Pequdei (Accounts) – “Weight of Glory”
The eleventh and final parashah of the Book of Exodus comes to an exciting conclusion with the appearance of the glory of God in the completed Tabernacle. Exodus 40:34 tells us, “the cloud covered the Tent of Meeting, and the Presence of the Lord [kavod Adonai, hwhy dAbk] filled the Tabernacle” (NJPS).
For the past ten weeks, since the introduction of Moses in Shemot, the Israelites have been set on a soul-searching journey into the wilderness. It began with the deliverance and Exodus from Egypt, and it now culminates with God’s glory residing in their midst. If you did not know any better, you might think that a considerable amount of time has passed because the people have been through an intense period of getting to know their Creator. But instead, it has just been over one year since Moses first appeared and demanded that the Egyptian Pharaoh let them go. The Tabernacle was assembled on the first day of the first month of the second year following the Exodus (Exodus 40:17). With the Tabernacle now constructed and ready to go, the assembly of Israel would pack it up and move at the Holy One’s explicit direction:
“Then the cloud covered the tent of meeting, and the glory of the Lord filled the tabernacle. And Moses was not able to enter the tent of meeting because the cloud had settled on it, and the glory of the Lord filled the tabernacle. And throughout all their journeys whenever the cloud was taken up from over the tabernacle, the sons of Israel would set out; but if the cloud was not taken up, then they did not set out until the day when it was taken up. For throughout all their journeys, the cloud of the Lord was on the tabernacle by day, and there was fire in it by night, in the sight of all the house of Israel” (Exodus 40:34-38).
In just over a year, this camp of Hebrew men, women, children, and integrated sojourners, constituted the emerging nation of Israel. This former rabble of slaves was now a body of free men and women chosen by God to be “a kingdom of priests and a holy nation” (Exodus 19:6), being raised up as a light to the world to convey His goodness to all (cf. Isaiah 42:6).
Through Moses, the Lord has revealed just enough about Himself and what He requires for His glory to reside among humans with various sinful inclinations. For the first time since the Garden of Eden, God’s glory can dwell with people in a somewhat tangible and observable manner. The instructions for the Tabernacle, its implements, and the courtyard surrounding it have been followed explicitly. Then at the appointed time, Moses anointed and consecrated the Tabernacle and everything in it. He then washed Aaron and his sons and anointed them in their holy garments: “Thus did Moses: according to all that the Lord commanded him, so did he” (Exodus 40:16).
One can only imagine the excitement that was running through the hearts of the Ancient Israelites as the construction project came to completion. Remember that over the course of the previous year the Lord had revealed a tremendous amount about who He is and what He requires of His people. Israel had witnessed the judgment upon Egypt. They saw the ten plagues and the devastation they caused, and they benefited from the Passover offering by avoiding the death of the firstborn. The miracles at the Red Sea crossing were still etched in their memories. The trauma of hearing the voice of God from the trembling mountain and the unanimous decision to let Moses be their mediator could never be forgotten. Receiving the Ten Commandments and other instructions started to outline rules and regulations for human interactions and how Israel would be formed as a nation.
Of course, the incident of the golden calf had horrific consequences. Not only did judgment fall upon the people by the sword-wielding Levites, but a plague sent by the Lord judged all whose hearts were not right (Exodus 32:35). If you will recall, the material needs for the Tabernacle were mentioned in the text before the rebellion of idol worship occurred. God used the remorse, and perhaps even guilt, of these incidents, to generate an overwhelming response when the material was finally gathered. As we reviewed last week in V’yakheil(Exodus 35:1-38:20), hearts were stirred and the outpouring was so great that the people were ordered to stop.
As I meditated upon this week’s Torah portion, a summary of the Book of Exodus kept coming into my mind. It was incredible to comprehend what happened to Ancient Israel in just a little over a year of real time. From the bonds and burden of human slavery to encampment around the Tabernacle, this was quite a journey. The weight of God’s glory (kavod, dwbK) was now in their midst—rather than the yoke of servitude. Once the glory of God fell, Moses was unable to enter the Tent of Meeting:
“Moses could not enter the Tent of Meeting, for the cloud rested upon it, and the glory of Hashem filled the Tabernacle” (Exodus 40:35, ATS).
Apparently, the presence of the Holy One of Israel was so intense that human interaction with Him was difficult to achieve. Even the beloved Moses was hindered from entering the Tent of Meeting. As I thought about this, I wondered about other recorded times that the glory of God fell upon Israel.
The completion of Solomon’s Temple was a time when the glory of God fell upon the Israelites gathered. Similar to what occurred in the wilderness, the priests were unable to enter because of the intense presence of God:
“It happened that when the priests came from the holy place, the cloud filled the house of the Lord, so that the priests could not stand to minister because of the cloud, for the glory of the Lord filled the house of the Lord” (1 Kings 8:10-11).
“[I]n unison when the trumpeters and the singers were to make themselves heard with one voice to praise and to glorify the Lord, and when they lifted up their voice accompanied by trumpets and cymbals and instruments of music, and when they praised the Lord saying,‘He indeed is good for His lovingkindness is everlasting,’ then the house, the house of theLord, was filled with a cloud, so that the priests could not stand to minister because of the cloud, for the glory of the Lord filled the house of God” (2 Chronicles 5:13-14).
According to the statements about the completion of the Tabernacle, and the testimonies from when the Temple of Solomon was dedicated, the manifestations of the glory of Godwere so intense that those gathered were either prevented from moving, or perhaps even forced to bow down. While considering these passages, I wondered about the times when I have felt the literal weight of God’s glory in my own spiritual experiences over the years.
Psalm 22:3 immediately comes to my mind: “Yet You are holy, O You who are enthroned upon the praises of Israel.” There have been times during praise and worship when I have felt the weight of God’s glory in the room where I have been worshipping. These have been very special times when the Lord has ministered to me.
As I pondered this thought, I was reminded of a vision from the Prophet Isaiah, which in some way conveys how one might respond if he or she were standing before the Throne of God:
“In the year of King Uzziah’s death I saw the Lord sitting on a throne, lofty and exalted, with the train of His robe filling the temple. Seraphim stood above Him, each having six wings: with two he covered his face, and with two he covered his feet, and with two he flew. And one called out to another and said, ‘Holy, Holy, Holy, is the Lord of hosts, the whole earth is full of His glory.’ And the foundations of the thresholds trembled at the voice of him who called out, while the temple was filling with smoke. Then I said, ‘Woe is me, for I am ruined! Because I am a man of unclean lips, and I live among a people of unclean lips; for my eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts’” (Isaiah 6:1-5).
For some reason, whenever I think of this passage, I envision Isaiah prostrated on the ground, barely looking up at the Throne of God, crying out for our mercy before the Holy One in light of the exposure of his human sins and limitations. Here, Isaiah confesses his state of total sinfulness. Isaiah says that he is a person of unclean lips, and lives with those who likewise have unclean lips.
Contemplating this passage, I was reminded of the title of this week’s text, Pequdei or “Accounts.” As it begins, we see the amount of actual weight in the precious metals and jewels used in the Tabernacle project (cf. Exodus 39). For some reason, the Lord reminds us that He is very mindful of particulars. Then without hesitation, I recalled a passage in the Gospels from the lips of Yeshua:
“But I tell you that every careless word that people speak, they shall give an accounting for it in the day of judgment. For by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned” (Matthew 12:36-37).
I thought about all of the careless words that come from human beings’ unclean lips. Note how Yeshua made this statement when He was being accused of being demon possessed:
“But if I cast out demons by the Spirit of God, then the kingdom of God has come upon you. Or how can anyone enter the strong man’s house and carry off his property, unless he first binds the strong man? And then he will plunder his house. He who is not with Me is against Me; and he who does not gather with Me scatters. Therefore I say to you, any sin and blasphemy shall be forgiven people, but blasphemy against the Spirit shall not be forgiven.Whoever speaks a word against the Son of Man, it shall be forgiven him; but whoever speaks against the Holy Spirit, it shall not be forgiven him, either in this age or in the age to come. Either make the tree good and its fruit good, or make the tree bad and its fruit bad; for the tree is known by its fruit. You brood of vipers, how can you, being evil, speak what is good? For the mouth speaks out of that which fills the heart. The good man brings out of his good treasure what is good; and the evil man brings out of hisevil treasure what is evil” (Matthew 12:28-35).
This week (in 2003) I was made aware of a person who believed that a gospel presentation which was recently given was actually from Satan. This was rather interesting, because it was made from viewing a videotape. If this individual had looked a bit more closely at the video, then he would have observed a number of people prostrated on the floor and on their knees. Saying that something comes from the Devil is a major accusation. Was the presence of God present at the event recorded? In my opinion, there certainly were many evidences of His presence from the testimonies that came forth. I dare say it would have been best for this person to reserve his judgment, pending future evaluation.
While reflecting on these things, I caught myself and began praying for the person who believed the work of the Holy Spirit was demonic. I began praying for his soul, knowing that he may be unable to discern or differentiate between the acts of the Devil and the acts of the Most High. I prayed that he was simply immature in his spiritual walk, and that the Lord convict him of any wrongdoing. I also found myself confessing any unloving thoughts I had when I initially heard these accusations. To be fair, I know that I can also misunderstand the ways of the Lord and make incorrect conclusions.
Weight of Glory
As you can see from Pequdei, we have come a long way from meditating on the history of Israel’s deliverance from Egypt to the introduction of God’s glory in the Tabernacle. In many respects, this is how the study of God’s Word is to cleanse us of unrighteousness—by reminding us of our shortcomings and our need for a Savior. Without Yeshua’s precious blood covering us, and the unconditional love He has shown for us—those of us with unclean lips, living among those with unclean lips, would never be able to come into God’s presence. My prayer is that each of us would seek the place where the weight of His glory would be upon us continually as our lips offer Him praise!
“Through Him then, let us continually offer up a sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of lips that give thanks to His name” (Hebrews 13:15).