The Glory’s Departure
In the morning, after breakfast, we made our way through the crowd to observe the morning sacrifice at the Tabernacle. The crowd was large, with far more men than women in attendance, since it was required that all grown men appear before God three times a year at the feasts, if they were able. 100 Rebekah, Sipporah, and Ruth stayed at the tent and the sukkah to begin roasting the meat for the noon meal.
The tabernacle was situated on a plain above the town of Shiloh. It was built upon a stone foundation, and even the posts of the wall on the perimeter of the outer court were set in the stones. To get to the tabernacle, the people had to make their way along a narrow road along the side of a hill. 101
Though Hophni was not formally recognized as the High Priest, he had been assigned to offer the sacrifice with prayers and blessings, while the elderly Eli sat upon a chair on a raised platform at the “gate” of the city. This gate was the spot where the road began to ascend the side of the hill. From his perch, Eli was able to greet the people as they made their way up the hill.
At the tabernacle, I noticed some dark looks and a few grumbles among the men, and it was clear that they were not agreeable with Hophni’s new position. Yet no one dared to oppose him openly, for they knew that Eli had the authority to delegate such authority to his son, and few yet knew that the lamp of God had gone out.
The sacrifice was offered, the people waved their branches, and the priests marched around the altar, singing, “This is the day which Yahweh has made; Let us rejoice and be glad in it. O Yahweh, do save, we beseech Thee; O Yahweh, we beseech Thee, do send prosperity! Blessed is the one who comes in the name of Yahweh. We have blessed you from the house of Yahweh.” 102 When the ceremony was finished, the people began to disperse, and we walked back to the tent and to our sukkah.
As we were finishing our fine meal, Samuel arrived with a beautiful young woman. “This is my little sister, Deborah,” he said, introducing her to Sipporah and me. “Perhaps you remember her as a baby many years ago when you were at our house.”
“Yes,” Sipporah said, “I remember her very well! She was a cute baby then, and she has only gotten more beautiful, now that she is grown.”
“She is betrothed to Nathan,” Samuel said. “I thought it would be good to bring her here while we read the law. I was quite sure that Nathan would not object.”
“No one would dare to object!” Nathan said, blushing. We all welcomed Deborah into our midst.
“I am off duty this afternoon,” Samuel explained. “I would like very much to join with you in the study of the law and to discuss the nature of Yahweh.”
We all then sat back together, while Nathan, in his rich, clear voice, recited the first section of the law. It was the first speech that Moses gave to Israel in the plains of Moab 103 before commissioning Joshua to take his place. The word for this day related how God had led Israel out of Egypt and how, after forty years in the wilderness, He had finally brought them to the border of the Promised Land.
The second day would begin the law-sections, telling the people of the way of life that God intended for them, how to love God and their neighbor, and how to give justice to those who might be wronged. All of these speeches were to be read in the week of Sukkoth to prepare the hearts of the people to receive the promises of God. 104
We decided to skip the evening sacrifice ceremony and to focus upon studying the word. The enlarged sukkah made it possible for Pegasus and Pleiades to join us in silent worship. Sippore, too, returned to sit upon Pleiades’ back, listening intently to all that was recited and discussed.
After about two hours of earnest discussion, with periodic times of meditation to hear God’s voice and to discern new truth, the discussion turned to the topic that seemed to trouble Samuel’s heart.
“The glory of God,” Samuel said with a troubled tone, “the glory that once shined over the tabernacle of Moses, became hidden in the Most Holy Place after the tabernacle was set up at Shiloh. I have reason to believe—if I am discerning the heart of Eli correctly—that the lamp of God has gone out. I believe that the glory has now departed from the Ark.”
“Nathan has confided this to us already,” I said. “But tell us in your own words. What led you to believe this?” I asked.
“As you know,” Samuel continued, “Eli is called into the Most Holy Place once a year, where he sees the glory of God, even as Moses saw that glory in the Mount before His presence descended to the tabernacle. But soon after the execution of Rephah, on the very next Day of Atonement, when Eli entered the Most Holy Place to sprinkle the blood on the mercy seat, he came out looking frightened, as if he had seen some horrible thing, or as if some great disaster had befallen him. From that time on, he seemed to be crushed and to lose all hope, as if he had run out of life.”
“As for me, the distorted justice of religious, mortal men has taught me what is not; and the revelation of God has given me an understanding of Israel’s condition as it truly is. When I prayed to God, He seemed to answer from afar, and though I never lost contact with Him, I perceived a definite change in the spiritual atmosphere at Shiloh. I do not know how many others have felt it, but each year it seems that fewer and fewer people have attended the feasts. Eli has continued his duties, of course, but he remains troubled in his spirit. And now he has turned over most of his duties to Hophni.”
“The glory has indeed departed,” I replied, “but Israel does not yet know this. They come here to worship at an empty house, coming as sheep without a shepherd, not knowing that the glory has quietly been replaced by strange fire. It is no wonder Eli is afraid, for he knows he is responsible. He has brought shame to his house. So five days ago, was this the first time that Hophni had entered the Most Holy Place?”
“Yes,” Samuel said. “I wondered if he would survive the day. But like Eli, he lived.”
“No doubt he survived,” I replied, “only because the shekinah was no longer in the Most Holy Place. He survived for the same reason that his father survived earlier. The difference is that Eli had seen Yahweh’s glory in past years, whereas Hophni has never seen it—nor will he ever see it. It will be more than a hundred years before the glory returns.”
“But what shall we do, then?” Samuel asked with deep concern in his voice. How can Israel survive without God’s presence? It is His presence that makes us His people. It makes Israel unique among the nations. Without it, we are as other nations that have no living God.”
“This is certainly a disaster for Israel as a whole,” I said, “but God will never leave you nor forsake you. He knows His people, those whose hearts are in a right relationship with Him. In fact, His presence remains in the hearts of all who have faith in Him. That is why you are able to hear His voice even today. He speaks from within, because you are His house. His presence in you is, in fact, what makes you different from all other people on the face of the earth.” 105
Nathan, who had been meditating as we spoke, then opened his eyes and said, “I am hearing an inner voice, speaking as a soft light from deep in my heart. The voice says, “Sin has made Me restless. Injustice has roused Me from My resting place. I am again on the move, and I seek rest. I have hidden My face from Israel, but if I withdraw, I must also draw, for it is not good that I should be alone.”
Pleiades, listening intently from her position behind me, spoke up for the first time. “I feel a drawing. We must leave this Egypt and set out to find a new Promised Land. We must seek His glory, for those who seek will find, if they search for Him with their whole heart.” 106
We all heard her voice. Rebekah, up to now, had not heard either of the horses speak. She had heard Nathan talk of their ability to speak, which had caused her to wonder how this could be so. But now, finally, she bore witness. Even Deborah heard the voice of Pleiades and realized that her brother Samuel had indeed spoken the truth about the talking horses.
“If His presence is within us,” said Rebekah, “then should we not look within ourselves to find the shekinah? Where else can we go?”
“The heart of faith is where all of us must find His presence,” Samuel told her. “That has not changed since the beginning of time. Even so, God has seen fit to manifest His glory in an outward way, and now His glory has departed. I feel an inner drawing to find it.”
Pegasus looked at Samuel and said in a deep voice that seemed to shake the porous walls of the sukkah: “The Spirit and the Bride say, ‘Come.’ And let the one who hears say, ‘Come.’ And let the one who is thirsty come; let the one who wishes take the water of life without any cost to himself. 107 Come. He has faith in you.”
With that, he turned and walked out of the sukkah, and Pleiades followed closely behind him. Sippore chirped happily and followed them into the bright sunlight.
“I believe that this is a quest for Samuel and me,” I stated. “We will let the horses and Sippore guide us to wherever they may take us. It is hard to know when we will return, but I do not think we will have to go far.”
I turned to Sipporah, adjusted my Indy hat, and whispered, “This will be better than searching for the lost Ark!”
“Yes,” she whispered back to me, “the Ark without the glory is only an empty throne.”
Sippore flew north along the side of the Mountain of Samaria, as if to lead the way. Samuel mounted Pleiades, and I Pegasus, and we turned our faces toward the north. As soon as we left the camp and reached the open road, the horses broke into a gallop, and soon the two of us were thundering swiftly down the road to an unknown and mysterious destination.
A mist soon arose around us, but it did not break the horses’ stride. Nonetheless, when the mist lifted, we realized that we were far up the side of a high mountain and were now on a narrow path. The horses slowed to a trot and then turned to the right to follow a path less trodden that was hardly visible to the naked eye. The path was rough and steep in some places, but in the distance I could see snow-capped peaks of lofty mountains not found in Israel.
“This is not the Mountain of Samaria,” Samuel said finally. “We have been transported far to the north outside of the land of Israel. That is Mount Hermon ahead of us.”
We came to a narrow ravine gouged into the side of the mountain to our left. The horses turned and walked carefully over stones and brush. When we rounded a curve, we saw the dark entrance to a hidden cave, and the horses stopped.
There we dismounted and looked toward the mysterious cave nestled in the side of the mountain.
- Exodus 34:22, 23
- Archeologists have discovered the site of Shiloh, and some of the stones in the foundation of the tabernacle yet remain. The path leading from the town to the tabernacle yet remains, where Eli would have sat at the gate.
- Psalm 118:24-26 (a psalm written later, but used at Sukkoth)
- Moses’ first speech: Deuteronomy 1:6 to 4:40
- Other passages are read today.
- Exodus 33:15, 16
- Jeremiah 29:13
- Revelation 22:17