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B'Midbar/Numbers 10:11 The cloud was lifted from over the Tabernacle of the Testimony
This remarkable event - the lifting of the cloud that presaged the move away from Mt. Sinai - is immediately prefaced by a date: "It was in the second year, in the second month, on the twentieth of the month". How long had the Israelites been there? How long was it since they came out of Egypt?Rashi helps us here: "they spent twelve months less ten days at Horeb, for, see now, on the first of the month of Sivan (the third month) they encamped there, and they did not travel until the twentieth of Iyyar (the second month) of the following year." Rashi is working from Moshe's account: "In the third month after the people of Israel had left the land of Egypt, in that day they came to the Sinai desert" (Shemot 19:1).
Sforno tells us something else about the significance of the date: "After those who were unclean had offered the second Pesach lamb on the fourteenth day of the month, the trumpets were made with which the congregation and princes were called to Moshe ... and thus the cloud ascended to move forward to Kadesh Barnea." Before the people could move forward, certain things had to be set in place and everything made ready for the journey, the campaign, the entry into the Land. The early chapters of B'Midbar have covered a lot of ground: the census, the banners for the tribes, the purification of the camp, the consecration of the Levites, the dedication of the altar, the offering of both Pesach sacrifices and the making of the trumpets. Now Israel was ready to enter the Land. Nechama Leibowitz comments, "Their whole progress in the wilderness was governed by the hand of Divine Providence and they marched forward led by their Heavenly Sovereign: 'At the command of the L-rd, the children of Israel journeyed, and at the command of the L-rd they pitched' (B'Midbar 9:18"). After all the preparation, Israel moved off, at the pre-arranged time and signal - "they moved out for the first time according to the commandment of the L-rd through Moshe" (B'Midbar 10:13, NASB) - a signal that was obvious to all, confirmed by the blowing of the trumpets.
The prophets spoke of many things that were to come, both in their time and ours, as we draw towards the conclusion of days. Some were fulfilled in their lifetimes - Jeremiah's prophecies concerning the capture and destruction of Jerusalem by the Babylonians, for example; some awaited fulfillment until the time of Yeshua, when many prophecies were fulfilled concerning the coming, the death and the resurrection of Messiah. Others, spoken by the prophets before Yeshua's time, by Yeshua Himself and by the New Covenant writers, still look for their fulfillment to the present age or beyond, depending on G-d's exact timetable. Of one thing we can be certain, however, that the established pattern will be maintained: a time of announcement and preparation to that all should be ready, a clear and unambiguous signal so that all may move forward together in an orderly way, and a significant moving of the people of G-d that no-one will be able to miss. That sounds very much like the format Yeshua and Rav Sha'ul used to describe the L-rd's return, but it is a pattern that has been repeated many times before and will yet be used again at the very end of times.
On three separate occasions within just a few chapters, the prophet Isaiah used the word 'new' in connection with things that G-d was announcing. "See, the former things have come to pass, and new things I now declare; before they spring forth, I tell you of them" (Isaiah 42:9, NRSV); "Do not remember the former things, or consider the things of old. I am about to do a new thing; now it springs forth, do you not perceive it?" (Isaiah 43:18-19, NRSV); "You have heard; now see all this; and will you not declare it? From this time forward I make you hear new things, hidden things that you have not known" (Isaiah 48:6, NRSV). Notice the time progression, from a context of things having happened and new things yet to be spoken, to one of moving beyond the past and into a future that is just about to happen, finally to a time of using the past as a basis for declaration because new things are now being spoken. Over 2,600 years later, the same patterns are being reworked again as we can see waves and ripples of revival spreading as the kingdom of G-d breaks through in our days.
After Peter's inspired confession that Yeshua was the Messiah, the Son of G-d, at Cæsarea Philippii, the three synoptic gospels all record a change in Yeshua's ministry. "From that time on, Yeshua began making it clear to His talmidim that He had to go to Yerushalayim and endure much suffering at the hands of the elders, the head cohanim and the Torah-teachers; and that he had to be put to death; but that on the third day, He had to be raised to life" (Matthew 16:21, CJB; cf. Mark 8:31, Luke 9:22). Yeshua was preparing the disciples for what was about to happen, even though they didn't understand it at the time, so that when it did come to pass they would recognise it and then later, with the benefit of hindsight, understand why it had to be and use it as the basis for their witness and proclamation of the gospel.
We are living in the end of the prelude to the last days, at a time when even the most orthodox of Jewry can say, "the buttons are all polished and we can hear the footsteps of Messiah in the hall". Truly G-d is moving among our people as more and more of the youth in Israel are coming to faith in Messiah and there are outbursts of Holy Spirit power with healing and resurrection happening all over the world from India and the Far East to Florida and South Carolina in the USA. The cloud has lifted from the Tabernacle and is calling G-d's people to move out. Are you ready?
Further Study: Shemot 40:36-38; Luke 9:28-36
Application: What part can you play in these days to be ready for what G-d has already started to do? Now is the time to seek His face and lay everything at His feet so that we can all fully participate in the coming of the Kingdom of G-d.
© Jonathan Allen, 2008
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