A tabernacle - In countries subject to violent tempests, as well as to intolerable heat, a portable tent is a necessary part of a traveller's baggage, for defense and shelter. And to such tents the words of the text make evident allusion. They are to be met with in every part of Arabia and Egypt, and in various other places in the East.
And there shall be a tabernacle - The reference here is to the “tabernacle,” or sacred “tent” that God directed Moses to make in the wilderness. The image of the cloudy pillar mentioned in the previous verses, seems to have suggested to the mind of the prophet the idea of the tabernacle over which that pillar rested. The principal idea here is, however, not a tabernacle as a symbol of the divine protection, or of divine worship, but of a place of refuge from a tempest; that is, that they should be “safe” under his protection. In Eastern countries they dwelt chiefly in tents. The idea is, therefore, that God would furnish them a place of shelter, a hiding-place from the storm.
In the daytime from the heat - The heat in those regions was often very intense, particularly in the vast plains of sand. The “idea” here is, therefore, one that is very striking. It means, that God would furnish to them a refuge that would be like the comfort derived from a tent in a burning desert.
For a place of refuge - A place to which to flee in the midst of a storm, as a tent would be.
A covert - A place of retreat, a safe place to retire to. The figure used here is not unfrequently employed in the prophets; Isaiah 25:4; Isaiah 32:2. In eastern countries this idea would be very striking. While traversing the burning sands of a desert, exposed to the rays of a tropical sun, nothing could be more grateful than the cool shadow of a rock. Such figures are, therefore, common in oriental writings, to denote protection and agreeable shelter from calamities; see the note at Isaiah 32:2. The idea in these verses is:
(1) That God will be a defender of his people.
(2) That he will protect their families, and that his blessing will be upon their dwelling-places; compare the note at Isaiah 59:21.
(3) They may expect his blessing on their religious assemblies.
(4) God, through the promised Messiah, would be a refuge and defense.
The sinner is exposed to the burning wrath of God, and to the storms of divine vengeance that shall beat forever on the naked soul in hell. From all this burning wrath, and from this raging tempest, the Messiah is the only refuge. Through him God forgives sin; and united to him by faith, the soul is safe. There are few images more beautiful than this. Soon the storms of divine vengeance will beat on the sinner. God will summon him to judgment. But then, he who has fled to the Messiah - the Lord Jesus - as the refuge of his soul, shall be safe. He shall have nothing to fear, and in his arms shall find defense and salvation.
In one of the most beautiful and comforting passages of Isaiah's prophecy, reference is made to the pillar of cloud and of fire to represent God's care for His people in the great final struggle with the powers of evil: “The Lord will create upon every dwelling place of Mount Zion, and upon her assemblies, a cloud and smoke by day, and the shining of a flaming fire by night: for above all the glory shall be a covering. And there shall be a tabernacle for a shadow in the daytime from the heat, and for a place of refuge, and for a covert from storm and from rain.” Isaiah 4:5, 6, margin. PP 283.1
Across a dreary, desertlike expanse they journeyed. Already they began to wonder whither their course would lead; they were becoming weary with the toilsome way, and in some hearts began to arise a fear of pursuit by the Egyptians. But the cloud went forward, and they followed. And now the Lord directed Moses to turn aside into a rocky defile, and encamp beside the sea. It was revealed to him that Pharaoh would pursue them, but that God would be honored in their deliverance. PP 283.2
In Egypt the report was spread that the children of Israel, instead of tarrying to worship in the desert, were pressing on toward the Red Sea. Pharaoh's counselors declared to the king that their bondmen had fled, never to return. The people deplored their folly in attributing the death of the first-born to the power of God. Their great men, recovering from their fears, accounted for the plagues as the result of natural causes. “Why have we done this, that we have let Israel go from serving us?” was the bitter cry. PP 283.3
Pharaoh collected his forces, “six hundred chosen chariots, and all the chariots of Egypt,” horsemen, captains, and foot soldiers. The king himself, attended by the great men of his realm, headed the attacking army. To secure the favor of the gods, and thus ensure the success of their undertaking, the priests also accompanied them. The king was resolved to intimidate the Israelites by a grand display of his power. The Egyptians feared lest their forced submission to the God of Israel should subject them to the derision of other nations; but if they should now go forth with a great show of power and bring back the fugitives, they would redeem their glory, as well as recover the services of their bondmen. PP 283.4
The Hebrews were encamped beside the sea, whose waters presented a seemingly impassable barrier before them, while on the south a rugged mountain obstructed their further progress. Suddenly they beheld in the distance the flashing armor and moving chariots betokening the advance guard of a great army. As the force drew nearer, the hosts of Egypt were seen in full pursuit. Terror filled the hearts of Israel. Some cried unto the Lord, but far the greater part hastened to Moses with their complaints: “Because there were no graves in Egypt, hast thou taken us away to die in the wilderness? wherefore hast thou dealt thus with us, to carry us forth out of Egypt? Is not this the word that we did tell thee in Egypt, saying, Let us alone, that we may serve the Egyptians? For it had been better for us to serve the Egyptians, than that we should die in the wilderness.” PP 283.5Read in context »
God is Himself the Rock of Ages, a refuge for His people, a covert from the storm, a shadow from the burning heat. He has given us His promises, which are more firm and immovable than the rocky heights, the everlasting hills. The mountains shall depart, and the hills shall be removed; but His kindness shall not depart, nor His covenant of peace be removed from those who by faith make Him their trust. If we would look to God for help as steadfastly as these rocky, barren mountains point to the heavens above them, we should never be moved from our faith in Him and our allegiance to His holy law. OHC 251.4Read in context »
Christ says, “The good shepherd giveth his life for the sheep. But he that is an hireling, and not the shepherd, whose own the sheep are not, seeth the wolf coming, and leaveth the sheep, and fleeth; and the wolf catcheth them, and scattereth the sheep. The hireling fleeth, because he is an hireling, and careth not for the sheep. I am the Good Shepherd, and know My sheep, and am known of Mine.” Verses 11-14. PP 191.1
Christ, the Chief Shepherd, has entrusted the care of His flock to His ministers as undershepherds; and He bids them have the same interest that He has manifested, and feel the sacred responsibility of the charge He has entrusted to them. He has solemnly commanded them to be faithful, to feed the flock, to strengthen the weak, to revive the fainting, and to shield them from devouring wolves. PP 191.2
To save His sheep, Christ laid down His own life; and He points His shepherds to the love thus manifested, as their example. But “he that is an hireling, ... whose own the sheep are not,” has no real interest in the flock. He is laboring merely for gain, and he cares only for himself. He studies his own profit instead of the interest of his charge; and in time of peril or danger he will flee, and leave the flock. PP 191.3
The apostle Peter admonishes the undershepherds: “Feed the flock of God which is among you, taking the oversight thereof, not by constraint, but willingly; not for filthy lucre, but of a ready mind; neither as being lords over God's heritage, but being ensamples to the flock.” 1 Peter 5:2, 3. Paul says, “Take heed therefore unto yourselves, and to all the flock, over the which the Holy Ghost hath made you overseers, to feed the church of God, which He hath purchased with His own blood. For I know this, that after my departing shall grievous wolves enter in among you, not sparing the flock.” Acts 20:28, 29. PP 191.4Read in context »
Oh, may God endue us with His Spirit and make us strong in His strength! In that great day of supreme and final triumph it will be seen that the righteous were strong, and that wickedness in all its forms and with all its pride was a weak and miserable failure and defeat. We will cling close to Jesus, we will trust Him, we will seek His grace and His great salvation. We must hide in Jesus, for He is a covert from the storm, a present help in time of trouble.—Letter 6, 1884. 3SM 430.4Read in context »