DIG: What is meant by cloud, fire, and shelter (see Exodus 40:34-38)? What is the purpose of the canopy that God will spread over those who come to Him? What does Isaiah mean by being safe from the heat of the day and the storm and rain?
REFLECT: How is God a shelter and a hiding place from the storm and the rain for you today? Who holds your universe together? Who can you count on when it seems like your life is spiraling out of control? Why? How?
To illustrate the protection to be granted to the new Zion, Isaiah draws on Israel’s experience when they left Egypt and their wilderness wanderings where the Shechinah glory led them for forty years. The Shechinah glory is the visible manifestation of God’s presence, mostly, but not always, seen in either the form of light, fire, or cloud (or a combination of these). In the millennial Kingdom, the cloud and the fire, which will provide light and warmth, returns and covers all of Mount Zion (Exodus 13:21-22). Then ADONAI will create over all of Mount Zion, and over those who assemble there, a cloud of smoke by day and a glow of flaming fire by night (4:5a). Several images would be brought into play in the hearers’ minds by the allusions to the cloud of smoke and flaming fire contained here.
First, they would help to establish a sense of continuity with the past and let the hearers know that the words of judgment in 2:6 to 4:1 did not mean that the LORD had not abandoned His ancient Covenant (see my commentary on Exodus Cg – After Leaving Succoth they Camped at Etham).
Secondly, they would reaffirm that after the Shechinah glory had left, ADONAI’s ultimate intention was to fulfill the promise that He would indeed dwell among His people (see my commentary on Exodus Hh – The Glory of the LORD Filled the Tabernacle). Ezekiel 43:1-5 reveals to us that the Shechinah glory will return to the millennial Temple (see my commentary on Revelation Fj – My Chosen People Will Inherit My Mountains).
Thirdly, the cloud would point to God’s care for them as seen through the protection and guidance afforded by the cloud of smoke by day and a glow of flaming fire by night (Exodus 14:19-20; Numbers 9:15-23).
In the Tabernacle, ADONAI dwelt in the midst of His people (see my commentary on Exodus Gn – The Immanuel Principle: God With Us), but His tent of meeting was closed to them (see my commentary on Exodus Gy – Moses and the Tent of Meeting). Not so anymore! God’s Shechinah glory, like a tent, will be a canopy that provides safety and peace for His people (4:5b). His divine presence, like a bridal canopy, will be a hiding place for His people.
It will be a shelter and shade from the heat of the day, and a refuge and hiding place from the storm and rain (4:6). The doubling of words here is deliberate, suggesting every possible protection imaginable. The phrase then the LORD will is literally: And now let Me tell you what I Am about to do. The use of the Hebrew present implies an irrevocable decision and prompt action. Isaiah concludes with the Shechinah glory. There will be five distinct manifestations of the Shechinah glory in the messianic Kingdom. Isaiah is dealing here with just one of those five. First, is the Most Holy Place in the millennial Temple; secondly, the Shechinah glory will shine through the transparent jasper wall around the city of Jerusalem (see my commentary on Revelation Fu - The New Jerusalem had a Great, High Wall with Twelve Gates); thirdly, a millennial Mount Zion, or the Mountain of the LORD mentioned in Chapter 2; fourthly, this Mount Zion will be seen all over Isra'el; and fifthly, the messianic Person, Yeshua Messiah, Himself.
The canopy of cloud and fire, so terrifying to the enemies of ADONAI, will be a source of comfort to the believing remnant. The same fire that purged them would then be their protection and hope. In language that reminds us of Psalm 91, the psalmist declares that neither blinding sunlight nor driving rain can hurt those who belong to God. The pagans fear natural forces, but those who rest in the shadow of Shaddai, the Almighty One (Psalm 91:1 CJB), have nothing to fear from the authorities and powers (Romans 8:38; Ephesians 1:21-22, 6:12) of this world.
Who holds the universe together? No one but God, who is infinitely superior in strength and power, knows all things, and sustains the universe. That’s mighty!
The Teaching Ministry of Jay Mack 2006-2017