Among Us

I last wrote about the significance of Moses realization that he needed to know Yahweh’s character in addition to His presence. I did this by looking primarily at Exodus 33. The next step is looking at Yahweh’s presence in relation to sacred space.

First a brief primer on sacred space. Eden was sacred space because Yahweh dwelt there and when Adam and Eve sinned, they could no longer remain in sacred space. When Moses met Yahweh in Exodus 3:2-6 he was instructed to remove his sandals, he was on holy ground, sacred space. We see a more explicit understanding of sacred space in the role of the scapegoat. We are likely all familiar with the term scapegoat but we may not know the origin. Below is the Levitical passage that is the source of the term. I have used the ESV as it clarifies something missing in many translations.

10 but the goat on which the lot fell for Azazel shall be presented alive before the Lord to make atonement over it, that it may be sent away into the wilderness to Azazel. Leviticus 16:10 (ESV)

Azazel is the Hebrew term usually translated into English as ‘scapegoat.’ However, the Ancient Near East literature from the Second Temple period and the Dead Sea Scrolls inform us that Azazel is a proper name. Azazel was viewed as the leader of the rebellious Elohim who fell in Genesis 6. In Ancient Near East culture, the sea and the desert both represented chaos, darkness and the realm of the fallen ones. In the annual ritual the live goat was being sent to Azazel not sent as a sacrifice. Once the sins of the nation were confessed over the goat and the goat was taken to the wilderness the sins being sent to the place and being to whom they belonged, Azazel.

21 Aaron shall lay both his hands on the head of the live goat, confess over it all the iniquities of the children of Israel, and all their transgressions, concerning all their sins, putting them on the head of the goat, and shall send it away into the wilderness by the hand of a suitable man. 22 The goat shall bear on itself all their iniquities to an uninhabited land; and he shall release the goat in the wilderness. Leviticus 16:21–22 (NKJV)

Here, Israel was cleansed of sin both through sacrifice and ritual at the tabernacle as well as sending the sins of the nation to Azazel. This is a primer for understanding the role of sacred space in Israel in terms of Yahweh’s ability to dwell among them. In Exodus 33-34 following the golden calf incident a distinction is made between Yahweh appearing versus dwelling among or in the midst of Israel.

We see it in Exodus 33 and 34.

3 Go up to a land flowing with milk and honey; for I will not go up in your midst, lest I consume you on the way, for you are a stiff-necked people.” Exodus 33:3 (NKJV)

8 So Moses made haste and bowed his head toward the earth, and worshiped. 9 Then he said, “If now I have found grace in Your sight, O Lord, let my Lord, I pray, go among us, even though we are a stiff-necked people; and pardon our iniquity and our sin, and take us as Your inheritance.” Exodus 34:8–9 (NKJV)

Whenever Israel failed disaster struck the nation. If Yahweh went among them and they sinned again they would be consumed due to His holiness. There needed to be a way for Yahweh to dwell among them without consuming them, a way for Him to ‘go among’ them as Moses requested. Exodus 13:20-22 describes the behaviour of the pillar of fire and the cloud, the manifestations of Yahweh’s presence, as going ‘before’ Israel, never among them. Then we have Exodus 33:7-11 describing Yahweh’s presence descending on the tent of meeting but it had to be ‘outside the camp.’ We only see His presence in the camp once the Tabernacle of Moses is completed. Chapter 40 describes all of the rituals and sacrifices required in the setting up and use of the Tabernacle. The result is a transition in how Yahweh interacts with them as He is now among them.

34 Then the cloud covered the tabernacle of meeting, and the glory of the Lord filled the tabernacle. 35 And Moses was not able to enter the tabernacle of meeting, because the cloud rested above it, and the glory of the Lord filled the tabernacle. 36 Whenever the cloud was taken up from above the tabernacle, the children of Israel would go onward in all their journeys. 37 But if the cloud was not taken up, then they did not journey till the day that it was taken up. 38 For the cloud of the Lord was above the tabernacle by day, and fire was over it by night, in the sight of all the house of Israel, throughout all their journeys. Exodus 40:34–38 (NKJV)

The important part is that the Tabernacle of Moses was in the midst of the people of Israel not outside the camp. In Numbers 2 Moses provided instructions for how the tribes of Israel were to camp. They were set up three tribes to each of the four directions, north, south, east and west with the Tabernacle in the middle.  

 An additional part around the role of the Tabernacle relates to the Ark of the Covenant. It was Yahweh’s dwelling place, His footstool (heaven is my throne and earth is my footstool, Isaiah 66:1). This is why we see the following verses in scripture.

7 Let us go into His tabernacle; Let us worship at His footstool. 8 Arise, O Lord, to Your resting place, You and the ark of Your strength. Psalm 132:7-8 (NKJV)

41 “Now therefore, Arise, O Lord God, to Your resting place, You and the ark of Your strength. Let Your priests, O Lord God, be clothed with salvation, And let Your saints rejoice in goodness. 2 Chronicles 6:41 (NKJV)

The people wanted Yahweh to be active among them in His dwelling place, to arise ‘to’ rest upon the Ark of the Covenant between the wings of the cherubim. As a bit of an aside, when I was twenty-two, I had started attending church off and on. The Lord had not yet captured my heart, that would happen at 25. However, I had read and knew a fair bit of scripture. I was in a service and they sang the song ‘O the Glory of His Presence’ based on Psalm 132:8. Not knowing that the song writer had gotten it wrong and written ‘arise from your rest’ rather than ‘arise to your rest’ I pointed this out to the pastor. Rather than showering me with effusive praise he brushed me aside. I was genuinely trying to be helpful and though I didn’t understand all the significance at the time, I knew ‘to’ was correct. Yahweh isn’t engaged in resting and needing to join the people, He is present and the request is for His manifest presence on His resting place.  

            Now, it is important to look at what this means for us as believers. When we were born again the Holy Spirit brought about a new birth in our spirit and we became His dwelling place individually and corporately (1 Corinthians 3:16-17, 6:19). As a result, we both are and also carry sacred space. We carry Him with us wherever we go and one of our jobs is to influence the spiritual atmosphere around us by asking Jesus to move with us as His resting place whenever we interact with others. Let’s do that.

Here is the song Oh the Glory of His Presence by Jesus Image. They do the song correctly with ‘to Your rest.’

Oh The Glory Of His Presence (Live) – Bing video

Published by


I have been walking with Jesus since 1985. I am currently retired from my career in the helping professions but still focused on ministering to others. I completed a Doctorate of Philosophy in Apologetics in September 2020.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *