Monday, January 29, 2018

Imagine Having To Assemble Outside Your Church Because God's Glory Had Filled It

The Cloud Guided; God’s Glory Filled
Exodus 40:34-38:

34 Then the cloud covered the tent of meeting, and the glory of the Lord filled the tabernacle.
35 Moses was not able to enter the tent of meeting because the cloud had settled on it, and the glory of the Lord filled the tabernacle.
36 Throughout all their journeys whenever the cloud was taken up from over the tabernacle, the sons of Israel would set out;
37 but if the cloud was not taken up, then they did not set out until the day when it was taken up.
38 For throughout all their journeys, the cloud of the Lord was on the tabernacle by day, and there was fire in it by night, in the sight of all the house of Israel.

Thoughts on the Passage
We need to distinguish between the cloud that hovered above the Tent of Meeting of the Tabernacle, admittedly quite low it appears, having settled on top of it, and “the glory of the LORD” that actually entered the Tabernacle and filled it.  Both the low cloud outside the structure, but more significantly God’s glory inside it, that prevented Moses from entering the Tabernacle at this time.  And the same thing happened when Solomon completed building the Temple (see I Kings 8:10-11). The priests could not enter in, because of the very same thing – God’s “Shekinah Glory” returned to fill the Temple.

Robert Jamieson proposes that Moses’ inability to enter the Tabernacle because of God’s glory having filled it is an indication of man’s incapacity, in his present state, to look upon the unveiled perfections of the Godhead. Yet, because of God’s sacrifice of His Son, we can all do so by faith.

When God moved the cloud, the people made their way forward across the desert and they moved the Tabernacle with them. And this cloud, which looked like a cloud during the day and literally a cloud filled with fire by night, could be seen by all of the children of Israel. Robert Jamieson suggests this was the cloud that had remained for the most part up in summit of the mount where Moses had previously met with God. Now it comes down to dwell among them, the people of Israel.

As Chuck Smith points out, the key thing for us to grasp here is how awesome it must have felt to be aware of God’s very presence at all times. You would go to sleep at night looking at the fire above the Tabernacle and wake up in the morning seeing the heavy cloud.

When the cloud started to move, everything connected with the Tabernacle had to be folded up or packed and carried along the journey until the cloud stopped again. Imagine not knowing when you would set up camp that evening, but you had to wait for God to stop the cloud. When that happened, you’d stop, step up the Tabernacle again, and watch the cloud come land on it.

Smith also takes us back to verse 34 where “the glory of the LORD” filled the Tabernacle. Can you imagine seeing that? Can you imagine just waiting for God to act at that moment? Can you imagine, he asks, “opening our hearts to Him through worship and praise” throughout that experience?

Imagine next Sunday, or whatever your day of corporate worship is, to go to your place of worship and find everyone surrounding the building and not being able to get in because “the glory of the LORD” had filled it. After all, this is the place you and I go to in order to worship God with others. It need not be the only place. But here, many of us temporarily focus on the idea of meeting with God. Wouldn’t it be great to see His glory filling it and to have it captivate our hearts in such a way that we would never be the same again?

David Guzik has us consider another perspective of this passage by pointing to God’s obvious pleasure with the obedience of Israel. This was not so much about God’s authority over them, as it was that they “really did believe Him and love Him”. There is a big and real connection between their obedience and this remarkable display of His glory.

But Guzik is also quick to point out that the Israelites didn’t directly “earn” this display of glory with their obedience, but rather their obedience “welcomed it”.  We don’t earn our rescue, our salvation, or even more of His love. Yet, walking in obedience brings a certain blessing.

Without some aspect of God’s glory being present, the Tabernacle would only be, says Guzik, a fancy tent and the same can be said of our churches or of our homes.

Back in Exodus 29:45, God had made a promise that read as follows, “And I will dwell among the sons of Israel and will be their God.”  And the book of Exodus ends with the fulfillment of that promise. Guzik writes quoting Cole, “YHWH is living among His people: the theology of the presence of God has become the fact of His presence.”

He goes on, “The Book of Exodus ends with great hope and trust in God. Though Israel was in the middle of a desolate desert, had fierce enemies in the Promised Land, and was weak and liable to sin and rebellion, God was with them. This gave them great cause for faith and confidence.

Matthew Henry says just as God created the earth for man and after He completed it, He made man and gave him possession of it, so when the Tabernacle, built for Him, was completed, He came and took possession of it. This was to be His throne where He ruled. This was an indication that “God will dwell with those that prepare Him a habitation. The broken and contrite heart, the clean and holy heart. . .. Where God has a throne and an altar in the soul, there is a living temple.”

And since the cloud was with the Israelites day and night – there was no chance of anyone thinking “Is the Lord among us, or is he not?” He was there. In sight of all. If someone didn’t believe it, well, he or she wouldn’t believe anything.

Henry reminds us of how the bush that God spoke from was not consumed by the fire that was exhibited and seen by Moses, so this cloud which was a fire by night and God’s splendor and glory did not even singe the curtains of the Tabernacle. This structure and its furnishings had been anointed and thus could withstand the terrible majesty of God. So majestic that Moses could not enter the Tabernacle at that time. But what Moses could not do, Jesus Christ did (Hebrews 9:24). In fact, Henry goes on to say,

“Nay, He is Himself the true Tabernacle, filled with the glory of God (John 1:14), even with the divine grace and truth prefigured by this fire and light. In Him, the shechinah [glory] took up its rest forever, for in Him dwells all the fullness of the Godhead bodily. Blessed be God for Jesus Christ!”

Amen and Amen.

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