In all of the travels of the Israelites, whenever the cloud lifted from above the tabernacle, they would set out. . . .
— Exodus 40:36
I had eaten the last of my peanut butter on the Appalachian Trail and needed more food. So at Rockfish Gap, I decided I would leave the trail and go into town to replenish.
That’s not how the Israelites made decisions during their wilderness journey. They waited for a signal. God had instructed his people to build a tabernacle, a large tent, to serve as a portable sanctuary for worship. At the tabernacle God would dwell in their midst, and the people could worship him there. God’s glory hovered over the tent, and whenever it lifted, they would set out and follow wherever God would lead them next.
The tabernacle in the wilderness pointed forward to the temple that would be built in Jerusalem many years later (1 Kings 6). What’s more, both the tabernacle and the temple pointed forward to another mark of God’s presence among his people. John 1:14 tells us that “the Word”—that is, Jesus—“became flesh and made his dwelling among us.” The original Greek text there says, more literally, that “the Word became flesh and pitched his tent among us, and we beheld his glory.” Jesus came to bring God’s glory in human flesh among his people, and now, through the Holy Spirit, he lives in our hearts and is present with us wherever we go. He calls us to serve others, and he promises never to leave or forsake us.
Jesus, you came to live among us. Help us to know your presence today and always, as you lead and guide us in our journey to serve you and others. Amen.