The cloud by day, and the appearance of fire by night.
Numbers 9:15-23 from the daily reading in the One year Bible
Now on the day that the tabernacle was erected the cloud covered the tabernacle, the tent of the testimony, and in the evening it was like the appearance of fire over the tabernacle, until morning. 16 So it was continuously; the cloud would cover it by day, and the appearance of fire by night. 17 Whenever the cloud was lifted from over the tent, afterward the sons of Israel would then set out; and in the place where the cloud settled down, there the sons of Israel would camp. 18 At the command of the Lord the sons of Israel would set out, and at the command of the Lord they would camp; as long as the cloud settled over the tabernacle, they remained camped. 19 Even when the cloud lingered over the tabernacle for many days, the sons of Israel would keep the Lord’s charge and not set out. 20 If sometimes the cloud remained a few days over the tabernacle, according to the command of the Lord they remained camped. Then according to the command of the Lord they set out. 21 If sometimes the cloud remained from evening until morning, when the cloud was lifted in the morning, they would move out; or if it remained in the daytime and at night, whenever the cloud was lifted, they would set out. 22 Whether it was two days or a month or a year that the cloud lingered over the tabernacle, staying above it, the sons of Israel remained camped and did not set out; but when it was lifted, they did set out. 23 At the command of the Lord they camped, and at the command of the Lord they set out; they kept the Lord’s charge, according to the command of the Lord through Moses.
So it was continuously; the cloud would cover it by day, and the appearance of fire by night. Whenever the cloud was lifted from over the tent, afterward the sons of Israel would then set out; and in the place where the cloud settled down, there the sons of Israel would camp. Oh that the leading of the Lord would be so obvious in our lives; that the will and direction of God would be as clear to us as it was to the Israelites. If only we could know with the same level of certainty exactly when and where God was taking us? How much better would our walk and our witness be if only God would make Himself known to us as He did to the Israelites? In Malachi 3:6 God says: "I the LORD do not change.” In Numbers 23:19 He says: "God is not a man, that He should lie, Nor a son of man, that He should repent; Has He said, and will He not do it? Or has He spoken, and will He not make it good?” In Deuteronomy 31:6 God says: "Be strong and courageous, do not be afraid or tremble at them, for the LORD your God is the one who goes with you. He will not fail you or forsake you." So the unchanging God, the God who will fulfill all of His promises, the God who will go with us, never leaving or forsaking us, God will guide us and direct us. He will lead us every day.
Surely we don’t see anyone being led by a cloud by day and fire by night, so how is it that we can know God’s will and follow His direction? We don’t have Jesus Himself, present with us, as the disciples did, when He walked with them. So how then do we follow Him? In John 14:16-17,26 Jesus says: “ I will ask the Father, and He will give you another Helper, that He may be with you forever; that is the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it does not see Him or know Him, but you know Him because He abides with you and will be in you - the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, He will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all that I said to you.” Jesus says: “I tell you the truth, it is to your advantage that I go away; for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you; but if I go, I will send Him to you... When He, the Spirit of truth, comes, He will guide you into all the truth; for He will not speak on His own initiative, but whatever He hears, He will speak; and He will disclose to you what is to come. He will glorify Me, for He will take of Mine and will disclose it to you. All things that the Father has are Mine; therefore I said that He takes of Mine and will disclose it to you.” (John 16:7-15) So while we may not see the physical presence of God and we may not have Jesus in bodily form to walk with us and guide us, we have the abiding indwelling Spirit of God in us and the Spirit will guide us and lead us if we will follow. Too often we look for some great sign from heaven, when as Jesus says: “The kingdom of God is within you.” (Luke 17:21) In 1 Kings 19:11-13 there is an account of a time when Elijah felt distanced from God, as if God was no longer with Him. See what God does and says to Elijah: “Go forth and stand on the mountain before the Lord.” And behold, the Lord was passing by! And a great and strong wind was rending the mountains and breaking in pieces the rocks before the Lord; but the Lord was not in the wind. And after the wind an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake. After the earthquake a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire; and after the fire a sound of a gentle blowing. When Elijah heard it, he wrapped his face in his mantle and went out and stood in the entrance of the cave. And behold, a voice came to him and said, “What are you doing here, Elijah?” As we walk through each day, there are many loud sounds and voices which will try to influence us, to change our direction. We need to learn, even in the midst of the noise and the din of our lives, even in the business and the chaos of all that is happening around us, to listen not to what is around us, but rather to the gentle quiet voice that is within us. We need to listen to the indwelling Spirit of God, the kingdom of God within us.
There is another key to our following the will of God. In today’s text it says: Whether it was two days or a month or a year that the cloud lingered over the tabernacle, staying above it, the sons of Israel remained camped and did not set out; but when it was lifted, they did set out. At the command of the Lord they camped, and at the command of the Lord they set out; they kept the Lord’s charge, according to the command of the Lord through Moses. We too, need to be ready and willing to move and act at the Lord’s leading. When He calls our only answer should yes Lord. Too often we hesitate, we question God’s will and His timing, we don’t move with Him because He has not revealed all of His plan. We need to trust Him completely, walking daily, hour by hour, minute by minute in His presence and leading. If we fail to go when He tells us we are out of step with Him. We also though must be patient. We cannot go ahead of God. If He calls us to wait, to camp in His presence, we cannot go without Him. In the times He calls us to be still, He is still working. He is either going ahead to prepare the way or He is working in us, to prepare us for what is ahead. There really is no question of whether God will guide us and direct us. The question is will we listen? Will we follow? Will we hear the still, small voice of God in us or will we listen to all that is around us?
Thank You Heavenly Father, Lord Jesus Christ and Precious Holy Spirit; You never leave or forsake me. You abide with me and in me. Help me daily, minute by minute to hear You, to follow You, to move when You move and to wait when You wait. Amen.