Then the Lord said, "Behold, there is a place by Me, and you shall stand there on the rock; and it will come about, while My glory is passing by, that I will put you in the cleft of the rock and cover you with My hand until I have passed by. Then I will take My hand away and you shall see My back, but My face shall not be seen." Exodus 33:21-33This verse is the first use that we find of the word "cleft" in the Bible. Betwixt rocks, God placed Moses in a crevice of safety. God's holy face was far too dangerous for a fallen man to see; Moses' life depended on the safe space between rocks, so that he could see the Lord passing by from His back. Like Moses, our fragility requires a cleft carved out for us by the Lord. We may never have a circumstance exactly like Moses' in Exodus, but that certainly doesn't negate the need for clefts of safety. As Christians, we have a very tangible enemy with a very real presence, that seeks to destroy and maim our faith and courage. Our need for a place of refuge is more real than the chipmunk's. Except our cleft is not carved from rock or stone, God makes for us a cleft of safety in the palms of His hands. Where do we tend to run when fear, danger, and suffering strike? Do we run to friends and family, or turn to numbing our mind? Do we find ourselves relying on food for comfort? Do we panic? Do we ignore? Where are we tempted to find safety, and does that source ever actually satisfy? It merely provides momentary reprieve to phone a friend when troubles come. There is only so much comfort that a feast or your favorite beverage can provide. When danger is near, spouses, children, parents, television, Instagram, music, podcasts, food, shopping. . . none of this can actually provide protection. What does provide protection stronger than Kevlar is the cleft of God's hands. He is sure to carve a cleft for us, shielding us from danger. When the enemy circles the skies above us like a hawk eyeing a chipmunk, the Lord is sure to provide a cleft in which we can hide. The real question is: will we be wise and prudent to run to Him? Or will we foolishly forsake hiding in Him? When we cling to the Word of God like a chipmunk clings to the side of a building, we are surely safer than had we gone out to open pastures. We may not be immune from danger, but we know where our safety is, and God is far safer for us than a pile of junk is for a chipmunk.
Chipmunks are adorable, there's no getting around it. Not to my displeasure, my work desk in adjacent to a sliding patio door, perfect for viewing a spring rainstorm, a winter blizzard, or a family of chipmunks. Because my office is a new construction, there's still plenty of debris that's sits outside, waiting for warmer weather to warrant its upheaval to the city's dump. Amid the piles of wood and vinyl siding, there's countless little holes, perfectly sized for chipmunks. A two-by-four mixed with plywood creates a great shelter. So does the scrap metal. So does the old drywall. The lives of chipmunks are spent avoiding danger. Whether a neighborhood dog, or a coyote, or a hawk 30 ft up in the branches–chipmunks are food and if they want their life, they must hide. I've observed as they spend their days bolting from beneath the HVAC unit to the plywood pile, from the drywall to their hole-in-the-ground home. The ingenuity of the rodents doesn't stop there. They use geography and large structures to aid in their survival. They hop on a fence, using the bottom rung as a protected run as they traverse the yard. They hug the perimeter of the house, darting in and out of bushes and shrubs and too-tall grass. They do this because they know that the shortcuts aren't worth endangering their lives. Life out in the open yard is largely unprotected. Should a chipmunk decide to venture straight through the backyard, they'll soon end up in the mouth of a predator. Should they move too slow, they'll quickly be eaten. But when they're thoughtful and intentional, hugging the sides of fences and finding cover in debris, they'll stay safer more often than not. The chipmunks in their smallness of mind still know the importance of remaining in clefts of safety. When Moses met with the Lord on Mount Sinai, the people of Israel forgot their cleft of safety. They turned toward crafting a golden calf, an idol, because confusion gripped them as Moses delayed in returning from his meeting with God. The Israelites were disciplined, forced to choose whether or not they were for the Lord. After this, Moses sets up the first Tent of Meeting at Sinai in which Exodus tells us that the Lord spoke to Moses, "face to face, just as a man speaks with his friend." Moses continually called upon the Lord in what he did. He knew where the true cleft of safety was. It was after this that Moses saw the glory of the Lord. He called upon God, knowing that he was utterly incapable of leading the Israelites into the Promised Land without divine help. He knew that God's presence was essential to success. The Lord found favor with Moses, and when he asks to see His glory, God passed in front of him. The sheer power and intensity of God's goodness, though, required Moses to be hidden. God placed him in a cleft and covered Moses from the danger until he was able to see the Lord's presence passing from him.