Whenever Moses went out to the tent, all the people would rise up, and each would stand at his tent door, and watch Moses until he had gone into the tent. When Moses entered the tent, the pillar of cloud would descend and stand at the entrance of the tent, and the LORD would speak with Moses. And when all the people saw the pillar of cloud standing at the entrance of the tent, all the people would rise up and worship, each at his tent door.
Why can’t the whole Book of Exodus just end right here after this verse? What a fairytale of redemption the story would be! Talk about a turnaround! This, to me, is every bit as dramatic and unprecedented as the conversion of Judah’s life we witnessed back in Genesis. Remember how Judah masterminded Joseph’s enslavement, profited from it, kept the lie hidden for years even to his father’s hurt, fornicated with a relative disguised as a prostitute and tried to kill her when she became pregnant? He was a cowardly, self-indulgent, wicked man whose life was heading only one direction until that metamorphic moment when he confessed his sin aloud. Then, within a few chapters, to our astonishment, he was the brother who offered to sell himself as a slave in the place of his youngest brother! I stood in awe of God’s patient, transformative power then, and I’m doing the same now as I read the wondrous lines of Exodus 33:8-10 and don’t know quite how to take them.
These pilgrims have just had ashen water forced down their throats. They’ve just watched Levi’s sons obliterate 3,000 of their comrades. They’ve just suffered from an unrecorded plague that God released on their heads. So where has the bitterness gone? Where’s the discontent? They used to watch Moses ascend the mountain like wily teenagers, giddy for their chaperone to disappear out of sight so the party could begin. Now, they follow Moses to the tent of meeting in their hearts. Now, they watch in excited expectation as he passes through the veil. Now, they understand that Almighty God isn’t just here for Moses—He’s here for them too!
Moments of quiet communion like these are the real rivers of milk and honey in a wilderness world, aren’t they? It just doesn’t get any better than this!