Friday, May 3, 2019

Beyond the Mountain (part V)

At this point in time in the wilderness journey (ref Exodus 33-34) it doesn’t look like the people of Elohim will be progressing “beyond the mountain”.  They had just demonstrated their complete unworthiness, unfaithfulness, and infidelity to their Redeemer.  No other people had ever heard the voice of the Almighty Creator, let alone witnessed His signs and wonders, and yet so quickly walk off, turning instead to rebellion, stubbornness, and insolence as the nation of Israel.  YHVH, understandably, was ready to destroy them had it not been for the intercession of one man, Moses.  Elohim even proposed to this Levite that He would make a nation out of him.  This is all a little bit puzzling, because YHVH already knew what was at stake. Had He indeed destroyed the seed of the twelve tribes of Israel, that is, except the Levitical, He would have actually proven Himself to be just like them, and would have been unfaithful to His covenants and promises to the forefathers and to Himself, as He called Himself after the patriarchs, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. Such a scenario, of course, would have been implausible.  In 2 Timothy 2:13 there is a very revealing and categorical statement regarding YHVH’s character: “If we are faithless, He remains faithful; He cannot deny Himself.”  YHVH has to remain faithful to His word, for He is the Word.  Moses did not have to remind the Almighty as to Who He was/is.

Please note that, the first time that Moses went up the mountain YHVH gave him the ten words on two tablets of stone, sealing the first Sinai Covenant.  However, the Israelites’ worship of the golden calf actually annulled this covenant. They were now totally at the mercy of the Almighty’s judgments. They had promised to “do and obey” His instructions.  Hence, the act of smashing the tablets by Moses was not just due to his anger, but was also a response stemming from knowing what their rebellion meant from YHVH’s perspective.  Elohim was fully aware of what was in their hearts, and actually used this opportunity to reveal it to them.

This first Sinai Covenant was not meant to make the people righteous but, as written: “to bring… to the knowledge of sin” (ref. Romans 3:20). The end result, therefore, could only be the consequence stated in the contract: “If you do all these commandments you will live” (Deut. 5:33), but if not, you will die.  YHVH had no other choice but to carry out His portion of the contract by declaring that He would not go with Israel, for if He did they would be consumed by Him (ref. Exodus 33:3). Upon hearing this, the people removed their gold jewelry, symbolic of their repentance, and wept. 

Moses, for his part, took up the tent and pitched it outside the camp and had a ‘pow-wow’ with the cloud. Apparently Moses’ tent, or another special tent, was used during the journey for a meeting place (before the Mishkan), but only outside the camp.  It was there where the people would go, to see Moses and inquire of YHVH (see Exodus 33:7). Upon their return to their tents they would wait for Moses to enter the tent and for the cloud to descend in front of the entrance, then everyone would worship at the opening of their respective tents (v. 8-9). (This was most likely the same tent that Moses and Jethro went into upon the latter’s arrival, ref. Exodus 18:7.) 

Moses’ tent was named “the tent of meeting” (Ohel Moed), being pitched, as mentioned, outside the camp. Later, after the tabernacle (Mishkan) was erected it became the “Ohel Moed” in the midst of the camp.  Why was the first tent always pitched outside the camp, while the Mishkan was situated in the midst of the camp? Initially YHVH could not be present in the heart of the camp because sin had not been atoned for. Only after He instituted the priesthood and the sacrifices within the tabernacle could His presence be in the middle of the camp (although hidden away inside the Holy of Holies).

This little phrase here, “outside the camp” is important to ponder, especially in light of Hebrews 13:11-13, where it says: “For the bodies of those animals, whose blood is brought into the sanctuary by the high priest for sin, are burned outside the camp. Therefore Yeshua also, that He might sanctify the people with His own blood, suffered outside the gate. Therefore let us go forth to Him, outside the camp, bearing His reproach” (emphasis added).  

 As mentioned above, Moses had a ‘discussion’ with the cloud, setting the stage for his next aliyah (ascent) up the mountain.  There is much to say regarding Moses’ intercession but far more about the response of the Holy One of Israel.  (To be continued)

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