The Bible talks about a supernatural light that glowed around religious objects or in natural things like clouds. This light represented God’s presence. That supernatural glowing light is called “the glory of God.”
However, the word “Shekinah” itself does not appear in the Bible. The word “Shekinah” or “Shekinah glory” is only found outside of the Bible in rabbinic (Jewish scholars) manuscripts.
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What is the “Shekinah glory”?
The word “Shekinah” was adopted by Christians as a way of describing God’s presence with His people. The phrase “Shekinah glory” is a symbol referring to that divine presence. God promised to “dwell among” His people: “And there I will meet with you, and I will speak with you from above the mercy seat, from between the two cherubim which are on the ark of the Testimony” (Exodus 25:22).
Where does the word Shekinah come from?
The word is related to the Hebrew language word “shakan”, which means “to dwell” or “to reside” with the added emphasis of being a permanent resident in a community. In the Bible, this display of God’s dwelling among human beings is described as His “glory.”
What the Bible says about God’s glory (the Shekinah)
This was a principle way in which the Lord communicated with His people in Old Testament times.
- Showed divine protection and leadership
“And the Lord went before them by day in a pillar of cloud to lead the way, and by night in a pillar of fire to give them light.” The fire and the cloud symbolized divine leadership and protection (Exodus 13: 21)
- Cloud of God's direction
Numbers 9:15-23, describes how the “cloud” that represented the presence of God controlled the activities of the Israelite community and assured them on a daily basis that God was with them.
- Symbolized God’s presence
This same cloud signified God’s presence when the tabernacle was constructed in the desert: “Then the cloud covered the tabernacle of meeting, and the glory of the Lord filled the tabernacle” (Exodus 40:34).
- Located above the Ark
Leviticus 16:2 says, “I will appear in the cloud above the Mercy Seat.” The glory of the Lord (the Shekinah) also appeared above the Ark of the Covenant in the Most Holy Place in the sanctuary, and later in Solomon’s temple. When the ark was captured by enemy forces in the time of Samuel (1 Sam. 4:21) the event was called “Ichabod” meaning “no glory”.
- The Shekinah in the temple
During the time when the Jewish people were taken captive by the Babylonians, the prophet Ezekiel recorded that originally “the house was filled with the cloud, and the court was full of the brightness of the Lord’s glory,” but, “Then the glory of the Lord departed from the threshold of the temple.” (Ezekiel 10:4, 18).
The Shekinah in the New Testament
The New Testament mentions the same “glory of the Lord” a number of times.
- Matthew 17 describes what is called the “transfiguration” of Jesus. This means He was suddenly covered in glory, the same “Shekinah” recorded in the Old Testament: “His face shone like the sun, and His clothes became as white as the light. . . a bright cloud overshadowed them.”
- Acts 1:9. Christ ascended to heaven in the glory cloud.
- Hebrews 1. The writer to the Hebrews, who were mostly former Jews but now Christians, uses the same terminology and applies it to Jesus; “who being the brightness of His glory and the express image of His person.”
This same Shekinah (the glory of God) again appears, this time connected with the final judgment and the second coming of Jesus.
- Revelation 15:8. “The temple (in heaven) was filled with smoke from the glory of God and from His power, and no one was able to enter the temple till the seven plagues of the seven angels were completed.”
- Revelation 14:14-16. Jesus will return the second time in the same cloud of glory.
- Revelation 21. In the New Jerusalem it is the “glory of God” that is the power source for all light, and “those who are saved shall walk in its light.”
What does this Shekinah glory have to do with me?
In a spiritual sense, God’s goal is to “reside”, to be a permanent resident, with His people. (Psalms 132:13-16). He can “reside’ in your heart, mind, and lifestyle if you want Him to. This glory of God is always available. All we have to do is ask for it and be willing to let His Shekinah glory be the controlling element of your life.