I Want God in My Camp

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This Shabbat we are reading the last Torah portion from the book of Exodus. Next Shabbat, the Lord willing we will be starting the book of Leviticus.

The coronavirus has changed my biological clock. It seems like everything is moving much faster than before the coronavirus plague struck our planet. The last portion of the Torah is called Pekudei, in English it means “the inventory”.

We start reading from Exodus 38:21 to the end of Exodus. In the last two weeks we had a kind of bookkeeper’s account of the inventory of the Tabernacle built in the wilderness of Sinai, by Bezalel the son of Uri and his team of craftsmen and artists.

From the prophets we read 1 Kings 7:51 – 8:21, that is a kind of parallel to the building of the Tabernacle because it gives us the account of Solomon building the Temple in Jerusalem. From the New Testament we are reading 2 Corinthians 3:7-18.

The book of Exodus starts with Jacob and his sons going down to Egypt by Joseph’s invitation and the book ends with the children of Israel leaving slavery behind and leaving Egypt behind, going through a 40-year long boot camp in the Sinai wilderness, Aaron sinning and building the Golden Calf, eating manna, fresh every day except the Sabbath, drinking water from the rock twice, and building the Tabernacle.

The 40 years in the wilderness with Moses was school for the children of Israel, but not only for them, for us also. The most important lesson in the Bible, and the basis of our understanding of God’s relationship with Israel and through Israel with all of humanity can be found and learned from those 40 years in the wilderness of Sinai with Moses and Aaron leading Israel, the stiff-necked nation, whom God chose as His prized possession.

Yes, dear brothers, if you have a typical Christian education you could end your understanding of God and Israel and their relationship during these 40 years in the wilderness as a terrible ordeal for both. If you approach the reading of the book of Exodus with a more objective and keen observation of the relationship between God and His chosen nation, you will come out of this reading and study of the book of Exodus with a totally different view of God Almighty – the creator and father of all mankind re-educating and preparing His chosen nation for a life and struggle between the profane worldliness and the divine holiness.

The most beautiful pictures of God as our father and God as our teacher and God as our military general and chief of staff, and God as our doctor and comforter, are all found in the book of Exodus. Who else would tolerate and love a nation like Israel and invest so much grace and forgiveness and care for His children Israel, except the father?!

Well, our reading of the Torah Portion Pekudei has the summary of the inventory of the Tabernacle, and Aaron’s wardrobe, and the details of the service in the Tabernacle. However, the very end of the book of Exodus has a dramatic description of the presence of the Lord and the guiding of the children of Israel from the wilderness, by the spirit of the Lord, by day as a pillar of cloud hovering above the Tabernacle and by night a pillar of fire. The Lord was manifest by day and by night in the middle of the camp of Israel visibly and He was their guide and the compass of this 40-year journey/boot-camp in the wilderness of Sinai.

Oh how I wish and pray that today that we would have God’s presence visible and tangible in the middle of our camp. How I wish that our leaders would hear from the Lord of where to go and what to do even to the smallest details.

How I wish that we would not have to have four national general elections to vote for prime ministers and parliament members from political parties that are themselves lost in the moving sand dunes of the political deserts. After 2000 years of diaspora, being spread out to every corner of the world and God’s face being hidden from us, it would be so nice to have a physical manifestation of God, the creator of Heaven and Earth for all the nations, dwelling in our midst!

But we don’t, as a collective humanity, nor as the nation of Israel. However, as disciples of Yeshua, born again into the newness of life, I believe that if we want to we can have something that is not the same as the cloud by day and the pillar of fire by night in the middle of the camp, but something that does and ought to do the same job for us as individuals.

Here is what I am referring to:

“However, when He, the Spirit of truth, has come, He will guide you into all truth; for He will not speak on His own authority, but whatever He hears He will speak; and He will tell you things to come.” – John 16:13 [NKJV]

I am so anxious to be able to have a clear and tangible presence and guidance from that Spirit of truth, from the Holy Spirit of God. I want to allow The Spirit to guide me, and tell me the things to come. I want to appropriate this great gift from God as my personal pillar of fire by night and as my flame and guide by day as the cloud of God’s presence over me.

The presence of God in the middle of the camp of Israel was such a great gift, and such a guide and witness for all of Israel. You would think that with the visible and physical presence of God in the camp there would be no sin in that camp.

But, sin was there and some of the sin of Israel in the wilderness even after the building of the Tabernacle was so serious that God had to send plagues and snakes to wake up Israel and the leadership of the nation to plead and pray and seek God’s grace to stop the plagues.

I wish for myself privately and for all of Israel collectively to seek God’s presence and even as individuals, to allow the cloud by day and the pillar of fire by night to guide us and show us the way we should walk with the Lord of all, daily, hourly, and momentarily, where to go and what to do and what to say and what to write.

Yes, I don’t want to be a robot without free will, but I do want to have that extra guide of God’s presence to guide me unto all truth and give me practical wisdom.

Yes, I need it and I want it and I am willing to pray for that presence of God visibly in my life. I hope that you too also seek and want and desire that tangible and real and true presence and guide in your life.

The reading of the Haftarah, from 1 Kings 7:51 – 8:21, has one verse that I would like to share with you:

“Nothing was in the ark except the two tablets of stone which Moses put there at Horeb, when the Lord made a covenant with the children of Israel, when they came out of the land of Egypt.” – 1 Kings 8:9

This verse just sticks out for me as being so important. Solomon builds this fine stone structure on top of the mountain of Moriah. The building is so beautiful and ornate and with gold and with artwork. The children of Israel carried this wooden box, not very big, with the two cherubim hovering over that wooden box.

The box had to be carried so carefully. The box was not so big actually it was much smaller than I would have imagined it. However, the most shocking thing for me is the text in 1 Kings 8:9 – the box had nothing in it except the two tablets of stone that Moses brought down from the mountain.

All that was written on those two tablets were the ten words of God, the Ten Commandments. This was all that was in that wooden and gold covered box, two tables of stone with ten short and very clear commandments.

These Ten Commandments don’t require of us to become super-saints or some kind of walking-in-the-clouds spiritual giants. The Ten Commandments are short and easy to keep if we want to keep them.

The unique thing about all the Ten Commandments is that they are all deposited in our human hands. We have to choose to keep them and that doesn’t just happen automatically. Each one of the commandments is actually kept or broken by our own personal and individual choices.

These Ten Commandments regulate our relationship with the almighty God and father of us all, and also regulate our relationship with our fathers and mothers, and our relationship with our jobs and work schedule, and also protect our society and community, regulating social order, justice, ownership of property, and individual human relationships as citizens, neighbors, and friends!

I am sad to know that the great nation of the United States of America that was built and created on the basis of biblical principles and faith, has taken down the Ten Commandments off federal buildings, and out of the courthouses and away from schools. Because if these commandments, even hand-carved on wooden tablets, are placed in the classroom or courthouse, the individual would notice them and remember: I must not covet my neighbor’s car, or wife, or donkey.

If a schoolchild sees the clay representation of these commandments hanging on the wall of his classroom in school, he will remember that he ought to honor his father and his mother. Yes, the wooden box with the two golden cherubim on top of it did not have many things in it, only two stone tablets with ten statements/commandments, that if they are kept and observed our society and our countries and our world would be so much better and so much more blessed and happy.

Let us do our best to keep these Ten Commandments that will regulate our relationship to the God who created us, and to our friends and neighbors. We would all be happier and better fathers, mothers, children, and people if we restore the importance and the reminder that God gave us Ten Commandments, and Yeshua ratified them and gave us the ability to keep them by sending us the Holy Spirit to guide us unto all truth.

This article originally appeared on Netivyah and is reposted with permission.