My reading today encompassed Numbers 9, and I have been contemplating the Shekinah glory, the cloud that led Israel for 40 years.
Including women and children, there were approximately 2 million people wandering in the desert for 40 years - and all of them had been slaves. They had the slave mentality - they wanted everything provided for them, they wanted to be protected, they saw themselves as weak. I often think that is a perfect picture of us as Christians - we have the slave mentality. It is not for nothing that the Word tells us we were bought out of the slave market.
We want clear direction from God, none of this trusting in the dark business. We want to be provided for - our bodies well, our monetary needs taken c/o, protection in our weaknesses. When we come to a place where we get thirsty, or hurting, or worried about money, we react the same way the Israelites did, altho we seldom put it into words: You brought me here to die of thirst? Why couldn't You have left me alone? I was doing well, feeling good, had my plan all set to go and then blam! You threw a gigantic, overwhelming roadblock in my path? Why, God? And we whine in our hearts and wonder what the heck is going on - as though God can't hear the murmuring going on in our hearts: I want meat. I miss the garlic and onions. This manna stuff is boring. Same thing every day: manna for breakfast, manna for lunch, manna for dinner. This stuff gets old....and on we go.
But the Israelites had the visible presence of God with them.
In the hot, dry, parched desert, they had a cloud covering that shielded them from the worst of the heat and burning sunshine. A cloud big enough to cover 2 million people! A personal appearance of the God that busted the Egyptians in the chops and opened the gates to set them free. So out they went, following the 80 year old guy who says he hears God talk to him and give instructions.
This God is a new guy, too - they had gotten used to the Egyptian gods - a god for every animal, a god for your shoes and clothes and to give you money and keep you well and now they have just One God. He showed them He was stronger than all the Egyptian gods rolled into one, but the only one who actually sees Him is this Moses guy.
So they whine to the Moses guy - every time they stub their toe, it's Moses' fault. He takes too much on himself. He doesn't let anyone else say anything - he's the big Kahuna and that's that. "I'm just as smart as he is" they say to themselves. "Why do we have to obey him - we can't do all the raucous promiscuous stuff the other gods let us do - if we mess with this One, He kills us outright. It's Moses' fault. He's the one that made us leave our safe homes and all that good food - we didn't know how good we had it."
And while we don't go that far, our bottom lip sticks itself out there when things are rough or our feelings are hurt by someone, or we get sick.
And we excuse ourselves, sometimes, because we have to walk by faith, and we don't get to see the One Who bought us.
But lets look at what the Israelites saw:
This ginormous cloud that shielded them - one day, our of the blue, it would rise up and the trumpet would blow, telling them to get ready to move out.
The first time, they had been in their spot by the mountain for a year and one month. They had settled in: ready water supply, a place for their livestock, the tabernacle all set up, their tents had accumulated stuff and now they had to pack it all up and get ready to trudge who knew how long before they could rest again.
"What's going to happen to us? Where will we be going? Will someone attack us? Granny will have a hard time keeping up. So will my little ones." and so on, their hearts full of fear and wondering if that "horrible manna" would follow them as well.
And taking it for granted.
And then, at night, the cloud became fire. The flickering lights were scary. This was something they understood, the dangers of fire. Only this fire was alive!
The flame must have been unbelievably high for the last of the 2 million on the fringes of camp to see it. Just imagining setting up camp for the evening - when did the cloud begin to glow? to turn from a hazy protector to this dancing, radiant tower of light and flame? And that flame would call Moses into the tabernacle and when he came out, he glowed with this same unearthly light.
So I wondered how that would translate to us, in our present state of walking by faith.
We do have a Shekinah glory, only this one is within us. He shields us from seeking things to satisfy our thirst - and if we come to Him daily, He gives us manna. We have to come to Him daily - the manna can't be left overnight or it rots and gets stinky.
Boy, is that a picture of backsliding! When we expect Sunday's spoonful of preaching from the Pastor to last us all week, we can pretty well count on something rotten and stinky showing up in our hearts. We quietly slip something that is not God onto the throne of our hearts, and think it's ok - and suddenly we find ourselves stuffed with garlic and onions and it's rotting and smelling and we wonder how on earth we ended up this way.
So God lets us stumble on our own for a bit - in a long, dark night where something hard blocks our way and we feel abandoned in the darkness.
If we come to our senses and let Him cover us with His wings, the Shekinah fire, which was there all the time, suddenly warms us and encourages us and helps us to humble ourselves before Him. We may not have a Moses to blame, but if we don't bow before Him, we'll begin blaming anything that moves. Our pride of life is always ready, eager and waiting for the chance to jump back on that throne and start ordering us around, and in our panic for something visible to follow, we welcome this chance to devise our own plans for getting out of this mess, and blam! Another roadblock slams down right in front of our path - again.
We chafe and complain and want this over with - now! And it never occurs to our enslaved mind that perhaps, just perhaps, the hedges that have boxed us in are for our protection. That plan we devised leads right over a cliff and yet we cannot comprehend why God won't let us implement it.
So we immediately bow before Him, confess and receive forgiveness, and get back on the narrow path immediately, right?
Perhaps you do. I tend to mutter a bit and ask why and stumble around in the dark for awhile until, in His mercy, God nudges me in the right direction and I have an "Aha!" moment.
Because the simple fact I have come to discover is, we all have that slave mentality in our heart of hearts.
We want things clear, the path clear, the reason for the fly in our ointment clear, the pathway fulfilling and spiced correctly and provided for us with no muss or fuss. We want to waltz out in front of the unbelievers and have water parted for us right in front of them and find our streets made of gold right now, thank you very much. And most of all we want to have a simple concise answer to that question.
You know what question.
The one that everyone asks: "Where was God when...?" fill in the blank.
When all along, the answer is "right there".
He is shielding us by day, glowing in our hearts when the night is long and dark and the pain is fierce.
And we don't realize that trusting He is covering and glowing without the seeing is our privilege. In all of mankind's history, the church is the only entity that has the Person of the Holy Spirit within us, sealing us, walking alongside of us,
And it is that very indwelling that is ready to take us out of slavery.
Because the only thing that enslaves a child of the Living God is the chains we forge ourselves.