So the cloud of the LORD was over the tabernacle by day, and fire was in the cloud by night, in the sight of all the Israelites during all their travels. - Exodus 40:38
The Torah portion for this week is a double reading, Vayakhel-Pekudei, from Exodus 35:1-40:38. Vayakhel means "assembled," and Pekudei means "counting." The Haftorah is from 1 Kings 7:51-8:21.
This week we conclude the book of Exodus. The very last verse reads, "So the cloud of the LORD was over the tabernacle by day, and fire was in the cloud by night, in the sight of all the Israelites during all their travels." God's presence among the Israelites was so tangible and so visible that every Israelite was able to behold a vision of God's glory.
Let's take a moment to appreciate this reality in the context of last week's reading. Last week, we read all about the sin of the golden calf. Just after experiencing the revelation of God at Mount Sinai and verbally agreeing to an eternal covenant with Him, the Israelites created a golden calf for worship. They committed idolatry just 40 days after hearing God Himself direct them not to worship idols.
The Jewish sages use an analogy to describe the gravity of this sin. Imagine that a couple gets married and goes on their honeymoon. One day, the husband goes scuba diving, while the wife goes shopping. While she is out, she bumps into an old flame. They have drinks together and one thing leads to another, and before you know it, she has committed adultery - on her honeymoon! That's exactly how the sages describe the sin of the golden calf. The Israelites were just "married" to God, so-to-speak. They took their vows and pledged loyalty for life. Yet not much later, they betrayed God in favor of a false god.
Is there any hope for such a relationship?
The end of this week's Torah portion is among the most encouraging in all Scripture. After sinking to the deepest depths in their relationship with God, the Israelites rose to a new level that they had never previously achieved. The book of Exodus ends by telling us that not only had God forgiven the children of Israel for such a grievous sin, but that He also was dwelling among them in a way never experienced by any other people on earth. It's as though the husband forgave the wife, took her back, built a home with her, and went on to have a happy marriage.
Friends, don't be too quick to lose hope or give up - on ourselves, on anyone else, or on any situation. No matter how bad things have gotten, the possibility for complete healing and reconciliation still exists. Let us be encouraged to forgive, to mend relationships, to improve our own character, and to reach out to God. Above all, let us be encouraged to hope. It's been said, "As long as there is life, there is hope." I would add that as long as there is hope, there is life.