Union with Jesus – Inside the Shelter

Union with Jesus – Inside the Shelter

Union with Christ – Inside the Shelter.

MYSTERY: (Greek, Musterion); a sacred secret hidden in the heart of God until the appointed time of revelation; a truth that can only be known by divine disclosure; spiritual insights into God’s way of thinking and planning; hidden truths revealed by God that are beyond human intellect and reason; divine knowledge that can only be understood through the Holy Spirit; God’s thoughts and plans revealed to believers and hidden to doubters and unbelievers.

“No one has ever gazed upon the fullness of God’s splendor. But if we love one another, God remains united with us, and He makes His permanent home in us and we make our permanent home in Him. His love is then brought to its full expression in us. He has given us His Spirit within us so that we can have the assurance that we remain united with Him and He with us…. Those who confess and give thanks that Jesus is the Son of God remains in union with God, they live inside of God, and God lives inside of them. We have come into an intimate experience with God’s love, and we trust in the love He has for us. God is love; and those who remain in this love remain united with God, and God remains united with them.” (1 John 4:12-16The Complete Jewish Bible and The Passion Translation).

Sacred Secrets. Jesus revealed many fascinating mysteries in His conversations with the Disciples, but maybe these declarations of His were more intriguing and inspiring than most… “When I am raised to life again, you will know that I am inside my Father, and you are inside me, and I am inside you.” (John 14:20); or this, “Remain inside of me, dwell in me, continue to draw your life from inside me, and I will remain inside of you.” (John 15:4-7); or even the more perplexing claim that, “Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood lives continually inside of me, and I live inside of him.” (John 6:56).

The Double Union. The idea that Jesus through His Holy Spirit is inside of me is pretty familiar. How many times did Paul say something along the lines of “Christ in me”? Actually, about 160 times. But to read that at the same time as Christ is in each of us, each believer is actually inside of Christ! Now, that is something fresh and I want to sink deep into that mystery.  Christ in me, and me in Christ! Christ inside of you, and you inside of Christ! What a tremendous and wonderful mystery, a truth we accept by faith in the Christ who said it. There have been many descriptive titles given to this idea of union with Christ, of being within Christ, including: the Double Union; the Mutual Indwelling; the Mystical Union; The Double Mystery. And there have been some interesting ways to try to describe this two-way unity we enjoy with Christ: bonded in union within Christ; somehow inside of each other; a believer’s new spiritual location; participating in the interior life of Christ; intimately joined together with Christ; hidden with Christ inside of God; a Christian’s spiritual address; in a new sphere of spiritual existence; fellowship with God inside the Person of Christ; tightly wrapped around the Personhood of Jesus; regaining our original identity in Christ; being inside of Christ, we have shared in His death and resurrection, and we now we will go wherever He goes, including being seated in the heavenly realms.

“Rescue me, Lord Yahweh, for I hide myself in you; in you I take shelter… For you are my hiding place, and you surround me with songs of deliverance.” “Your life is hidden within Christ inside God.” (Psalm 143:9 and 32:7; Colossians 3:3).

The believer’s idea of living within God, of dwelling inside the Lord, is firmly fixed in the Hebrew mind. The common understanding among people of faith throughout the Hebrew Bible was that God was their refuge, shelter, hiding place. Yahweh was understood to be their fortress to escape into for His protection and Presence. To be “inside” of Christ is thus nothing new to the Christian’s understanding of God, and it certainly wasn’t anything new to St. Paul as he wrote his letters to early Christians. The biblical claim that God is the ultimate stronghold is embraced by all who call themselves believers. As Paul tells us in his letter to the Colossians, Christians view themselves as those who make themselves at home inside their God. Christ inside me, and I inside Christ. As Solomon said in Proverbs 18:10, “The Name of Lord Yahweh is a strong tower, the godly run to Him and are safe.”

Songs of Refuge. I pored through the entire book of Psalms, and I highlighted every verse that referred to God as refuge, hiding place, shelter, dwelling place, stronghold, fortress, and every other similar reference to God as the safe place we run into, not only for safety, but also for fellowship. The following links are those ‘refuge’ verses. Take your time and meditate on these passages as you picture yourself inside the Hiding Place, hidden within Christ, inside the bosom of God.

Songs of Refuge (Intro) – Christian Refuge

Songs of Refuge (1) – Christian Refuge

Songs of Refuge (2) – Christian Refuge

Songs of Refuge (3) – Christian Refuge

The Mercy-Womb of God. WOMB = the physical organ of the woman that is constructed of muscles and ligaments and blood vessels that encircle the fetus, making a safe place for the unborn baby to grow and develop within the pregnant mother; a protected shelter that completely surrounds the growing child in the womb; a quiet and peaceful refuge, a nourishing sanctuary, and a life-giving haven for the developing unborn baby; the protective barrier that guards the growing fetus from outside danger.

Creator God designed a safe place within each woman’s body to offer safe harbor to a growing baby when the woman is pregnant. This womb is of course necessary for a fetus to bond with its mother, to develop in peace, to be enveloped in loving nourishment, to grow in the security and trust needed to develop in a healthy way. This secure shelter within the pregnant woman prepares the baby to grow to the point where it will survive outside the womb. In the womb, the unborn baby is literally surrounded by a divinely designed system to protect and feed and cherish the child within her. The woman’s womb is the sanctuary in which the strongest human bond of love is established, the bond between mother and child.

Womb is one of the root words for mercy in the Hebrew Bible. The word “rachem” is translated in Scripture as mercy, compassion, and womb. In the Hebrew mind, the womb is much more than the sacred place in a woman that enables the unborn baby to safely develop till birth. Womb also became a metaphor for mercy because of its linguistic roots. The Hebrew word rachem is intended to mean mercy-womb. God formed each of us with rachem when we were mere unborns, and we were conceived and nourished within His rachem, the mother’s mercy-womb. The baby within the woman is the ideal time to extend God’s compassion to that human being inside of her. The developing baby utterly depends on a mercy-womb. And God wants Himself to be experienced as our womb-sanctuary, our safe place in Him, our refuge and shelter. God Himself yearns to be experienced as a womb of mercy for each of us, a refuge and shelter and safe haven. The purpose of our lives is to live in God’s rachem, God’s womb of love.

Mercy | Official Lyric Video | Elevation Worship & Maverick City – YouTube

“Behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream, saying, ‘Joseph, Son of David, do not fear to take Mary your wife, for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit; she will bear a Son, and you shall call His name Jesus, for He will save His people from their sins.’ All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had spoken by the prophet: ‘Behold, a virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and His name shall be called Emmanuel, which means God with us. When Joseph woke from sleep, he did as the angel of the Lord commanded him.” (Matthew 1:20-24, and Isaiah 7:14).

The With-ness of God. Emmanuel (Greek spelling of the Hebrew Immanuel): Emmanu-El; literal meaning in Hebrew is “With us, God;” it is often translated as “With us is God,” “God with us,” or “God is with us.” The name Emmanuel speaks of the eternal reality that our Creator has a strong desire to be in our midst, dwelling with us. Emmanuel is a promise that implies the ongoing, permanent presence of God with us. Miraculously, our heavenly God is with us, His earthly people. God the Father is the first Emmanuel, exiling Himself from the Garden after they sinned against Him. Creator God hasn’t left the side of humanity ever since. God the Son continued the same quality of the Godhead, the next Emmanuel in line, when he took on flesh and became incarnate and was with us through thick and thin, through life and death and then life again. The third and final divine Emmanuel is the Holy Spirit, the Spirit of love shared by the Father and the Son. The Holy Spirit was called the “paraclete” by Jesus, that Greek term meaning “called to come alongside” us. Thus, there is this astounding with-ness to the Trinity that assures us of God’s everlasting presence with us. God is with each believer in two ways: We are inside God, and God is within us. Both ways, God is with us.


Stronghold: The First Song of Isaiah (Isaiah 12:2-6):

“Surely it is God who saves me; I will trust in Him and not be afraid.

For the Lord is my stronghold and my sure defense, and He will be my Savior.

Therefore you shall draw water with rejoicing from the springs of salvation.

And on that day you shall say, Give thanks to the Lord and call upon His Name;

Make His deeds known among the peoples; See that they remember that His Name is exalted.

Sing the praises of the Lord, for He has done great things, and this known in all the world.

Cry aloud, inhabitants of Zion, ring out your joy, for the great one in the midst of you is the Holy One of Israel.”

Isaiah 12 in Times of Spiritual Warfare. A stronghold is a fortified defensive structure that protects the soldier, provides strength and safety, and provides refuge from enemies. Whenever I sense I am being harassed or hounded by forces of spiritual darkness, or am fearful, or I simply want to confirm which side I’m on, I recite the opening words of this song. “Surely it is God who saves me; I will trust in Him and not be afraid. For the Lord is my stronghold and my sure defense, and He will be my Savior.” With these triumphant words of faith, I am declaring to the spiritual powers that I trust in the Lord to save me, to remain my refuge and dwelling place. These words remind the spiritual forces that God is my Savior, and that I am sheltering my spirit inside Him. When used this way, as a spiritual declaration, it is important to sing or speak the words aloud. When you are merely thinking these words in your head, they will not reach the ears of our foes. Satan and his forces are not omniscient, they cannot read minds. Speak or sing these words aloud, and you are declaring to the spiritual world that God is your strength, and there is no point to trying to assault someone hidden in the stronghold of the Lord. With these words, you are telling the evil one that you are not fearful, that God has become your salvation. You are telling the Accuser that he may as well surrender in his battle, since God has already won the victory.

You’ve Already Won | The Worship Initiative (feat. Davy Flowers) – YouTube

Psalm 91:1-2: The Shelter of Shaddai. Each of these versions have a different angle on this important passage concerning God as our refuge. Enjoy.

  1. “He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High will rest in the shadow of the Almighty.

     I will say of the LORD, He is my refuge and fortress, my God, in whom I trust.” (NIV).

2.“You who live in the secret place of Elyon, spend your night in the shelter of Shaddai,

         saying to Yahweh, ‘My refuge, my fortress, my God in whom I trust.” (NJB).

  1. “He who dwells in the shelter of Elyon, will rest in the shadow of Shaddai.

          I will say of Yahweh, He is my refuge and fortress, my Elohim, in whom I trust.”

         (written with literal Hebrew names of God)

4.“You who dwell in the safe, secret shelter of the King of Kings Most High,

         and who lodge overnight in the shadow of the All-Sufficient Mighty God,

        are saying to the Self-Existent, Great I Am LORD,

        ‘My refuge and my fortress, my Omnipotent Creator God, in whom I trust.’”

         (paraphrased with meanings of the Hebrew Names of God).

The Festival of Shelters. God did not want the Chosen People to forget about how He took care of them in the wilderness journey. He wanted them to remember through yearly celebrations God’s faithful provision of food, shelter and clothing during that difficult time of complete dependence upon Him. God took great pains to protect them, and to be present with them throughout their journey. So the Lord Yahweh gave specific instructions, as recorded in Leviticus 23 and Deuteronomy 16, about a seven-day Festival to be celebrated every year, a family festival that coincided with the last harvest of the growing season. It was called the Festival of Shelters, and it was a feast of thanksgiving and a time of great joy. It was probably the most joyful Festival of God’s appointed Feasts, and was often referred to as “the time of our rejoicing.” The Feast of Shelters was also known as the Feast of Tabernacles, the Festival of Booths, and Succoth. During all seven days, work was not allowed, and all families were asked to celebrate personally in Jerusalem so they could attend all the festivities in the Temple. Succoth continues to be celebrated in traditional Jewish homes, and many Christan homes as well. During the ancient  celebrations in Jerusalem during the time of Jesus, amazing events were held in the Temple, including the Water Ceremony, the Fire Dance, the Giant Menorah  Lights, and the priests dancing up the steps to the Temple, singing the Hallel Psalms. It all made for quite the spectacle that Jewish believers never wanted to miss.

Praise to Our God 5 Concert – Gadol Adonai (Great is the Lord) – YouTube

The Water Ceremony and Jesus at the Feast of Shelters. “On the last day, the great day of the Festival, Jesus stood and cried out, ‘Let anyone who is thirsty come to me! Let anyone who believes in me come and drink!’”  (John 7:37-38, NJB)

This is biblical theater at its best, so the scene deserves to be set. There are tens of thousands of faithful Jews in Jerusalem, on the last and most important day of the 7-day Feast of Tabernacles. And what’s the one thing on everyone’s mind as they gather to celebrate this festival? WATER. It seems that Jesus couldn’t let this opportunity pass.

  • They are literally praying for water. If God didn’t bring the “early rains” of October and November, there would be no spring crops, which is crucial to their livelihood. Without the rains, the fields will be thirsty with less irrigation, and the people will be thirsty too with less fresh water.
  • The gathered faithful were excited to witness the Water-Libation ceremony, in which the high priest walks from the Temple to the pool of Siloam carrying a golden pitcher, the crowd following him as he walks. He then dips the pitcher into the burbling pool for some “living water,” and then proceeds to return to the Temple, leading the people once again, where he pours the water onto the altar. This is an ancient tradition, and is a popular part of the public service in the Temple.
  • This water ceremony is intended to commemorate the famous Mosaic water miracle of Exodus 17, in which Moses strikes the rock chosen by God, and out from the rock pours fresh water for the thirsty wanderers to drink… An historic example of God providing fresh water for the faithful.
  • During the water ceremony at the Temple, the people, led by the priests, chanted various scripture passages foretelling life-giving water, passages from Isaiah, Jeremiah, Zechariah and other books from the Hebrew Bible. In their chants they always included Isaiah 12:3:  “And you shall draw water with rejoicing from the spring of salvation.”
  • Once the water is poured onto the altar, a Temple choir begins to sing the messianic Psalm 118. Messianic fervor was at a fever pitch during this most important day, because scripture tells over and over again of an abundance of water during the messianic era. All the people could think about was the coming of the Messiah and the water that would surely accompany his arrival, providing life and blessing for all people and living creatures and crops.

It was just as the water ceremony was reaching a climax on this last day of the Feast when a young man from Galilee stood up, got everybody’s attention as he interrupted the water ritual, and shouted for all to hear something suspiciously like Isaiah 55:1, “Let anyone who is thirsty come to me! Let anyone who believes in me come and drink! For as scripture says, ‘From his heart shall flow streams of living water!”

All eyes were on this man Jesus, everyone present turning their attention from the priests officiating the Temple service. Who does this young man think he is, disrupting this important ceremony. Is he claiming to be the Messiah, our source of living water? Is he really claiming to be the rock out of which gushes fresh water?

If Jesus wanted to make a scene, if he wanted to create some drama, he certainly succeeded. The people weren’t sure what to make of this, they were divided about who this man was. But the priests were of one mind. They were furious, offended, their authority challenged by this man who claims to be the source of life and blessing, the one who will send his Spirit out, in fulfillment of Isaiah 44:3-4.

Could Jesus have made this any clearer? At the most dramatic moment of the Feast, he pronounces himself to be the only one who can satisfy our yearning for God, the only one who can quench our spiritual thirst. Jesus states here that he is the one who is the source of living water that will flow through eternity. He is claiming here that streams of living water gush from him, the only spiritual Rock providing fresh water to replenish our spirits, providing the Holy Spirit to renew our souls.

Torch Dancing, Light, and Jesus at the Feast of the Shelters. This psalm specifically written for the Feast gives us a sense of the celebration: “Sing gladly to God our strength, shout out to the God of Jacob. Lift your voices in song and beat the drum, the lyre is sweet with the lute. Blast the ram’s horn on the new moon, when the moon starts to wax for our festival day.” (Psalm 81:1-3). This Jewish “Feast of Joy” was celebrated once a year in Jerusalem, and it was by far the most festive of all the biblical feasts in Judaism. One exciting event that took place every night for six nights in the Temple Court was knowns as the “Fire Ceremony.” The Temple priests and elders put on an unforgettable light show of their own before all the thousands in attendance. Light was celebrated in two ways: the blessed memory of the pillar of fire during the wilderness journey; and the celebration of God’s Shekinah glory of light filling the Holy of Holies with His presence. Light was also an expectation as believing Jews anticipated the universal return of the Shekinah to all the believers in God in the fullness of time. During the Fire Ceremony, there would be four gigantic lampstands (menorahs) set up in the Temple court, each about 75 feet high! Each lampstand had four branches with huge wicks soaked in oil and were constantly burning through the night. There was so much light in the Temple that it was reported that every home in Jerusalem was lit with the Temple lights. Around the giant lampstands a group of elders with lit torches danced around the Temple courtyard, dancing and waving the torches, throwing them into the air and catching them again. While the Torch Dances were in full motion, there were a group of priests accompanying the dancers with harps, lyres, cymbals, trumpets, and other instruments. And then these priests positioned themselves on the top of the famous Fifteen steps leading downward. They would then sing one of the Hallel Psalms (Ps. 113-118 and other psalms that begin with Hallelujah) on each step, descending each step in unison, until they reached the bottom step and finished singing those psalms.

HALAL (verb, Halel) – Hebrew word, literally means, someone with raised arms exclaiming something wonderful towards another; Halal was used 165 times int the Hebrew Bible, and means to praise mightily; to celebrate wildly; to sing loudly with jubilation; to laud and praise almost to the point of foolishness; to use full expression in worship. One scholar claimed that halal was an invitation to a more uninhibited style of worship. It is the root word for Hallelujah: Praise the Lord!

The dramatic dancing and the lights and the singing was all quite the spectacle, and it was said that, “Anyone who has not seen the rejoicing of the Fire Ceremony in his life has never truly seen rejoicing.” Astoundingly, it was the day following the Feast, when everyone still had their minds swimming with the images of light, that Jesus declared ,”I Am the Light of the World!” (John 8:12). This was an obvious claim to deity in this context of the Feast. It would have been equivalent to Jesus saying, ” I AM the pillar of fire!” or “I AM the Shekinah glory!” This took serious chutzpah on the part of Jesus, and I love Him for that.

Building the Sukka during the Feast of Shelters. “So the people went out and brought back branches and built themselves booths, sukka, on their own roofs, in their courtyards, in the courts of the house of God… The whole company that had returned from exile built booths and lived in them. And their joy was very great.” (Nehemiah 8:16-17)

Sukka: Hebrew word for wilderness shelter, tabernacle, temporary dwelling, booth, makeshift hut; pronounced sookuh.

The Feast of Shelters, or of Tabernacles, or Succoth (pronounced sookoth, plural of sukka): the most joyous Old Testament feast of the year; a seven-day celebration in the Temple and in the homes of Jewish believers; also called Feast of Ingathering, because it is the greatest harvest feast of the year. Refer to Deuteronomy 16:13-15. This feast is mentioned more than any other in Scripture, so is the most prominent feast in the Bible. The Pilgrims in Plymouth referred to this Feast when they began what is now our Thanksgiving celebration.

God told His people to build sukka’s during this Feast in order to remember not only their liberation from Egypt, but also His personal care and protection of them during their long wilderness journey. (Leviticus 23:33-43).

For a rabbinic look at the sukka, consider the words of Rabbi Jonathon Sacks: “When we sit in the sukka, we recall Jewish history – not just the forty years of wandering in the wilderness, but also the entire experience of exile. The sukka is the most powerful symbol of Jewish history. No other nation could see its home not as a castle, a fortress, or a triumphal arch, but as a fragile tabernacle. No other nation was born, not in its land, but in the desert. Sukkot is a festival of a people like no other, whose only protection was its faith in the sheltering wings of the Divine Presence. The sukka itself, the tabernacle, represents the singular character of Jewish history with its repeated experiences of exile and homecoming and its long journey across the wilderness of time. As Jews, we are heirs to a history unlike that of any other people: small, vulnerable, suffering exile after exile, yet surviving. Hence the sukka.” (Jonathon Sacks, Covenant and Conversation: Leviticus)

As Christians, building a sukka enables us to identify with our rootage in the Jewish faith and experience. It helps us to celebrate God’s faithfulness during our journey now, keeping His promise to be our true security, our only permanent dwelling place as we walk with Him in faith and obedience. “Now we know that if the earthly tent we live in is destroyed, we have a building from God, an eternal house in heaven, not built by human hands. (2 Corinthians 5:1).

Building Your Backyard Sukka: A Family Project during the Feast of Shelters.

  1. Make it flimsy and shaky, to symbolize our temporary dwelling now as opposed to our permanent home in God and His kingdom;
  2. Use whatever materials you can find… Make it a fun family search for anything available, like downed limbs, discarded lumber, corn stalks, leafy branches on the ground, etc. For fun, try building it without nails;
  3. Try to have the inside of the sukka as shady as possible during the day, while leaving openings in the roof in order to see the stars at night;
  4. Decorate the inside with harvest fruits and vegetables if you want;
  5. Eat some meals inside the sukka, and even have a sleepover in it if possible. At least some time in the evening is meaningful and memorable, with flashlights, readings, etc.;
  6. On the last night, see if you can have an “open house” for neighbors and friends, and maybe even a simple progressive supper (eg, some sukka soup?) with others who have built huts in their backyards, or who want to hear the story.

The final Hallel Psalm, which includes Psalms 113-118, was sung during the Feast of Shelters, on the famous Fifteen Steps to the Temple. This is a beautiful arrangement of this powerful psalm.

Psalm 117 (118) – YouTube

Sheltered Under the Wings. Show me the marvelous wonders of your great lovingkindness, you who save by your right hand those who take refuge in you from your enemies. Keep me as the apple of your eye, hide me under the shadow of your wings.” (Psalm 17:7-9). David is referring in this psalm to the wings of the huge golden cherubim in the Holy of Holies. The wings of this angel dominating the Holy Place and stretched over the Mercy Seat is a likely place to seek shelter, to find a hiding place. The veil that isolated the Holy of Holies was ripped from top to bottom at Jesus’ death on the Cross, so He has opened up the Holy of Holies to all believers. The Holiest Place was the dwelling place of Yahweh, and now Jesus is in many ways the Holy Place in the flesh, inside whom we can find protection and presence.