The Bible mini-series which premiered on the History channel in March, 2013, portrayed Moses at the burning bush with special effects. The bush was ablaze with a huge glorious brightness, and God spoke to him from the midst of the fire (Exodus 3:2-4). This incidence in Scripture was probably the first appearance of Shekinah Glory, a visible manifestation of God, symbolizing His presence.
The Hebrew word Shekinah is not found in Scripture, but its derivatives show up many times, translated as “dwelling.” Therefore Jewish rabbis referred to instances of the Glory of God being visible to His people as the Shekinah Glory, a reminder of God’s presence dwelling with them. Other biblical occasions of Shekinah Glory follow.
When God delivered the Israelites from Egyptian bondage, He led them in the wilderness as a pillar of cloud by day and a pillar of fire by night (Exodus 13:21-22). Not only did God lead the Israelites by this means, but it could be that the cloud provided daytime shade in the desert and nighttime heat for their comfort.
They camped at Mt. Sinai, where God gave Moses their legal system including the “Ten Commandments,” as well as the procedures for offerings and feasts, along with detailed plans for making the Tabernacle and its furnishings. At Mt. Sinai, the Shekinah Glory looked like a cloud enveloping the mountain and a fire on the top of it (Exodus 24:16-18).
After spending time on the mountain with God, Moses asked Him for a favor. “Please show me your glory.” God answered that no one could see His face and live, but He graciously put Moses in a cave or rock chasm. Then God covered the cave with His hand and passed over it. He removed His hand long enough for Moses to see His back or literally, His “after-effects” (Exodus 33:18-23). When Moses returned to the people, they could not stand to look at him because his face shown so brightly. He had to wear a veil to talk with them (Exodus 34:34-35).
After the Tabernacle was completed and erected, the Shekinah Glory came and filled it up like a cloud (Exodus 40:34,38). After that, the pillar of cloud and fire dwelt over the Tabernacle. When a pillar lifted, the Israelites knew it was time to pack up and follow. This continued until they were in the Promised Land and the Tabernacle had a permanent place at Shiloh.
The Shekinah Glory also filled Solomon’s Temple when it was dedicated (1 Kings 8:10-11). However, the people gradually stopped following God and turned instead to idols. Since God will not share His glory (Isaiah 42:8) and the people no longer wanted God’s presence, God gave Ezekiel a vision of the Glory of the Lord departing from the temple and the city (Ezekiel 10:18-10) But God also promised it would return to the New Temple and the New Jerusalem, which prophecy will be fulfilled in the future (Ezekiel 43:4-5).
Finally, God manifested His glory in the person of Jesus, who is “the brightness of glory and the express image of His person” (Hebrews 1:1-3).
What do we learn from Shekinah Glory? God wants us to know Him. He is a personal God who will dwells with us when we welcome Him (John 1:14). When God took on a human body and came to Earth, His disciple John said, “We beheld His glory, the Glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth” (John 1:14). The essence of God’s glory is grace (undeserved favor) and truth. All the truth we need to know about God is found in His Word. God’s Word is truth (John 17:17).
People who want to know about God should take the Gospel of John challenge: read John’s 21 chapters and write down two things. (1) Who Jesus said He was, and (2) Why He came to earth. Afterward, post your comments here about what you learned. You may find it to be a “glorious” experience.
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