In this short series of articles we shall look at ten recorded occasions when the glory of the Lord was seen by men on earth.
In Exodus chapter 16 the children of Israel had been delivered from Egypt by blood and by power. Their feet were now on the other side of the Red Sea, but hardly had the song of redemption left their lips, when they ‘murmured against Moses and Aaron and against the Lord’, v. 2. They even said, ‘Would to God we had died by the hand of the Lord in the land of Egypt when we sat by the flesh pots and when we did eat bread to the full, for ye have brought us forth into this wilderness to kill this whole assembly with hunger’, v. 3, seemingly forgetting the slavery that went with it! Could not God, who had so miraculously brought them out of Egypt be trusted to supply their need? Then, as they looked toward the wilderness, the glory of the Lord appeared in the cloud. The Lord then said to Moses, ‘I have heard the murmurings of the children of Israel: Speak unto them, saying, at even ye shall eat flesh and in the morning ye shall be filled with bread, and ye shall know that I am the Lord your God’, v. 12. So God graciously supplied their need for the whole of the wilderness journey.
According to John chapter 6 the manna was an unmistakable type of Christ. He said, ‘As the living Father hath sent me and I live by the Father: so he that eateth me, even he shall live by me’, John 6. 57. May the Lord help us to feed on Him daily!
In Exodus chapter 24 verse 16 God had called Moses and Aaron, Nadab and Abihu, together with seventy of the elders of Israel to worship afar off. Only Moses was to come near the Lord to receive the tables of stone and the law and commandments for the people. To ratify the conditional covenant, Moses built an altar, took blood and sprinkled half of it on the altar, representing God’s part in the covenant. The other half he sprinkled on the people, signifying their determination to keep their part of the agreement. The people had said, ‘All the words which the Lord hath said will we do’, v. 3, little realizing their powerlessness to do so. When Moses went up again into the mount, the cloud appeared and the glory of the Lord abode upon Mount Sinai. The sight of that glory was like devouring fire on the top of the mount in the sight of the children of Israel.
What a blessed time to come for Israel, when the Lord says, ‘I will put my laws into their mind, and write them in their hearts … and their sins and their iniquities will I remember no more’, Heb. 8. 10-11.
The third recorded occasion of the appearance of the glory of the Lord is found in Leviticus chapter 9 verse 23. The chapter begins with the mention of ‘the eighth day’. For seven days following his consecration, Aaron was shut up in the tabernacle, then he came forth to begin his service. He is seen for the first time as an offering priest. Most, if not all, of the offerings offered were as ‘the Lord commanded’. Each animal sacrifice typified an aspect of the Person and work of the Lord Jesus. When all was accomplished according to the divine requirements, Aaron and Moses, went into the tabernacle then came out and blessed the people and the glory of the Lord appeared. Fire then came out from before the Lord and consumed the burnt offering and the fat. When the people saw it, they shouted ‘and fell on their faces’, v. 24.
We might remember the words of Paul in Corinthians, ‘If anyone think himself to be a prophet, or spiritual, let him take knowledge of the things which I write unto you, that they are the commandments of the Lord’, 1 Cor. 14. 37. Whilst we do not expect a visual appearance of the glory of God as Israel did, yet through obedience to His word we can enjoy a real sense of the Lord’s presence as we gather, Matt. 18. 20.
Numbers chapter 14, the fourth recorded occasion at which the glory of the Lord appeared, marks a turning point in Israel’s wilderness experience. Whereas the journey, thus far, had taken about thirty days, they were now to wander for about forty years. They were so near to the Promised Land, yet so far. Why was this? The Epistle to the Hebrews states it was because of that soul-destroying element – unbelief. God had told Moses to send twelve men, one from each tribe, to search out the land of Canaan. Ten returned with a bad report of the conditions there. Two were confident that God was able to bring them there in spite of the difficulties. The ten looked only at the problems, the two looked to their God. They said, ‘If the Lord delight in us then he will bring us into this land’, v. 8. The whole congregation rose up in rebellion and would have stoned them. It was then that the glory of the Lord appeared. If it had not been for the intercession of Moses, God would have destroyed them all. God said to the people, ‘Ye shall not come into the land … but your little ones … will I bring in … as for you, your carcases, they shall fall in this wilderness … ye shall know my breach of promise’, vv. 30-34 .
The warning in Hebrews is, ‘Take heed, brethren, lest there be in any of you an evil heart of unbelief, in departing from the living God … Today if ye will hear His voice harden not your hearts, as in the provocation’, 3. 12, 15. 1 Corinthians chapter 10 reminds us, ‘All these things happened unto them for ensamples: and they are written for our admonition upon whom the ends of the world are come. Wherefore let him that thinketh he standeth, take heed lest he fall’, vv. 11-12.
In Numbers chapter 16, there are two instances of the appearance of the glory of the Lord. In this chapter we have the record of one of the most awful visitations of punishment seen upon the pages of scripture occasioned by the rebellion of Korah, Dathan and Abiram. They gained the support of 250 of the princes of the people – ‘men of renown’. They challenged the leadership of Moses and Aaron, which was of God. When Moses heard it, he fell on his face.‘Tomorrow’, he said, ‘the Lord will shew who are his’, v. 5. They certainly had time to think over the folly of their action. They were told to bring their censers and to see whom the Lord would choose. This they did and, as they approached the tabernacle, the glory of the Lord appeared.
As the congregation were told to separate themselves from the rebels, God dealt with them in a dreadful way, the earth opened up and swallowed them – never to be seen again. As for the 250 others, fire came out from the Lord and consumed them. The Epistle of Jude comments on this incident as a warning to last day scoffers.
Evidently they were unchanged after witnessing such awful judgement. ‘The whole congregation gathered against Moses and Aaron’, as they looked towards the tabernacle. ‘Behold the cloud covered it, and the glory of the Lord appeared’, v. 42. The Lord then said to Moses, ‘Get you up from among this congregation, that I may consume them as in a moment’, v. 45. What was Moses to do in such an emergency? He immediately thought of atonement. He told Aaron to take a censer, with fire from the altar, to go quickly and make an atonement for them. Aaron did so and ran among the congregation. Then the plague, which the Lord had sent, stayed, but not before 14,700 had died.
But we end our meditations in this chapter on a happier note. In Numbers chapter 26, in the second numbering of the people, the incident of these judgements is recalled, with the added words, ‘notwithstanding the children of Korah died not’, v. 11. In wrath, God remembered mercy. God had service for them to do for in 1 Chronicles chapter 9 verse 19 they became the doorkeepers of the tabernacle and in 2 Chronicles chapter 20 verse 19, they were the leaders of the praise in the temple.