As the book of Exodus draws to a close, a cloud envelops and fills the newly completed Tabernacle.
Then the cloud covered the tent of meeting and the glory of the Lord filled the Tabernacle. Moses was not able to enter the Tabernacle because the cloud had settled on it and the glory of the Lord filled the Tabernacle. Throughout all their journeys, whenever the cloud was taken up from over the Tabernacle, the children of Israel would set out; but if the cloud was not taken up, then they did not set out until the day when it was taken up. For throughout all their journeys, the cloud of the Lord was on the Tabernacle day by day and there was fire on it by night, in the sight of all the house of Israel. Exodus 40:34-38
We may not have noticed but the cloud has been a major element throughout the book of Exodus.
When the Israelites first left Egypt, the cloud accompanied them:
The Lord went before them by day with a pillar of cloud, to guide them along the way. By night it appeared as a pillar of fire, providing them with light. They could thus travel day and night. He did not take away the pillar of cloud by day and the pillar of fire at night from before the people. Exodus 13:21-22
From the day they left Egypt, like a brooding mother, the cloud protected them. It separated their encampment from that of the Egyptians, it led them through the sea and at the appropriate time, God Himself descended on Mt. Sinai ‘in a cloud’ which the people could see.
God said to Moses, ‘I will come to you in a thick cloud, so that all the people will hear when I speak to you. They will then believe in you forever.’ Exodus 19:9
When God called Moses to the top of Mt. Sinai, he had to make his way through that cloud:
Then Moses went up the mountain and the cloud covered the mountain. The glory of the Lord rested on Mt. Sinai and the cloud covered it for six days; and on the seventh day He called to Moses from the midst of the cloud. And to the eyes of the sons of Israel, the appearance of the glory of the Lord was like a consuming fire on the mountain top. Moses entered the midst of the cloud as he went up to the mountain. Moses was on the mountain forty days and forty nights. Exodus 24:15-18
These verses bear a striking resemblance to the verses quoted above describing the completion of the Tabernacle. The key concept in both is the ‘cloud’.
Think back to the incident of the golden calf. The people became impatient and confused; they felt abandoned due to Moses’ lengthy stay on top of the mountain. While that is understandable in the natural, the sin of the golden calf was the fruit of their lack of appreciation for God’s Presence in the midst in the form of the cloud. Because they turned a blind eye toward the ever-present manifestation of God, taking the ‘cloud’ for granted, they fell into sin.
Herein lies a key that applies to every person in every generation.
Though we may not see with our physical eyes, the ‘cloud’ of God’s presence with us by day and by night, the truth is that He is just as present today as He was then for He is the same – yesterday, today and forever.
Holy men and women throughout the centuries have taught the importance of living each day mindful of God’s presence with us. That consciousness serves to protect us just as much as the cloud in the desert protected the Israelites. When we do not take the ‘cloud’ for granted, as they did, we recognize more quickly the danger of entertaining temptation to do wrong and choose instead the ways of righteousness more readily.
In simple terms, cultivating the awareness of God’s presence with us at all times is a deterrent towards falling into sin, like a child who chooses to behave properly in his father’s presence while in the father’s absence may be more likely to transgress his parents’ instructions.
In Tune with Torah this week = look back over the past week and consider: how often have I been aware of God’s presence with me? Are there times when I acted or spoke in ways that would not meet with the Lord’s approval? If I had stopped then to consider His presence with me, would I have spoken or acted differently? Let us be like David, the sweet psalmist of Israel, who declared:
I have set the Lord continually before me. Psalm 16:8