Tuesday, March 13, 2018

Shekinah: the arrivals and departures of Glory

The Word for today:
Numbers 8:1-9:14
mark this:
The Tabernacle was set up, and on that day the cloud covered it. Then from evening until morning the cloud over the Tabernacle appeared to be a pillar of fire. This was the regular pattern – at night the cloud changed to the appearance of fire. When the cloud lifted from over the sacred tent, the people of Israel followed it. And wherever the cloud settled, the people of Israel camped. In this way, they traveled at the LORD's command and stopped wherever he told them to. Then they remained where they were as long as the cloud stayed over the Tabernacle. If the cloud remained over the Tabernacle for a long time, the Israelites stayed for a long time, just as the LORD commanded. Sometimes the cloud would stay over the Tabernacle for only a few days, so the people would stay for only a few days. Then at the LORD's command they would break camp. Sometimes the cloud stayed only overnight and moved on the next morning. But day or night, when the cloud lifted, the people broke camp and followed. Whether the cloud stayed above the Tabernacle for two days, a month, or a year, the people of Israel stayed in camp and did not move on. But as soon as it lifted, they broke camp and moved on. (Numbers 9:15-22)
The children of Israel were in the wilderness for forty years. During all that time, a pillar (of cloud by day, of fire by night) hovered over the Holiest Place (the inner compartment of the Tabernacle.)
This was one of many things that made them different from any other nation. When Paul wanted to give some of their identifying marks, he wrote—
They are the people of Israel, chosen to be God's special children. God revealed his glory to them. He made covenants with them and gave his law to them. (Romans 9:4)
These were the only people who ever had the visible presence of God with them.
You could not go to Moses and find out whether or not you’d be traveling tomorrow. Moses didn’t know because Moses wasn’t in charge. Instead, they kept their eyes on the pillar. When it lifted, they got ready to march. The Levites took down the Tabernacle. Then the trumpet sounded and they marched without haste, their banners flying in formation behind the ark. Considering that Israel numbered in the millions, it had to be an awesome sight.
This pillar of cloud and pillar of fire, known as the Shekinah glory, was the visible presence of God.
After their wilderness journey was over, and they were settled in the Promised Land, Solomon erected a temple to replace the mobile tabernacle. God hallowed the temple with His presence:
And it came to pass, when the priests were come out of the holy place, that the cloud filled the house of the Lord, So that the priests could not stand to minister because of the cloud: for the glory of the Lord had filled the house of the Lord (1 Kings 8:10–11).
However, later in their history when Israel turned from God, the Shekinah glory left the temple. As though reluctant to leave (1), it momentarily hesitates on the mountain east of the city (the Mount of Olives) before disappearing into the heavens. Later, when Jesus ascended to heaven from that very spot (2), it was no coincidence.
John wrote that, “We beheld his glory.” But only Peter, James, and John glimpsed Jesus’ visible glory, on the Mount of Transfiguration. (It was his glory, not his deity, that he laid aside when he came to this earth.)
When he comes again, there will be the sign of the Son of man in heaven (3) as he returns to earth, touching down at the very spot, on the Mount of Olives, from which the Glory had once departed and from which he had previously ascended. (4)
That sign is not for the church. We are never given a visible presence of God. Rather, we are given the inward presence of God, the Holy Spirit indwelling us. The Spirit of God is in the believer today.
Israel followed the pillar and cloud through the wilderness. Walking by faith, not by sight (5), the church follows the Spirit through this wilderness of sin, as did Jesus:
Then Jesus was led by the Spirit into the wilderness... (Matthew 4:1)
(1) The Glory departed in stages: see Ezekiel 9:3, 10:4, 10:19, 11:23; (2) See Acts 1:9-12; (3) Matthew 24:30; (4) See Acts 1:9-12 and Zechariah 14:4; (5) 2 Corinthians 5:7

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