The Travelling Mount Sinai Experience
What an extraordinary way to end a book! Exodus 40:34-38 concludes the events of Israel’s rescue from oppression under the powers of Egypt, their encounter with God at Mt Sinai, the giving of the law for their liberty and the plan for the Tabernacle, the tragedy of their rebellion and idolatry, the intercession of Moses, the proclaiming to him of the LORD’s own holy integrity in grace as the essential basis for their confidence into the future, and then the construction of the Tabernacle through the artistry and skill of Bezalel and Oholiab with this crowning scene. (Of course that construction was entirely in keeping with the commandment of the LORD – the chapters state over 18 times that this is so.)
The Tabernacle – beautifully made and furnished with great artistry – stands before the mountain, and the cloud of the presence of the LORD descends off the mountain and covers the tent of meeting, and the glory of the LORD filled the Tabernacle. This is so significant that it is stated twice in two verses (34 and 35) with the intervening statement that, because of this, Moses was not able to enter the tent of meeting.
Moses’ priestly ministry did not involve the conjuring of the glorious presence of God. No one ever can conjure the presence of God – no priest, no preacher, no worship leader, no prayer leader, no prophet. God Himself is gloriously present by His own coming. He is gloriously present because He is the God of all grace. When God’s people come to worship, they are the invite ones, not the LORD. He welcomes us, not we Him! We praise and adore and glorify Him, but we do so because He has come to us.
Moreover, the leadership of the people of God can not determine the course for the people to go. The glorious presence of the LORD alone will do this. When the cloud lifted off the Tabernacle, the people would go – following it – and when the cloud settled again, the people would wait. There was no itinerary in advance for the way to the promised land. There was only the leading presence of the glory of the LORD.
The church does not conjure the presence of God. The church does not plan the best way for it to carry out its mission; it follows where the Lord of the church takes it. The resurrection was followed by a 10 day wait for the gift of the Holy Spirit. At his resurrection, just prior to his ascension, Jesus had said “Behold! I am sending the promise of my Father upon you. But stay in the city until you are clothed with power from on high.” And when the Spirit came on them all – men and women – with signs like Mt Sinai of earthquake and rushing wind – he came to be the bringer of the presence of the Father and Son, and to be the one by whom the church would be led.
The Holy Spirit is more than the glory on the Tabernacle; He is more than the travelling Mount Sinai experience which having the Tabernacle was for Israel in the wilderness. He is the fulfilment of that beyond our telling. How we need the gift of the Holy Spirit.