The End Before The Beginning

I had began working on Devotions from Exodus Part Two over five years ago, however the loss of my Dad to cancer had shut down the writing of this book and it has been a process to get my heart back to the place where I could write outside of me just trying to process my own personal grief. Then when my heart was finally able to write again I also began a new season in ministry. This new ministry season required my early mornings, which is also my best writing time. Therefore the completion of this book has been slow go, but I believe always in God’s perfect timing. This morning I finished my last devotion from the book of Exodus. I am so overwhelmed with the completion and also with what the Lord has taught me and reminded me of as I wrote it, that I wanted to share it. So here is the almost end of the book before I prepare it for publishing…

Then the cloud covered the tent of meeting, and the glory of the Lord filled the tabernacle.

Exodus 40:34

In Exodus 13:21 we learned that the LORD was going before the people in a pillar of cloud by day and a pillar of fire by night to give the people light. In Exodus 19:9 we learned that the LORD would speak to Moses from a dark cloud with thunder and lightening that the people might hear Him and know that Moses was indeed His mouth and spoke His commands. The cloud of the LORD would become so great that it covered Mount Sinai and hid Moses and the elders and yet so small that it would stand at the entrance of Moses’ tent in the midst of the camp as he met with the LORD for instructions concerning the people. 

The people had come to know that this cloud represented the glory of their God, the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. This cloud had led them since the day they exited Egypt. The cloud by day and the pillar of fire by night had always met the people where they were and guided them to where they needed to be. It would be this very cloud that covered the tent of meeting when the work was finished. Then this cloud, the glory of the LORD, would enter the tabernacle and the people would know that they had done all the Lord had commanded Moses. 

Exodus 40:35 goes on to say that Moses was unable to enter the tabernacle because the cloud had settled on it and the glory of the Lord filled the tabernacle. This cloud was not a fog, it was a presence. I read this account in Scripture and I try to imagine this cloud. How many times have I wished that the Lord would show up in a cloud by day and a pillar of fire by night to lead me so that I might know that I am heading in the right direction. 

In 2 Samuel 7 we read of the account of King David’s desire to build a permanent house for the Lord, however it would not be him, but would be his son Solomon that God would allow to build it. In 1 Kings 8 and 2 Chronicles 7 we see that at the completion of Solomon’s temple fire came down from heaven, consumed the burnt offering, and the cloud, the glory of the LORD, filled the temple so that the priests could not stand to minister. This cloud had been the visual and experiential presence of the great I AM since the exile of Egypt and this cloud would once again be a confirmation to the people of Israel that they had done all that the Lord had commanded them. 

This cloud would remain as a presence in the temple until the day that the Lord would have to send the nation into exile at the hands of Babylon because their disobedience and rebellion to the Lord their God had grown so great. In 605 BC Nebuchadnezzar invades Jerusalem and takes Daniel    and his friends captive. Then in 597 BC Ezekiel and ten thousand captives are taken by Nebuchadnezzar to Babylon. In the book of Ezekiel we begin to read of one of the saddest accounts in Scripture, the account of when the cloud, the glory of the LORD, leaves the temple of the Lord and the promised land that He had led His people to around a thousand years before this exile. 

The children of Israel had lost their way. They had forsaken the Lord that had delivered them from Egypt and grew them into this great nation. The temple that was built for the glory of the LORD now held idols to multiple false gods. The people worshipped only out of tradition and rote. Their hearts were far from the God that loved them so, and they refused to repent and return to Him. Therefore, the Lord sent them into exile. 

While Ezekiel was in exile in Babylon, the land of the Chaldeans, the Spirit of God took him to Jerusalem in a vision and he records for us what was taking place in the temple of the Lord and in the heart of Jerusalem. Ezekiel sees the glory of the Lord move from the cherub on the Mercy Seat to the threshold of the temple (Ezekiel 9:3). The temple was filled with the cloud and the court was filled with the brightness of the glory of the LORD (Ezekiel 10:4). Then the glory of the Lord moves from the threshold of the temple and moves to the entrance of the east gate (Ezekiel 10:18). In Ezekiel 11:22-23 we read of the glory of the God of Israel leaving the city of Jerusalem and standing over the mountain east of the city. The cloud, the glory and the presence of the LORD, had left the temple.

The nation of Israel would be in captivity for seventy years before they were allowed to return to the land. At their return, Ezra and Nehemiah would work to lead the people to rebuild the temple, but the cloud would not return to it. Herod would renovate and expand the temple around 20 BC and it would become known as Herod’s temple, but the cloud still would not reside in it. The glory of the LORD had departed the land of Israel at their exile and it would be hundreds of years before the glory would return.   

In Matthew 17 we read of the account of the day that Jesus took Peter, James, and John up on a high mountain. On this mountain Jesus had gone away to pray and the others had fallen asleep (Luke 9:32). When they were fully awake they saw Jesus transfigured before their eyes and they saw  His glory. We are told in Matthew 17:5 that a bright cloud overshadowed them and from this cloud a voice called out, “This is My beloved Son, with whom I am well-pleased; listen to Him!” 

I cannot imagine the overwhelming emotion that had to hit Peter, James, and John at the sight of Jesus transfigured before them. They were seeing Jesus in all His beautiful glory and the cloud that their fathers had spoken about, and the scribes had taught about, right before their eyes and they heard the voice of the Lord speak from it. With what we have learned about the cloud and the temple, we can better understand why they asked if they should build tabernacles there on that mountain.

In that moment the cloud, the glory of the LORD, had returned. The amazing thing is that even then Peter, James, and John still didn’t realize that they had been with the glory of the LORD all along. They hadn’t yet realized that the Word had became flesh and dwelt among them, and the entire time they were looking at His glory, “glory as of the only begotten from the Father, full of grace and truth” (John 1:14). We can shake our heads at these three disciples, or we can choose to take a step back and ask ourselves if we too are missing the glory of the Lord as He stands right in front of us, or worse, missing Him even as He lives within us.

Oh Father,

There are indeed times that I wished that You would lead me by a cloud that I can visibly see and a pillar of fire that physically resides before me. However, deep down I know that you have given me something greater than a cloud by day and pillar of fire by night. You have given me your very Spirit to reside within me. Your presence in a cloud would still be outside of me and though it could lead my steps, it could not change my heart. My Jesus you came not to reside in a temple made with human hands, but to reside in me. You made me Your temple. Oh Father, how my heart is overwhelmed with me. 

My Jesus, how very much I do love you. It is in Your most holy and precious name I pray,