We learn from the cloud in Exo 33. 9 that it indicates the Shekinah (presence) of God. The cloud would indicate the presence of God and this concept is seen in the festival of Sukkot. Sukkahs, or booths, were made and built on a roof and it must be made so that you can see the “stars.” This is to remind the people of the “clouds of glory.” This concept means those who have gone before. Heb 11.1-40 tells us about the “hall of faith” and then in Heb 21.1 it says, “Therefore, since we have so great a cloud of witnesses surrounding us (referring back to Heb 11).”
But they are “dead”, or are they? Yeshua proved those that have gone on before us are not dead by saying that “I am the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob” to Moses. He didn’t say “I was” but “I am.” So, in the wilderness the concept of the cloud being a witness is a picture of the future kingdom, called the Atid Lavo or “future coming.” There will be people who will miss the “gathering” or the Natzal and have survived the Birth-pains in their natural bodies. They will not have glorified bodies because they are still having children, and they will eventually die (Isa 65.17-25). But there will also be people in the kingdom with glorified bodies. These are the one who were resurrected at the Natzal, and those who were alive at the time were changed into glorified bodies in the “twinkling of an eye” (1 Thes 4.13-17; 1 Cor 15.50-58).
The world will be different in the Atid Lavo, and people in physical bodies will have longer lifespans. So, we have the clouds (those with glorified bodies) living with those with physical bodies. This is what is conveyed in Heb 12.1 and what was pictured in the wilderness.
So we have two major pictures here with the cloud. We have the Shekinah and we have the cloud of witnesses. We have verses that say the Messiah will come with “many thousands of his holy ones” (Jude 14; Deut 33.1-2). Matt 24.30, Mark 14.62 and Rev 1.17 says that Yeshua is coming with the “clouds” and this means the holy ones (tzaddikim/saints). Dan 7.13-14 says that the Son of Man (Bar Enosh) came with the “clouds of heaven” up to the Ancient of Days and received authority and a kingdom.
In Exo 33.12-15 Moses says he wants to know who is going to help him, and he asks to know the way of the Lord. The Lord tells him “my presence shall go with you and I will give you rest.” The Mishkan will be the answer to all of these questions for Moses and the People. His Shekinah (presence) will be there and all the commandments associated with the Mishkan will show them the Way of God.”
Exo 33.16 says, “How then can it be known that I have found favor in they sight, I and thy people? Is it not by the going with us, so that we, I and they people, may be distinguished from all the other people who are upon the face of the earth?” Now, how are we distinguished or differentiated from the others on the face of the earth? We are distinguished by the commandments of God and by what we eat and don’t eat, etc (Deut 4.1-8; Est 3.8).
Many people believe that the clean and unclean food laws were given to Israel only, and that they were not for the non-Jew, but that is not true if you are in the Messiah. There is a misconceptions based upon many bible translations and multiple bad commentaries on the “new testament” that says believers can eat foods that were not permitted in Lev 11. For example, Matt 15.1-20 and Mark 7.1-23 is used to justify this. But the issue was over whether permitted food becomes unclean of one does not ritually wash his hands according to the tradition of the elders. Beit Hillel said you would ritually wash your hands only after a festive meal, Beit Shammai said you should ritually wash your hands at every meal. These verses are a halakic discussion between Beit Hillel and Beit Shammai, not an endorsement to eat what was not permitted in Lev 11. To say pork is now kosher is Replacement Theology, it is a golden calf.
In some translations, Mark 7.19 says that the digestive system eliminates the food we eat (into the toilet), purging all food. Some have translated this verse to say that Yeshua said “declaring all foods clean” here (NIV). That is not true and Replacement Theology. Matt 15.20 has a further explanation on this incident where it says, “But to eat with unwashed hands does not defile the man.”
This is why understanding the Torah on the food laws is so important. Yeshua could not be the Messiah if he went around changing the commandments, something he said he did not come to do (Matt 5.17). We know he followed the commandments in the Torah because they found “no sin in him” and “sin is the transgression of the Torah” (1 John 3.4). Rom 3.20 says “By the Torah is the knowledge of sin” and Eph 2.8 says “By the grace of God we are saved through faith.” Now, do we make void the Torah through faith? No, we establish the Torah (Rom 3.31).
So, Exo 33 deals with the Ohel Moed and the start of the gathering together of all the things commanded in Exo 25.1-9. Now they could begin on the Mishkan, after the incident of the Golden Calf. Exo 33.17-23 says that Moses wanted to see the glory (kivod) of God. The Lord said he would make his goodness pass before Moses, but he could not see his face and live. So, he tells Moses to stand on the rock (tzur) and his glory will pass by as Moses is in the cleft of the rock. He will cover Moses with his hand until he passes by. Then he would take his hand away and Moses would see his “back” but not his face. Now, the terms “my back” is “acharey” and it can mean “west.” In Gen 22.13 Abraham looked “afterwards” and that is “achar” (west). Abraham looked west to where the Holy of Holies and the throne would stand. Worshipers look west to the Holy of Holies and the throne when in the Temple.
Exo 33.17 says “And I have known you by name” and this is related to the concept that God has engraved us by name on his hand (Isa 49.16). The word for “glory” is “kivod” and this is one of the manifestations of God, along with the Shekinah and the Ruach Ha Kodesh. What most people see in these verses is Moses in a cleft of a rock. Then all of a sudden a :fire” or something “wisps” by and he hears the name of Yehovah said aloud. When the Jews read the passage they see something different. There are many names and titles of God, but only one is the unique name. It is used nearly 7000 times in the Tanak. The name Yehovah symbolizes God’s mercy, it is his mercy being revealed here.
We know that Moses could not see his face, but there is a “makom” (place) near him. There is a “rock”, which is a term for God and the Messiah (Exo 17.6; Num 20.8; Isa 2.10; 1 Cor 10.4). Makom is another name of God and the Temple (Gen 28.11-22; John 11.48). There is more being alluded to (remez) here than the literal (peshat). What Moses is experiencing is the mission statement of the Mishkan, and later the Temple. Moses says “Show me yourself” and that is what the Mishkan/Temple will do. First, he shows his mercy (33.19) and then he will place Moses in a certain place (makom) and from there he will be able to see the Lord. That is what the Mishkan/Temple does. He tells Moses to “stand” and that is the posture in the Mishkan/Temnple.
Moses is covered by “my hand” and this is a term for the Messiah. Yad Vashem is the holocaust museum. It means “name in the hand.” Moses will see “my back” and that is the word “achar” and can mean “west.” But the face of the Lord will not be seen. In the Mishkan/Temple, you look to the west, towards the Holy of Holies and the throne of God. We can see the Lord, his nature and his attributes in the Mishkan/Temple. They also can be manifested before us if we are looking for the right things.
God is going to reveal his attributes to Moses when he goes up to receive the second set of tablets with the commandments. Moses will cut them out and the Lord will write on them again. God will proclaim his name, or attributes, and Yehovah is proclaimed twice in 33.6. These attributes will be read in times of crisis, asking God for mercy.
When God reveals his glory he is “passing by” but we don’t comprehend it sometimes. We need to ask him for understanding by “inviting him into the boat.” Mark 6.44-51 tells us that the Lord revealed his glory in 6.44 by the miracle of the loaves, but the talmidim did not gain any insight from the loaves. The Lord is not playing games and there is no guile in him. We need to ask him for wisdom, insight, understanding and discernment and he will give it to us, but we need to be willing to change.
In Part 62, we will look at the attributes of God in Exo 33.6-7 and basically define them.