That is why the Holy Spirit says, “Today when you hear his voice, don’t harden your hearts as Israel did when they rebelled, when they tested me in the wilderness. There your ancestors tested and tried my patience, even though they saw my miracles for forty years. So I was angry with them, and I said, ‘Their hearts always turn away from me. They refuse to do what I tell them.’ So in my anger I took an oath: ‘They will never enter my place of rest.’”Hebrews 3:7-11
In the second year after Israel’s departure from Egypt—on the twentieth day of the second month—the cloud lifted from the Tabernacle of the Covenant. So the Israelites set out from the wilderness of Sinai and traveled on from place to place until the cloud stopped in the wilderness of Paran. When the people set out for the first time, following the instructions the LORD had given through Moses . . .Numbers 10:11-13
I have used this quote on numerous occasions to make it clear to you that it was God’s intention to take the people of Israel from Sinai to Paran. I didn’t want you to miss the point. Allow me to pause and explain a little more clearly before ‘we leave Paran’. How simple was guidance back then for the Israelites? God had made it clear that they were to move when He moved. Follow the pillars people: the pillar of cloud by day and the pillar of fire by night. When they stop, you stop; when they move, you move. Wouldn’t you like that kind of guidance now? Of course you would! How easy knowing God’s will would be! Well, that is how easy it was for the Israelites, but still they managed to try His patience. Do you think you would be any different? I know I am not. I have told you through many Ian Stories how I am prone to worry and have given in to doubting His word to my heart over numerous issues until I have learned more and more to trust Him at His word and move forward. One other thought arises in my mind with the idea of the pillar of fire. I wonder how many times they travelled in the cool of the night.
It is clear from the text above that God’s intention was to take them to Kadesh-Barnea in the wilderness of Paran. Oh you know now they made many stops along the way, many of which were named after the events in each place which had a negative connotation to them as a result of how the Israelites acted there. For example, isn’t it ironic that they came to Rephidim which had the meaning of ‘delightful rest’ but which turned into ‘testing’ and ‘arguing’. In the very place where God intended to bless them and give them respite and rest at Rephidim, where He would deliver them water in abundance, they complained and argued to the point where they lost the sense of rest and delight (in Him).
But there is more, way more behind this text. It may surprise you to know what I learned as I have dug into the passage for years. Sinai, in the wilderness of Sinai (Horeb) which means barrenness or desolation, the people of Israel saw a glimpse of the LORD’s glory. From that point on to today, the Jews associate Sinai with Glory. Sinai is the ‘Glory Mountain’. It is the place where even Moses’ veiled glory gained from God’s afterglow was enough to dazzle and frighten the Israelites.
Paul talked about this when he wrote:
But we all with our face having been unveiled, having beheld the glory of the Lord in a mirror, are being changed into the same image from glory to glory, as from the Lord Spirit. [LITV]2 Cor 3:18
Take careful note of what Paul wrote in the context of his description of that very ‘glory experience’ on the mountain at Sinai. He describes our glory road (experience) as a journey from glory to glory. Now where did he get that idea from do you think? I think he got that from the text of Numbers 10:11-13 and more. I have told you already that Kadesh-Barnea simply means the holy place of Barnea, where It may surprise you to know that Barnea appears to have no significant meaning. However [קָדֵשׁ] (Kadesh) comes from the Hebrew root meaning ‘holy’. There is much speculation as to what was there at Kadesh-Barnea. Some think that it was a place of an oracle of some form, others that it was a holy place by virtue of what happened there. The dual name could mean ‘the holy place of desert wanderings’. Any attempts to pin the location to modern day sites has only spawned vague, unsubstantiated claims to various possibilities. I don’t see any reason to list them for you as nothing good can come from them.
However I have found the name Paran contains something quite remarkable. The word for desert in Greek is [eremos] which means a desert, a wilderness or can just simply mean uninhabited or uncultivated ‘scrub land’. The Hebrew term you already know is [מדבּר] (midbar) which you know means wilderness. The sense in Hebrew is the same as in the Greek term. It can mean a desert, a wilderness or just simply uncultivated or uninhabited land. This explains the query of some of you as to how the Jews could find water in the desert so easily.
Now let’s turn to the really remarkable aspect of this. The term ‘Paran’ as a proper noun is interesting to say the least. [פּארן] has been difficult to ascertain its meaning. Most sources suggest it means something like place of “caverns”, or even “ornamental” according to Strong’s concordance from the root [paw-rawn]. Keil and Delitzsch list something quite extraordinary as the meaning for [paran]. The root of the word is a weak Hebrew verb which has an aleph (א) in the QAL form of the verbal stem. Keil and Delitzsch suggest the verb has an archaic Nun (n) ending to it turning the verb into a noun which has the meaning “to endow with glory”. That my friends is absolutely amazing given the context the word is found in and given the statement Paul makes in 2 Corinthians 3:18.
Is it indeed possible that God’s intention was to take the Israelites directly from Sinai to Paran, from “one degree of glory to another”. Just as Paul suggests in the verse above, which as I have said before was written in the context of Moses’ Sinai experience of glory. Oh Moses was not able to enter into the Promised Land nor the abiding glory it seems, but it appears as though God’s plan was for the Israelites to go from one degree of glory to another. But not only did they fail to enter the rest; they also failed to encounter or experience God’s increasing level of glory. The meaning of Paran seems to indicate that God can and will endow us with glory where the glory comes and remains on us, or is that in us?
I have known times of God’s glory coming upon me and squashing me into the carpet. It happened the first time in my house in Matamata around 1977. I had been wokened by the LORD in the early hours of the morning, about 2.00 am and had the sense that I should go into the lounge and sit in His Presence. I sat for about a half hour talking to the Lord and reading my Bible. As I recall, I read the passage in Exodus 33 about Moses in the Lord’s presence and his face glowing. I was worshipping the Lord and then put on the John Michael Talbot album The Lord’s Supper. After listening for a while I felt to get on to my knees and bowed down with my face to the carpet. Suddenly I felt like there was a weight came on me pressing me into the carpet. I felt I was pinned to the carpet and couldn’t move. It was both scary and glorious at the same time, but left me shaken. When I could finally move, I sat on the floor wondering what to make of it all. I was filled with questions and a little fearful at the strangeness of the experience and so I phoned our Pastor, Dick Hemmings.
Bless his heart, he responded to my call in the wee small hours and came over with Weston Finlay, after which I explained to them what had happened to me. They reassured me that this wasn’t as kooky as I thought. That this was one of the ways that God’s glory can come upon us. The feeling is like being squashed down or held down by a heavy weight and being unable to move because of the Presence of the LORD. That was the first time I learned that the Hebrew word for ‘glory’, [kabod] (pronounced kavod) means weight.
One more point before I close this Gem. There are many times we plateau in our learning and practice of important things. We humans have a tendency to learn something new and then imagine that we know everything about it. When that happens we stop learning any more. But that is not a good attitude to take with the things of God. As my Greek Prof, Basil Brown, used to say, “Ian, there is always more to learn related to the ways of God. Always press on to learn all He has to teach you.” That is a classic piece of advice when it comes to the ‘Glory of God’. Take note that Moses and the people of God learned about the glory of God at Sinai. But God had more for them to learn. In fact His expressed purpose was to take them on to Kadesh-Barnea in the Wilderness of Paran, to the point when He would endow them with Glory and His glory would be upon them. I can’t help but ponder many questions related to this process.
- Was His glory being set upon them a prelude to the glory later being within them?
- Did Moses experience more glory in this process in Paran or did he miss out by not going on into Canaan?
- What happens with us when and if we quit too early?
I will never forget something Gordon Fee told us in a seminar in Auckland when someone asked a question about the validity of “being slain in the Spirit”. Gordon’s comment was to the effect, “Think about the number of times when people fell before God or ‘the angel of God’ and the response was always “get back up on your feet.” God suggested maybe “falling under the spirit” is a way to prematurely remove yourself from what God is doing. God always wants to do more.
I will leave you with that thought.
Our problem is that we go from toy to toy rather than from glory to glory.A. W. Tozer
There are 100 billion galaxies. Why so much space for so few earth dwellers? The heavens are telling the glory of God not man.John Piper
If I had a million brains I could not fully process all the ways God is working around me right now for my good and for His glory.Louie Giglio
A man can no more diminish God’s glory by refusing to worship Him than a lunatic can put out the sun by scribbling the word, ‘darkness’ on the walls of his cell.C S Lewis
If Moses could only see the afterglow of God’s glory and if that afterglow was enough to make the Israelites hide their face from the intensity, what does that say about the Glory of God?Ian