God Dwells in His Word: The New Revelation of an Ancient Truth

The notion of the incarnation of the Word of God (John 1) is for Christians the revelation of God’s own mystery to the world.  It was at the time of Christ a new and startling revelation, unprecedented in Israel’s history, and yet it has its own prophetic and prototypical  precedence in the Jewish Scriptures (one thinks of Jewish thinking concerning Wisdom and Torah for example or even the city of Jerusalem as God’s dwelling place).  Fr. Paul Tarazi, for example in commenting on the Prophets Jeremiah and Ezekiel notes that there is a message to the people of God that they have misunderstood Him when they remain so overly focused on the temple and the city of Jerusalem.  Tarazi writes:

“Moreover, not only are the kings of Jerusalem banned from God’s new abode described in Ezekiel 40-48, but also the name of Jerusalem itself does not appear at all in these chapters.  Since God is essentially a shepherd, his new abode is an open land of pasture, and not a walled city.  His ‘open’ city (Ezek 48:15-48) is wherever he chooses to be: ‘And the name of the city henceforth shall be, The lord is there.’ (Ezek 48:35b)  This God has forsaken Jerusalem and its temple, and established himself in Chebar, not in a new temple building, but within a written scroll.  He is contained within the dabar (= ‘word’)  spoken by the prophet Ezekiel (chs 1-3).  In other words,  God’s prophet becomes himself God’s new chosen residence and is in contradistinction and even opposition to an inimical Jerusalem and Judah, as the book of Jeremiah clearly confirms… (Jer 1:16-19).”  (quoted in SACRED TEXT AND INTERPRETATION, Theodore Stylianopoulos (ed), p 9)

God mysteriously dwells in and is contained in (but not by!) His Word.  God is encountered in and through His Word.  God is not bound to or limited by the temple or the city of Jerusalem.  Rather God transcends time or place and thus both moves the prophet and moves with the prophet.  The prophet and the prophetic voice are much more related to both the notion of shepherd and his flock as well as with the people of God sojourning on earth.

Thus in the Old Testament God is shown to dwell in His Word.  First God dwells in Torah.  Torah travels with the people of God wherever they go.  God is also portrayed as dwelling in the Jerusalem Temple, and in the prophets.

Then comes the new messianic revelation: God dwells in Jesus Christ, His incarnate Word.  Though this is a new revelation, it is also a continuation of what God revealed from the beginning.  Christianity thus receives and continues to remain faithful to the traditional concept of God dwelling in His Word and of God in His word being shepherd to His people.