisible Kingdom of God–so Creator God dwelt in a physical house amongst the Israelites in the wilderness outside of Canaan. He placed his presence and his glory upon and within a tent–a tabernacle–in the middle of the people’s camp. He became like them in their situation.
The Word Is With Us
The imagery is strong. The Israelites thought they were bound for the promised land but found themselves stagnating in a wilderness just beyond its gates. And God moved into a tent in their camp and said, I am with you.
The people at the time of Christ thought themselves bound for the millennial reign–they believed the messiah would come, overthrow the oppressors, and a promised land on earth would be claimed. Instead they found themselves stagnating in a wilderness of sin and in a kingdom that was piece by piece being stripped away. Then God moved into a human body and dwelled in their midst and said, I am with you.
And here today we stand on the brink of eternity, just outside the gates, stagnating as years and years roll by. Still in a wilderness of sin, yet living in a parallel Kingdom, God moves into our bodies, dwells in our hearts, and says, I am with you.
The day will come when the age will end and we will dwell with God, and be where God is. We will see a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth will pass away. We will be inside eternity, inside that promised land, and just as he always has, God will dwell among men.
I am weeping as I write these words.
The Word became flesh and tabernacled amongst us.
He is the same