Illumination for the Duration

The portion of today’s Torah portion is the final conclusion to the book of Exodus. I’m calling this passage illumination for the duration. The text is Exodus 40: 34-38. It reads: 34 The cloud covered the tent of meeting, and the glory of the Lord filled the tabernacle. 35 Moses was unable to enter the tent of meeting because the cloud rested on it, and the glory of the Lord filled the tabernacle. 36 The Israelites set out whenever the cloud was taken up from the tabernacle throughout all the stages of their journey. 37 If the cloud was not taken up, they did not set out until the day it was taken up. 38 For the cloud of the Lord was over the tabernacle by day, and there was a fire inside the cloud by night, visible to the entire house of Israel throughout all the stages of their journey.

In Exodus chapter 40 we see the building and consecration of the Tabernacle, also known as the Tent of Meeting. The Israelites erected the Tabernacle on the first day of the first month, almost exactly one year after they had left Egypt (vv. 2, 17); which was about nine months after Israel had arrived at Mt. Sinai (cf. 19:1). And when the Tabernacle stood complete, God descended in a cloud that so filled the Tabernacle that neither Moses nor anyone else could enter it (vv. 34-39). The term for this visible manifestation of God’s presence is the Shekinah. And although this specific term does not appear in the Hebrew Scriptures, it is found in the Targums. And the Targums are explanations of the Hebrew Scriptures which were written later in the Aramaic language for the benefit of those Jewish people who, because of the Babylonian captivity, had not learned Hebrew.

So finally, at last, God was dwelling among His people. His redemption of them was now complete. He had liberated them from bondage in Egypt (chs. 1—15), and He had adopted them as His special treasure (chs. 15—40). He had made a covenant with them and now blessed them with His presence. And now He would guide them “throughout all their journeys”(vv. 36, 38). The Israelites had illumination for the duration of their trek to the Land of Promise. And so this descent of God to take up residence in the midst of His people is a fitting climax with which to close the book of Exodus.

But what about us, right here/right now? What’s our illumination for the duration of our trek toward the consummation of our salvation? Well, right here/right now, God’s written revelation is the spiritual light that illuminates the path of our life (cf. Ps. 119:105); and that reason alone,  is reason enough, for determining to follow it.

So what does this determination look like? Well, one aspect of this is what we could call bein’ Berean. In Acts 17:11 it says concerning the first century Jewish community in Berea that they diligently examined Paul’s teaching to see if it was consistent with the Hebrew Scriptures. And as a result of this diligence many of these Berean’s became believers in the messiahship of Jesus because Paul’s message was consistent with the Hebrew Scriptures (cf. Acts. 17:12).

Today, anytime or anywhere we hear or read anyone claiming to teach spiritual “truth;” like the Apostolic Berean Jewish community, we must compare what we’re receiving with Scripture in order to correctly evaluate its validity. Of course this assumes a functional level of biblical literacy that’s increasingly rare in today’s world. So initially bein’ Berean is attaining the degree of familiarity with God’s Word required to exercise doctrinal discernment. And for that there’s simply no substitute for reading the Bible cover to cover.

Bein Berean also requires our own personal engagement with the biblical text before reading the interpretative conclusions of others we respect as reliable Bible teachers. Yes, in each and every generation God has given the body of Messiah teachers to equip believers for ministry (cf. Eph. 4:11-12), but that doesn’t relieve us of the responsibility to correctly handle the Word of Truth (cf. 2 Tim. 2:15). Our convictions have to be our convictions and not just the parroting of someone we think will probably agree with us even though we haven’t really checked it out for ourselves first. You see our own personal interaction with the Word where we’re playing for an audience of One as an expression of worship, is the mandatory first step, for staying in step with the Spirit.  And that’s absolutely critical; because the Spirit of God, takes the Word of God, and makes the child of God, conformed to the image of God (cf. 2 Cor. 3:18).  And the image of God is Messiah Himself, the Living Word (cf. John 1:1, 14).  And so as we increasingly become conformed to His image, in terms of our character and conduct; we increasingly have a clearer vision of God’s illumination for the duration.

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