“On the day the tabernacle, the tent of the covenant law, was set up, the cloud covered it. From evening till morning the cloud above the tabernacle looked like fire. That is how it continued to be; the cloud covered it, and at night it looked like fire. Whenever the cloud lifted from above the tent, the Israelites set out; wherever the cloud settled, the Israelites encamped. At the Lord’s command the Israelites set out, and at his command they encamped. As long as the cloud stayed over the tabernacle, they remained in camp. When the cloud remained over the tabernacle a long time, the Israelites obeyed the Lord’s order and did not set out. Sometimes the cloud was over the tabernacle only a few days; at the Lord’s command they would encamp, and then at his command they would set out. Sometimes the cloud stayed only from evening till morning, and when it lifted in the morning, they set out. Whether by day or by night, whenever the cloud lifted, they set out. Whether the cloud stayed over the tabernacle for two days or a month or a year, the Israelites would remain in camp and not set out; but when it lifted, they would set out. At the Lord’s command they encamped, and at the Lord’s command they set out.”
| Numbers 9: 15-23 |
I am notorious for getting lost. Whether I’m on foot or in the car, I am directionally challenged. Instead of chiming in with a proud, “I’ve been here before!”, I normally mumble, “I passed this place when I was lost once.” I get turned around and mix up street names like it’s my full time job. Through great frustration, I’ve come to embrace this weakness as an avenue to discovering new places and riveting car rides by which I can explore the hidden songs of my music library…
Like me, the Israelites were also masters at losing their way. They often found themselves worshiping the wrong gods, living contrary to the divine wisdom given to them, and even wandered around in the desert, physically lost, for 40 years. That puts my half hour of incessant wrong turns to shame. In this passage, we read how God made His direction and presence known to the people by way of a cloud, which settled over the tabernacle during the day, and transformed into fire at night. When the cloud disappeared, it was time to set out. When the cloud re-appeared, it was time to settle down. Sometimes it was for a night, a few months, or even a year. Despite Moses communicating God’s exact words to the people, it seems that God felt there needed to be one more undeniable sign of His presence and direction. This ancient neon sign could not be mistaken or miscommunicated. Cloud arrives; you stay. Cloud leaves; you go.
I don’t know about you but I wouldn’t mind this same cloud appearing over my life every now and again just as a reminder that I am right where God wants me to be. In a season of unknown, I find myself wondering which way is the right way. What job do I apply for? Where should I live? Do I try out speed dating? (I’ll answer the last one. No.) I get overwhelmed wondering if I am supposed to set out or settle down and I find myself longing to see a cloud of direction to guide the way.
In an effort to apply this passage to my own life, I took a moment to search my past and future for anything that might resemble this visible act of direction. Predictably, I realized that God has been everywhere taking shape of more than just a cloud. Outside of the Bible, He has appeared in people, places, memories, books, experiences, weather, gut feelings, and instinct. He’s opened doors to opportunity and closed others when necessary. I could literally just sit here and look around my life and see God’s beautiful orchestration in every fiber of my existence. God has given me more than just a cloud of direction, He’s inserted His very hand into my every day life. I’ll bypass the cloud for that.
So I ask you this fine Thursday morning, where has God been in your life? Take a moment to seek out the ways He has appeared as a guiding force in your journey. The adventure is He appears in a million different ways. The comfort is that He is working in a million different ways, unrestrained to a pillar of water molecules. God is ever-present friends. Dedicate today to opening your soul to this magnificent truth.