In the previous three Nuggets, I have given you some connections to help us unravel Paul’s deeper thoughts related to the Road to Glory. Firstly, from the point of view of Glory being linked to Suffering in aPP 26. In the following Nugget I began to dig deeper into the idea of brokenness and linked it as Paul does to Moses’ request to see God’s Glory and to see God’s face. We looked into the nature of the back of God’s Glory, or the afterglow. In Nugget aPP 28 I took you on a journey across Scripture to see the unfolding nature of God’s Glory from the Tent of Meeting to the Temple to the fact that we now have God’s Glory within us. In the most recent Nugget before this, I left you with Paul’s veiled reference to the fact that there is a journey we have to take in order to experience the Glory. We looked in detail at the following verse:
So all of us, with faces unveiled, see as in a mirror the glory of the Lord; and we are being changed into his very image, from one degree of glory to the next, by Adonai the Spirit. Complete Jewish Bible [CJB]2 Corinthians 3:18
There is only one other place in Scripture where there is mention of a journey from glory to glory. It is found in the account that Paul has used in 2 Corinthians 3. The background to Paul’s thoughts in that chapter are found in the story which all Jews think of when the Glory of God is mentioned. Moses on Mount Sinai and his face shining with the reflected glory from the covered-over-fading-afterglow-of-the-glory-of-God as I put it at the end of aPP 27. It is to the depth of that image I now want to take us. Actually Paul is the one taking us on this journey, not me. He took us back to Glory Mountain with his reference in 2 Corinthians 3. It is clear that Paul has that event in mind. Let’s explore it further.
The people of God arrived at Mt Sinai or Mt Horeb, the Glory Mountain on the first day of the second month of the second year after they left Egypt. (Exodus 19:1) How long did they stay there at the foot of Mt Sinai? We are told that God spoke to Moses in the area surrounding Mt Sinai in the first month of the second year since leaving Egypt. (Num 9:1) God gave Moses the pattern for worship, the way to set up the Tent of Meeting and the Tabernacle. They then stayed in the vicinity of Mount Sinai for a month while God downloaded the instructions to Moses. One of those instructions concerned the presence of the cloud, the symbol of God’s Presence. The people were to keep their eyes on the pillar of cloud by day and the pillar of fire by night. When the pillars moved, they moved. When the pillars stayed put, they stayed put. Guidance back in that time was oh so simple. Follow the cloud and the fire people.
We are then given a fascinating little snippet of information:
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. The people set out for the first time, following the instructions the Lord had given through Moses.Numbers 10:11-13
We have been told that the Presence of the Lord would lead them and they were to follow. Simple really. Where did God take them? It’s clear isn’t it? He took them from the wilderness of Sinai to the Desert of Paran, to a place called Kadesh Barnea which means the Holy Place of Barnea. Oh yes they stopped at a number of places on the way; a number of non-descript, nameless places until they finally reached Kadesh Barnea. Here is a map.
You can locate Mt Sinai or Mt Horeb in the southern point of the map between the two gulfs. The journey from Mt Sinai took them northward to Kadesh in the northeastern quadrant of the map. The area surrounding Kadesh was called the Desert or the WIlderness of Paran. It is clear from the verses above from Numbers 10 that it was God’s expressed purpose to take His people to the holy place in the middle of the Desert of Paran.
What is interesting is that text tells us the people of Israel went from place to place before they reached Paran. Those places are all recorded in the Bible, but they were not named by God. There are places in the Bible which are named by God and there are places which are named by the Jews because of the things that happened there. The places which are not named by God but have names as a result of what happened are:
Taberah (The Place of Burning)
You can read about this place in Numbers 11:1-3. This is where the people complained about the hardships of the journey and blamed Moses. Fire fell from heaven them and burned up many of them. That place was called Taberah, the place of burning, from that time onward by the Israelites.
Kibroth-Hattaavah (The Graves of Craving)
The short account of this part of the journey is found in Numbers 11:34-35. At this place without a name, the people rebelled against Moses again, complaining about the fact that they had to eat [manna] every day. They had soon become bored with the diet their honourable leader had given them and they demanded to be taken back to Egypt to where food tasted nice, where they had onions and leeks and garlic. They missed meat in their meals. They were tired of Uncle Moses Manna Meusli Meals and they demanded meat. So God dropped quail on them up to their eyeballs and many more died as a result of eating the quail. So that place was called “The Graves of Craving by the Israelites.
Hazeroth (Unwalled Settlement)
You can read the account of what happened in Hazeroth in Numbers 12. This is the place where another rebellion took place. But on this occasion it was only two who were punished. Miriam and Aaron were the two who rebelled against Moses at this time and so God judged these two only. This place was hardly worth naming. It was of no account in the grand scheme of things. The word [hazeroth] meant “an unwalled settlement”, “a village without walls”. Why even bother giving it a name? Because Miriam’s rebellion happened there. It wasn’t on God’s agenda. He didn’t name the nameless unprotected place. God certainly wasn’t taking them there.
Notice these things happened when rebellion and complaining occurred. Each time the place was given a name, but it was only given the name by the Israelites. There was no sign up for a town when they first arrived. It became a named place after the rebellion occurred. God never intended them to stop there, nor for bad things to happen to them. His intention was for them to go straight to Paran. That is clearly where the Cloud of God’s Presence was leading them.
But why Ian, and how does this connect to Paul’s “Glory to Glory” reference?
“I am glad you asked.”
Now has come the time to put it all together. It is all to do with the meaning of [פָּארָֽן] Paran
[פָּארָֽ] (PARA) is the root of the word Paran. According to Keil & Deliztsch, Pāra is an old Hebrew word with an archaic Nun ending (n) attached to the word to form a noun. The verbal root of the word [Pāra] means “to endow with glory”.
“Sorry, Ian can you run that by me again?”
You read it correctly the first time. The root meaning of the verb at the heart of the word Paran, as in the Desert of Paran, is “to endow with glory.” Paran is the place where YHWH intended to not give the Children of Israel just a fleeting momentary encounter with His glory. Like the feelings Peter, James and John had on the Mount of which prompted Peter to suggest they build three booths [Nugget aPP 28] and stay there in the glory moment. (A question I want to know is why three booths Peter? Were they for Peter, James and John or were they for Jesus, Moses and Elijah, so they would hang around longer? Sorry I just introduced a side issue into a deeply meaningful segment.)
God does not want His Children to have brief momentary encounters with His Glory. He wants His Glory to indwell them. Allow me to crown this journey from Horeb to Paran or from Sinai to Paran with the point of the whole journey – God’s underlying purpose in taking them to Kadesh Barnea in the Desert of Paran. In addition to that, to draw out Paul’s veiled reference to the process of God taking us from glory to glory in 2 Corinthians 3:18. It is an allusion to the journey the Israelites went on as they followed the pillars to Paran.
Horeb means “to be dried up”, “laid waste”, “broken”, “desolate, barren”.
Sinai means “bush of the Lord”, symbolically the “glory mountain”, the place where Moses encountered God’s glory. At the mention of Sinai, an orthodox Jew thinks of Moses and the glory of God.
What we have depicted here is a journey from one place of glory (Sinai) where the glory was partial and fading and to another place of greater glory where God’s intention was for the glory to endow and indwell the recipient with an even greater glory. We are indeed on a journey from glory to glory.
But the symbolism behind the journey can also be put another way in that it is from the place of desolation, a wasteland dried up and barren, broken and desolate to the place of being clothed in the indwelling Glory of all that God intends with the indwelling fullness of HIs Glory. That which the Jews had always regarded as the epitome of glory in actual fact was only a shadow (afterglow or foretaste) of that which is to come.
At the risk of overwhelming you or boring you with detail (which some say I do) there is one more little Nugget I would like to share with you.
Normally it takes only eleven days to travel from Mount Sinai to Kadesh-barnea, going by way of Mount Seir.Deut 1:2
You will notice I have chosen a map which I included in this Nugget that shows you the location of the Mt Seir chain of mountains in relation to the journey from Sinai to Paran. You have to be kidding me. The journey from Sinai to Kadesh Barnea in the Desert of Paran was only an eleven day journey. But it took them 40 years Ian, Yes but that didn’t need to be the case. It was due to their sidetracks, their unscheduled stops and them going around and around in the wilderness but mainly encamped in Kadesh Barnea for 38 years, the place intended to endow them with the Holiness of God and to in fill them (indwell them) with His Glory.
The Israelites turned an 11 Day journey into a 22 Stop, 40 year Saga that was never God’s intention. That takes some skill or a considerable degree of obstinacy. There is much I could say about this but I will leave it for you to unpack at the end of your long journey through this Nugget.
You must be exhausted. Sit back, put your feet up and rest.
No, don’t do that! There’s more to come and more pondering needed on your part.