June 6, 2015
The cloud of glory was God’s presence, protection, provision and preparer. Yet for the children of Israel to follow God’s cloud, they needed to trust Him—even though they were uncertain where He was leading them, even though it might be uncomfortable where He stopped for a while. Paul says these things are an example for us. V’eemru? (And let us say?)
Numbers 9:15:16 describes the fire-cloud: “On the day the Tabernacle was erected, the cloud covered the Tabernacle. By evening until morning, the cloud above the Tent of Testimony had an appearance like fire. It was that way continually. The cloud covered it, and by night it appeared like fire.”
The same phenomenon appeared as a cloud by day and a fire by night—the Jewish Publication Society Commentary calls it a “cloud-encased fire”: “During the day only the cloud is visible, the fire, presumably, dimmed by the sunlight. But night renders the cloud invisible, and the luminous fire can be clearly seen.”
Whether day or night, it was a glorious sight! The fire-cloud covered the Tabernacle or Mishkan.
It is from its association with the Mishkan that it later came to be called the Shekhinah. Mishkan and Shekhinah come from the same Hebrew root, meaning to dwell. So God dwelt among His people in the cloud of glory.
I chanted Bamidbar (Numbers) 9:17-18. “Whenever the cloud lifted up from above the Tent, then Bnei-Yisrael would move out, and at the place where the cloud settled, there Bnei-Yisrael would encamp. At the mouth of ADONAI, Bnei-Yisrael would set out, and at the mouth of ADONAI they would encamp. All the days that the cloud remained over the Tabernacle, they would remain in camp.”
The Hebrew for “settled” is yishkon—from the same root as Mishkan—i.e., dwell, abide, tabernacle.
John 1:14 recalls the glory of God’s presence: “the Word became flesh and tabernacled among us. We looked upon His glory, the glory of the one and only, from the Father, full of grace and truth.”
HaShem delights to dwell among His people—or even within us, as the Temple of His Spirit. Isaiah 4:5, “Then ADONAI will create over the whole area of Mount Zion and over her assemblies a cloud by day and smoke and shining of a flaming fire by night. For over all, glory will be a canopy.” The Hebrew for canopy is chuppah—like a canopy over a wedding couple, or the chuppah that we spread over our children to bless them, so God’s cloud was a chuppah of His intimate presence and blessing. We see God’s presence and blessing under the chuppah, too. V’eemru?
HaShem covers His people with His presence, and also protects us. Psalm 105:39 says, “He spread a cloud as a covering and fire to give light at night.” In all their wanderings, God’s cloud protected the children of Israel from the heat of the sun. Whether encamped in the presence of the cloud, or following the cloud through the wilderness, the children of Israel looked to the cloud for their daily provision of manna, the bread from heaven. Whenever the cloud lifted up, the children of Israel would move out, and wherever the cloud settled, the children of Israel would encamp.
So the cloud of God was their guide; also their preparer. For He knew that His children were not ready to go directly into the Promised Land. For generations they had been slaves in Egypt, relying on the Nile to provide. Now they would need to learn to trust God for His protection and provision. When the cloud lifted, they didn’t know exactly where He was going, though presumably leading them closer to the Promised Land. They had to trust that He knew where He was going.
When the cloud settled, it was often in a wilderness and it might be uncomfortable. They had to trust that He would provide for all their needs there. It would do no good to complain about the journey or the provision; rather give thanks for the manna for each day. But alas, they often kvetched….
How are we doing?
In 1 Corinthians 10:1, Paul recalls that “our fathers were all under the cloud” yet in verses 5-6, he warns, “God was not pleased with most of them, for they were struck down in the desert. Now these things happened as examples for us, so we wouldn’t crave evil things, just as they did.”
The experience of our ancestors is an example for each of and for all of us together.
Has anyone here feeling like you are wandering in a wilderness, wondering where God is leading you? The song “Eli, Eli” speaks of this experience: “Like a pillar of fire, like a column of cloud, Your Spirit leads me through. In a still small voice guiding every choice, Lord I lean on only You.”
In your wilderness, you need to see the Spirit leading you through—He may not be a visible fire-cloud, yet the Spirit of Messiah dwelling in you lead you with the gentle prompting of His still small voice. V’eemru?
I know that many of you are also wondering, with Wellspring closing, where will be going? As you heard when Art called me up to the bimah to read from the Torah, my Hebrew name is Moshe. Often I have felt the parallels between yours truly and my namesake. I’m sure he often heard the people saying, like children in the back seat, “Are we there yet?” I’m guessing Moshe would have preferred to lead the people directly to the Promised Land. He certainly did want to see it for himself. I certainly would like the engineers and commissions to tell us we are good to build.
As I was writing this sermon, our engineer Glenn Harris wrote me, “No reply from Kim Zieger at LCCD (Lehigh County Conservation District) to confirm the water zone but will copy you on a reminder of that today. I have not gotten hold of the DEP [Department of Environmental Protection] official. As for the cloud, it’s a great illustration; though we are having a hard time seeing the end game in this project… surely the cloud will lift.”
If are in the wrong public water zone, we can’t even build the storm water infiltration system that
the Township & County engineers are requiring… and that’s a catch-22! Oy gevolt!
Before writing my message, I was crying out to God about it. Then the Ruach pointed out that my uncertainty was part of the lesson He wants to teach us about following the cloud… a lesson about walking by faith. If we knew exactly how and when we will get there, we wouldn’t need much faith, would we?
During the Time of Waiting on the Lord last Shabbat (thank your Barbara, for your notes): Kim Varner said, “I was pondering about Beit Simcha as a community and also about all the struggles and worries that I have had about it, and just what’s facing us in the near future, not knowing where we’re going to be. The Lord just said to me: It’s so simple. You’re just like the children of Israel. A few weeks ago you repented of wanting to be in your comfort zone. Egypt was like a comfort zone to the children of Israel. They didn’t want to leave Egypt until it got too hard for them. Once they made the exodus in the wilderness they did not know where they were going but that’s where they learned to be a community. And when they got into the land that’s where they began to follow the Torah. Right now we are still in our last days of our comfort zone and we will be making an exodus to wherever we go. It will be during that time that we will learn to be a community. In our new building it will be as if we are entering the land. May it be so, Lord.” V’eemru?
The Spirit of God in the Shekhinah cloud had His reasons for stopping along the way. He had lessons to teach in the wilderness about trusting Him, about becoming strong in Him so that they would ready to overcome opposition, occupy the land and be good and responsible stewards.
How many think these may be lessons for us as well?
Though Wellspring is closing, the Christian Mission Alliance is willing to let us stay longer. So for a couple of months, through the summer, it looks this place will be a stopping place. But let’s not get too comfortable, OK? When the Spirit of God arises, we must be ready to move out. V’eemru?
Last month, I told you above four independent prophecies all saying that we would to an interim space before we move into our permanent building. So the elders have been looking. At the Tikkun RESTORE conference, I received several more prophetic words.
Todd Westphal of Congregation El Shaddai (who recently completed their own building project in Frederick, MD) prayed over me and said that he saw us in a temporary facility that would be like David’s tabernacle, where we would be able to see the permanent facility be built, like Solomon’s Temple. There would be much celebrating and working together, and the Lord will continue to supply resources to complete the work.
Well now, that’s five prophecies about a temporary facility before the permanent one! Todd even showed us what could be accomplished in this move. Can you see it?
It so happens that the elders have been looking at a temporary facility that is directly across the street from the Gangewere lot where we hope to build our Synagogue & Community House:
Trexlertown Grange. This afternoon, three of our leaders will meet the leaders of the Grange to see if we can firm up some details, then we’ll invite the whole congregation to take a look at it after oneg on June 27. (The Grange has events there this Shabbat and next and our congregational picnic at the Levys is the 20th.) Then we’ll seek the Lord to confirm that the cloud is indeed moving there.
Meanwhile, we need to pray in faith.
At the end of the conference, Nick Negoescu shared the following with me: “I saw a vision of a huge white circle. [The whiteness was a perfect harvest of wheat and people. In the center of the circle was our new building raised up and more and more harvest coming out from the building. There was a direct and short path straight to the building from the southern side or the bottom direct to the building.
BUT there was a huge wall surrounding the harvest completely around the harvest of people. GOD showed me that this wall was direct opposition to the building being built. It was a wall hasatan has built to stop this building from going forth.
HE further showed me that if the elders and leaders of the congregation would agree to pray at the same time, for just 5 minutes, this wall would come down. Once that wall comes down, it would be a very short time until the building is built.”
The elders and intercessors have joined Nick in prayer every evening around 7:15pm, until we break through the obstacles for our project. V’eemru? Will you join us?
Shortly before the conference closed, an African-American woman named Iris, from Ahavat Yeshua, pointed at the rendering of our building and said, “Greater purpose … the Lord has a fulfill a greater purpose through what you are doing here for Him.”
I don’t know all of it, but a lot of this greater purpose is our vision: “We are a community welcoming Jews and Gentiles.” How many of you believe it is our destiny and purpose, to build a community?
Does part of the purpose God has given you connect with this greater purpose of ours? Perhaps part of our purpose is to revitalize Trexlertown Grange as a community connected to ours?
As they followed the cloud through their wilderness for some of our ancestors it may have seemed like a trackless waste—what was the point? But for Moses, Joshua and Caleb—there was always a goal. Every step of the way was preparing them. HaShem is preparing us—and we are preparing for Him. V’eemru?
This sermon may not to be reprinted in whole or in part without the express written consent of Messianic Rabbi Glenn D. Blank of Beit Simcha. Your generous support for our ministry and building project is appreciated!
Questions for Breakout Discussion
What was the Mishkan? What was the Shekinah? What was their relationship?
How do we experience the presence of God dwelling among us today?
How do we know when and where to move out or when and where to encamp?
How did the cloud protect the children of Israel? How does God protect you?
How did following the cloud through the wilderness prepare the people for the Promised Land?
How will our willingness to follow the cloud prepare us for what God has promised our community?
Why might God’s cloud lead His people to a less comfortable place? What about us?
Was it wise for Bnei-Yisrael (the children of Israel) to complain about God’s provision?
What do we learn from their example?
Are there any questions about the prophetic messages concerning our direction?
Connected with Nick’s call for united prayer for breakthrough, Nancy again got a prophetic word based on Zechariah 4:6-9, when the prophet was encouraging Zerubabbel, Joshua and the people to rebuild the Temple: “Then he responded to me by saying, ‘This is the word of ADONAI to Zerubbabel saying: “Not by might, nor by power, but by My Ruach!” says ADONAI-Tzva’ot. “What are you, great mountain? Before Zerubbabel you will become a plain. He will bring out the capstone with shouts of “Grace, grace” to it.'”
Again the word of ADONAI came to me saying: “The hands of Zerubbabel have laid the foundation of this House. His hands will also finish it.”
By speaking to capstone, “Grace, grace to it,” the prophet was causing it to move to its right place. Similarly, we should pray in unity, at the same time, through the block that is hindering us from breaking through, “Grace, grace to it.” Then, like Zerubabbel, we will be able to remove the block, lay the foundation and finish it.
The elders and intercessors have joined Nick in prayer every evening around 7:15pm, until we break through the obstacles for our project. Will you join us?
Late yesterday, Pamela found a Sue Samuel wrote a song based on this week’s portion, including Numbers 10:34-35. The cloud of ADONAI was over them by day when they advanced from the camp. Whenever the Ark would set out, Moses would say: “Arise, ADONAI! May Your enemies
be scattered! May those who hate You flee from before You!”
You should recognize verse 35—it’s what we chant just before our Torah processional:
Kumah, Adonai! Arise, Lord! V’yafootzo And scattered be oyvecha your enemies.
Let’s sing this song of victorious faith with Sue Samuel….