|A Canopy of God's Shekinah Presence
"Then the Lord will create over all of Mount Zion and over those that assemble there a cloud of smoke by day and a glow of flaming fire by night." (Is. 40:5-6)
Yahweh manifested his presence with his children by a cloud of smoke by day and a pillar of flaming fire by night. This shekinah presence of Yahweh, as a cloud by day and fire by night, was provided both for protection and for guidance.
By day the Lord went ahead of them in a pillar of cloud to guide them on their way and by night in a pillar of fire to give them light. (Ex. 13:21)
He guided them with the cloud by day and with light from the fire all night. (Ps. 78:14)
The pillar of cloud also moved from in front and stood behind them, coming between the armies of Egypt and Israel. Throughout the night the cloud brought darkness to the one side and light to the other side; so neither went near the other all night long. (Ex. 14:19-20)
The shekinah presence of God, which provides light and illumination to us his children, also protects us by putting a cloak of hiddenness over us. The Hebrew word Sh'cheenah, or as we usually refer to it "shekinah," comes from a verb meaning to settle, inhabit or dwell. Its frequent use in the Old Testament scriptures literally means the "dwelling" or "presence" of Yahweh with his people.
In Exodus 40:34-35 we read,Then the cloud covered the Tent of Meeting, and the glory of the Lord filled the tabernacle. Moses could not enter the Tent of Meeting because the cloud had settled ("shaw-kan" or "shekinah") upon it, and the glory of the Lord filled the tabernacle. Even the word "tabernacle" ("mish-kawn") comes from the same root and is also used in the sense of "dwelling place."
The Lord’s desire and intention has always been to have his shekinah presence dwell in the midst of his people. As David, a man after God's own heart, also declared, "I will allow no sleep to my eyes, no slumber to my eyelids, until I find a place for the Lord, a dwelling (‘mish-kawn’) for the Mighty One of Jacob." (Ps. 132:4-5)
As we minister to him though our day and night worship, we are making a "mish-kawn" -- a dwelling place for the Lord almighty, and he will cover us with his shekinah presence which will both serve as guidance and protection for us and for the communities wherein his Dwelling rests. He will go before us and his glory will also be our rear guard.
... the glory of the Lord will be your rear guard.
For the Lord will go before you, the God of Israel will be your rear guard. (Is. 52:12, 58:8)
Isaiah says that over all this glory of Yahweh, dwelling in the midst of his people, will be a canopy or, as other translations call it, a covering or protective defense. The scripture goes on to say that this canopy will be a shelter. The word "shelter" is the Hebrew word sook-kaw' which can be translated as shelter, tent, tabernacle, or booth. It is the same word as was used for the "feast of tabernacles" where the Israelites were to live in booths for seven days (Lev. 23:33-34). This same word was also used for the type of "tent" that David used to house the ark of God during his reign in Jerusalem (2 Sam. 11:11), and, again, the same word is used in Amos 9:11 declaring that this "tent of David" will be raised up and rebuilt as in the days of old.
The scripture in Isaiah 4 declares that this sookaw or "shelter" or "tent" will serve as a shade from the heat of the day and refuge and hiding place from the storm and rain. This picture would be particularly striking in eastern countries where the heat in those regions was often very intense, and where they would be subjected to sudden and violent tempests. Their most common dwelling was in fact in such a sookaw or tent which provided a shelter from the heat of the day, and a refuge from the storm and rain.
In reflecting on the image of a middle eastern type of sookaw or tent I felt led by the Holy Spirit to see that there are four essential parts to each tent: the canvas, the stakes, the ropes and the poles.
The canvas is like the covering of God’s presence. It provides the shelter, the security, the hiddenness, and the place of intimacy. Under his covering we find refuge. But for the canvas to be held up it requires the three other essential parts: the stakes, ropes, and poles.
The stakes are needed to hold the tent securely in place in the face of storms and howling winds. But the ground needs to be loose enough for the stakes to be driven into it. I believe that our recognition of past sins against the land and its first peoples and our repentance of these sins has broken up the rocky ground to allow stakes to be driven in. The stakes themselves have been the specific acts of repentance, reconciliation and prophetic declarations. We cannot minimize the spiritual importance of such acts such as the "Road to Community Transformation" conference in April of 2000 where we asked the native peoples of Mississauga for forgiveness for the sins against them, and more recently with the "bouquet tossing ceremony" where we betrothed the river and the land. Acts like these drive the stakes deep into the soil.
The ropes are the intercessions of the people specifically called to stand in the gap on behalf of the land and its peoples. Intercessions for the city and the nation, for transformation of its institutions and all spheres of our society are the ropes that connect the stakes to the canvas and hold the canopy in place. People who cry out day and night, whose voices will not be silenced and give themselves no rest till they see his glory cover the city and the nation: they are the ones who tie down God’s covering over our land.
The poles or posts holding up the canopy of God’s glory are places of 24-7 worship. When a large tent is erected, first the stakes are driven into the ground and the ropes are attached in strategic places. Then the last thing to go up are the poles which lift up the canvas. So today, all over the land the Holy Spirit is designating specific places for these posts to be established – places where the fire on the altars of worship never goes out and minister to God’s presence day and night. These posts of continual worship lift up and carry the weight of the God’s glory over the land.
Today the Lord is saying to us:
Enlarge the place of your tent,
stretch your tent curtains wide,
do not hold back;
lengthen your cords,
strengthen your stakes.
For you will spread out to the right and to the left;
your descendants will dispossess nations
and settle in their desolate cities.