You messed up! You damaged the relationship! It is all on you! Until you accept the truth of this you will not grasp the glory of Yahweh’s Presence. Some people read the Bible with jaded hearts seeing inconsistencies and reasons to cast dispersions upon God. Is he seeking redemption or control? Is he the Savior or the tyrant? Is he intent on tenting with you or is he merely bent toward banishment and condemnation? And if you approach Scripture with sour thoughts and reproaches, it may just be your approach that is faulty. So, let me ask you, “Does the thought of God dwelling with you fill you with unbridled anticipation and excitement or with uncontained dread and trepidation?” Do you see glory or dross?
Exodus 40 is the wind up; the conclusion to the Presence narrative that is Exodus. And to be sure the Presence of Yahweh is not cuddly. It is often terrifyingly awesome! Just ask the Egyptians. There is holiness here that cannot be whisked or explained away; a holiness that demands a respectful approach – adoration and obedience. There are revelations contained within this ancient tome that will not fit nicely into our expectations. The same God who killed the first born sons of Egypt commanded his people not to murder. Will we wrestle here? Will we struggle to come to terms with our faith in God in spite of the fact that sometimes we do not fully understand what is going on or will we cast blame convinced we have a better understanding than God of what could or should have happened?
Exodus 40 is about the assembling of the Tabernacle. This took place on the first day of the first month two years after the Exodus from Egypt. There is nothing new within this passage. In verses 1-15 Moses is told to set up the Tabernacle, to place the furniture and to prepare Aaron and his sons to serve as priests. This preparation includes anointing, washing the and donning holy garments. We are told that Moses did according to all that Yahweh had commanded. This is not Moses’ game plan; he is the mediator, not the originator.
Having received the command, Moses and the people get busy and set everything up. Seven times in verses 17-33 (vv. 19, 21, 23, 25, 27, 29, 32) we find the phrase, “just as Yahweh had commanded Moses.” Everything is accomplished by following God’s plan. This is emphasized for a reason. This is all about God tenting with them on his terms. Holiness demands obedience. The laver is the last article placed. And just as he was commanded, Moses, Aaron and his sons washed their hands and feet. They were preparing to serve in the presence of God, and they are dirty compared to his holiness.
Appropriately, the final scene of Exodus is the glory of Yahweh descending upon the finished Tabernacle. The word “glory” means “honor, splendor, glory, abundance.” We are intended to remember the scene on Mount Sinai with the clouds and the earth quaking and the lightning. Moses could not enter the tent of meeting because of this cloud. Which is interesting because it did not keep him from ascending up onto the mountain top. But there, he had been invited by God to come up (24:17). Here no such invitation is given. It will be (possibly in Leviticus 1:1), but not yet. The glory of God is not something you can traipse into without an invitation. Praise God, through Jesus, we have been invited to enter into the glory of God.
And we end where we began the wilderness wandering passage – with God guiding them through the wilderness. When this glory of God cloud settled upon the Tabernacle, they settled as well. When the cloud rose up, they also rose up. Presumably, the cloud also indicated which direction they were to travel. Not a bad way to travel, following the glory of God. As a matter of fact, it is the only way to travel. We are told again that this cloud became a fire at night; a fire that settled in the Tabernacle. It is safe to assume that this fire was a miraculous manifestation of God’s glory – it did not burn the tent or its articles up.
Jesus came and was God in our Midst. He tented with us for awhile explaining God to us. He is the glory of God wrapped in flesh. He invited us to know God through him. But there is still this matter of approach. How do you view the glory of God. Is it something to dread? Or is it majestic beyond your ability to grasp? So holy, in fact, that if you, with your finite mind, saw the glory in its purest form, would keel over? Approach with reverence then. Question respectfully. Approach with anticipation! You have been invited.