.The tabernacle which the Lord had instructed the people to build is now finished. Moses set everything in place just as the Lord asked, beginning with the ark of the testimony first... setting aside a place for God in the middle first, then building the rest around it. And God made His presence known to all... filling the tabernacle with His glory; the weight of His divine being.
This too, is how we should consider our lives. Not squeezing God in somewhere conveniently after all is said and done. Rather at the beginning... setting aside a place and time for Him in the middle of our life, at the center; building the rest upon this firm foundation. And God will be certain to make His presence know to us... filling us with His glory... blessing us with His favor and grace.
And sometimes I say... "So why was Moses unable to enter in?" Because I often get a bit concerned that if God's presence fills my life, there may not be any room for me.... right? Oh, if I could only be a bit more like Moses.
Moses KNEW God.... from the fire that did not consume the bush when he was first asked to remove his sandals (Exodus 3:5), through all the wonders in Egypt, to seeing Him pass by the cleft of the rock (Exodus 33:21-23). I have a pretty good feeling Moses knew when to step out of the way and let God be God, while he still got to be Moses.
God is never looking to take away who we are. He made us. He is not looking to take away any of that. He is only looking to fill us fully with His glory so that we can be the best version of us... the one He fully intended. And that happens when we step out of the way, like Moses and let Him do what He does best.
You know when you leave a matinee movie and take those first few steps out of the dark theatre into the bright sunlight, and this brilliant glare blinds you for a moment, as if the sun somehow became ten times more intense during your escape from reality. You raise your hand, as a visor to shield your eyes, while every shiny object catches the glinting reflection, causing you to squint and sometimes sneeze. Until finally, you get near your car and the brightness seems to have dimmed because your eyes have adjusted, and you can resume existence under the blazing sun.
But can you imagine if, like Moses, the radiance didn't fade?
Here he has been in the presence of God, high on His holy mountain for forty days. And when he comes down there is something different about him. His face is radiant. So much so, that when the people noticed how hit shone, they were afraid. So he needed to place a veil over his face.
And the only times he removed it, were when he was with God, or when he was delivering word from God to the people. Any other interaction, or part of daily life for him, required that he live life with a veil over his face.
But it causes me to wonder... why wouldn't any of the people desire this sort of radiance? Why would it only cause fear and not desire for the same?
This man, Moses had been in the very presence of God. He was clearly changed by it. Not just emotionally and spiritually, but physically. But no one else seemed to want what he had. And I simply wonder, why?
Could it be that blinding first adjustment to the light is too much? That initial shock of going from darkness to light? Are we so unwilling to change that we won't walk forward in the uncomfortable period squinting and awkwardness until we adjust to His brilliance in our life?
Yes, it means we will see all our flaws... but not all at once. He's much too kind a God to reveal that. Yes, it means that there will be some messes to clean, but the radiant beauty of what will grow in the light is so much better.
The places we can go, the beauty we can see, the strength we can gain, all while walking in His brilliant and radiant light. For it leads us out of fear and into new life.
Look what David, the psalmist wrote...
I sought the Lord, and He answered me
and delivered me from all my fears.
Those who look to Him are radiant with joy;
their faces will never be ashamed.
Psalm 34:4-5 HCSB
I am grateful that our God is brilliant, bright and radiant, revealing His goodness, delivering us from darkness and fear.
Maybe I'm just too practical, so this resonates with me in the simplest of ways. But because I hate wasting paper, and ink, when I print something, I'll typically select the options of black and white and two-sided.
So when I read that the Ten Commandments which Moses brought down to the people were TWO-SIDED, I was thrilled! Because I don't ever recall a movie, an illustration, nor any depiction of the tablets as such... ever! Everything I've ever seen showing a representation of the Ten Commandments has them side-by-side... you know exactly what I mean, with the rounded tops; five commandments on one, and five commandments on the other.
But according to the book of Exodus, that's clearly not how God gave them to Moses. In fact, many people depict Moses working hard chiseling away while God speaks. That is also a myth. This verse clearly tells us that it was God's work... God's writing. In fact, Genesis 31:18 says they were written by the finger of God... displaying His strength and power; that He could carve into rock with just His finger.
So when we have that innate desire to be more efficient with time, resources and energy, remember, we were created in His image. If He was a God of the two-sided tablet... why would we not not also wish to be people who conserve, preserve and endeavor not to waste?
Ever had those days when you stand in your closet thinking, "I simply have nothing to wear," while you stare at literally dozens of clothes hanging before you? But I would guess what ever you pick to put on, it probably never crosses your mind that you're not worthy enough to wear it. Because... well, their your clothes.
But as we read through Exodus, here God is speaking to Moses on Mt. Sinai, giving word of direction which will be used to instruct the people. And God chooses Moses' brother Aaron to be the very first priest... to serve God for the people, to be clothed in holy garments. And all the while, Aaron is down below listening to the people...
Come, make us a god who will go before us because this Moses, the man who brought us up from the land of Egypt... we don’t know what has happened to him!”
It's not as though God was unaware this was happening. It's not as if God did not know Aaron was about to give into the people and fashion the golden calf for them.
God knew exactly what Aaron would do, before Aaron did it.
Our God knows the end from the beginning. And still, He chose Aaron to be the first priest. And still He spoke of the holy garments, for glory and beauty, with which Aaron would be clothed and set apart to serve Him.
This is God speaking to Moses, giving instruction for an ark to be built. Not the same sort which Noah crafted. Rather this is more like a holy treasure chest which would hold the Ten Commandments... the testimony that I will give you. And this would be placed within the tabernacle, behind the veil where only the priest could go.
This mercy seat is the cover, or lid of the ark, made of acacia wood, covered with solid gold. Upon it there were two large angelic cherubim crafted, also covered in gold, their wings spread over the ark as they faced each other.
And there in that space above the lid and between the cherubim is where God is saying He will meet with Moses... and later with the priest who will come to represent the people.
Why does this matter?
What does this mean?
This is the God of the universe.
The Creator who showed up in darkness and turned-on the light.
The One who simply spoke and something came from nothing.
The Spirit who gathered dust and breathed life into the form of man.
hearing a cry for help,
longing to save,
endeavoring to rescue,
seeking to redeem...
He delivered His people from bondage and at the same time provided the very treasures needed to build this tabernacle and ark with a wealth of donations handed out by the Egyptians. Interestingly, the very same ones who enslaved them; the oppressors from which Moses led them triumphantly away. And here, above this mercy seat, our merciful God promised to remain; to receive the blood offering of atonement for sins committed.
But here is the most amazing part. Mercy seat... is translated from one Hebrew word that means atonement. It means to cover over, to pay the price for, to plan ahead to forgive. And under the mercy seat... the cover... were those tablets with the Ten Commandments, the law that no one can fully obey.
But God offered His presence there anyway.
Rising above our sin, our disobedience, our inability for perfection.
He knew we would need mercy and forgiveness, so He remained.
And even when His people, after many generations would turn away from Him, would bring idols into His tabernacle and defile it, He still had a plan. All along God intended to send His Son... an atonement for all our sin; to cover over, to pay the price for, to plan ahead to forgive us.
Our God is not a distant God.
From the beginning, He has pursued us.
All along, He has provided for us.
There is never been a moment when He is not available to one who would humbly call upon His name. Let us consider His ever present mercy.
The testimony of our God is redemption.
But God, who is rich in mercy, because of His great love that He had for us, made us alive with the Messiah even though we were dead in trespasses. You are saved by grace! Ephesians 2:4-5
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