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
In the weeks leading up to the High Holy Days, the Jewish people focus on Scriptures from the Torah that provide hope and inspiration as they prepare for Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur. This is one of 12 devotions on the hope we have as people of faith. To learn more about the High Holy Days, download our complimentary devotional guide.
Our Scripture today is the final verse in the book of Exodus. It 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.
What makes this particular verse so significant is what had transpired only several chapters earlier when the Israelites became impatient waiting for Moses to come down from Mount Sinai. Not knowing what had happened to him, they decided to make their own god to worship — a golden calf.
Take a moment to think about that. The Israelites had just experienced the revelation of God at Mount Sinai and had verbally agreed to an eternal covenant with Him. Just 40 days later after hearing God Himself direct them not to worship idols, they had flagrantly done just that.
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?
Then we read Exodus 40:38 —among the most encouraging of 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.