Developing the Theme of Family through the Torah Portions. Number Twenty-Three.

Dr Clifford Denton.

P’kudei: Exodus 38:21-40:38.

9th March 2024/29 Adar1.

Then the cloud covered the tabernacle of meeting, and the glory of the Lord filled the tabernacle. (Exodus 30:34)

Picture By Helen McNeill

Picture again the community of Israel. The Tabernacle, the meeting place with God, is at the centre of the camp. The family home is a tent. The tents are ordered by clans and tribes around the Tabernacle. God gave the design of the Tabernacle through Moses to the skilled craftsmen. It may be useful this week to browse again through the pages of the Book of Exodus to ensure that this can be envisioned and understood, as we reach the last few Chapters of the Book. With everything completed according to pattern, it pleased God to come down in the form of a pillar of cloud and of fire to be at the centre of His people.

Moses had been shown the pattern of the heavenly reality. As pilgrims on this earth, with everything in order, the families of Israel were soon to begin their journey from the Mountain of God to the Promised Land. Walking with God, they were intended to live in a manner, limited only by the physical world, reminiscent of the heavenly reality, the dwelling place of God Most High.

Our imagination and artistic attempts to replicate the picture of Israel in the wilderness fall far short of what the people themselves actually experienced. The families of Israel would come out of their tent each morning and see the cloud over the Tabernacle. From a close range, they could watch Aaron and his sons dressed in ornate beautiful garments, go into the Tabernacle area to minister in intercessory prayer on their behalf. With the pillar of fire by night and cloud by day, the Tabernacle was indeed visible evidence of the glory of God. It had begun when Moses erected and dedicated the Tabernacle, which we read of in our portion this week. Yet, on our continuing journey with Israel through the Scriptures we will discover that, despite the glorious beginning, trials, failures, battles and suffering lay ahead.

The failure of Israel as the years went by, as well as their high points with God, are intended to teach us. This is what Paul said, speaking in general terms of Israel’s history: Now all these things happened unto them for examples: and they are written for our admonition, upon whom the ends of the world are come (1 Corinthians 10:11).

The pattern for the community and the pilgrimage of the Israelites which Moses was shown represents the reality which is still in Heaven today. Though we do not see this, it is as real for us today as it was for the Israelites. We do, however, have a glimpse of it through what John described in the Book of Revelation.

After these things I looked, and behold, a great multitude which no one could number, of all nations, tribes, peoples, and tongues, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed with white robes, with palm branches in their hands, and crying out with a loud voice, saying, “Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!” All the angels stood around the throne and the elders and the four living creatures, and fell on their faces before the throne and worshiped God, saying:

“Amen! Blessing and glory and wisdom,
Thanksgiving and honour and power and might,
Be to our God forever and ever.

(Revelation 7:9-12)

In our Torah portion this week, the High Priest was robed with his ornate garments and set aside for his ministry. Aaron’s ministry foreshadowed that of Yeshua who is at the centre of the congregation in John’s heavenly vision. The weakness of their human nature prevented the Children of Israel, throughout history, from holding fast to the representation of the heavenly pattern in the lives of the people. It was intended that they were to move through this life and eventually experience the fulness of the heavenly reality which they modelled.

It is the same for us as it was for them and continues to be for all people on earth whether Jew or Gentile. God’s purpose is for us to journey through this life together with Him waiting for the Heavenly Kingdom to be fully brought in. The failure of Israel, despite the wonderful beginning described in the Book of Exodus, is a lesson to all of us that the New Covenant brought by our High Priest, Yeshua HaMashiach, who is greater by far than Aaron, is needed to enable us to fulfil the heavenly pattern on this journey.

To teach us, we have both the description of the community of Israel in the wilderness encamped around God’s presence, and with the vision of the final heavenly reality shown to John. With the help of the Holy Spirit, we too have the opportunity to form our believing communities to model on earth what we will experience in Heaven. The glory of God is given to us through the Holy Spirit in our lives, not in a Tabernacle made with hands.

There have, nevertheless, been times when God’s physical presence has been known comparable to when the pillar of fire stood over the Tabernacle. For example, during the Welsh revival of 1904 one of the many stories related to a small barn where meetings took place. Crowds flocked to this little barn each evening to hear the Gospel preached, until there was no more room inside. Those who continued to gather outside would see the shekinah glow of God descend on the building whilst the meeting took place, where many people turned to the Lord in worship and repentance. Such wonderful physical realities still do occur when God chooses, but even more wonderful is the daily presence of God in our inner beings, in our families and in our believing communities. Our experience can be likened to the tongues of fire that were on the heads of the disciples when the Holy Spirit came down, that we read of in Acts 2. We may not experience the visible tongues of fire, but the Holy Spirit comes in no less glory to us as He did to them.

Beginning with our ordered family structure, taking our place in the worldwide congregation of believers, God must be at the centre. Unlike the single priestly Tribe of the Levites we, who are redeemed by the shed Blood of Yeshua, are all part of the priestly family of the New Covenant. Our High Priest, Yeshua HaMashiach, is in Heaven and one day will return to earth, like Aaron emerging from the Tabernacle of Meeting on the Day of Atonement. Our opportunity then, is to consider carefully how can we study the types and shadows of the Old Covenant to help us understand the greater fulfilment of the New Covenant, so that we will order our lives on the pilgrimage of life that we share. If the glory of the Old Covenant was as great as we read it in the Torah, how much more the glory can be in our family life and the life of the believing community in fulfilment of the New Covenant.