We all go through periods in our lives when we are in a holding pattern and I don’t mean that in a negative way. Life patterns get established, we get into a rhythm and we tend to be stationary. But the time comes, eventually, when we have to move on from that place. Life circumstances change, a new opportunity develops, or things just plain get stale and you have to spice them up a bit…I always did like a little spice. The difficulty can come in actually making the change from being stationary to being on the move. We like our patterns, we like our plateaus where the sun shines, the grass is green and the chances of unpredictability are small. However, life moves on, and we have to be able to move with it or risk being left behind.
As we move into the next part of Numbers, we are coming to a point where Israel is facing a moment when they have to move on. God has finished giving them the Law, establishing the Tabernacle, the priesthood and the sacrificial system. He has established his dwelling place in their midst, he has showed himself to be faithful to his promises and powerful enough to overcome the difficulties the road ahead will hold. Now is the time to move on. The upside of this move is that God is directing it. Numbers 9:15-23 outlines that very specifically. Pillar of cloud by day, pillar of fire at night. When the pillar moves, they move. When the pillar stops, they stop. When the pillar stays put, they stay put. Pretty easy really. I bet you even the sheep learned to follow that pattern after a while.
Unfortunately, moving on often involves risk, change, a doing away with the comfortable for the adventure of the open road. As we will see moving forward, Israel doesn’t do so well with the adventure of the open road, as is the same with many of us. What I can’t understand is why these people who were dwelling in the very presence of God, with the tangible guidance of God constantly in front of them, had such a hard time trusting and following. What I wouldn’t give for a pillar of fire to show up and lead us to the next step!
But we aren’t in any different place than Israel really. God may not use pillars of cloud or fire now-a-days, his guidance and personal direction are still active. We have been given the Holy Spirit, the tangible presence of God in the life of every believer. So why are we so reluctant to trust and follow? What are we so afraid of really? I love verse 23 of chapter 9 “They camped at the Lord’s command and they set out at the Lord’s command.” It sounds so simple because it is so very simple! Follow God’s command. Set out when he commands, set camp when he commands. As we will see, Israel takes that simple formula and lets their fears, their insecurities and what they see in the world around them skew the simple nature of following God.
- What was familiar from this passage of scripture? What was something I already knew?
- What was new from this piece of scripture? What was something that really stood out for me that I have never paid attention to before?
- Does Jesus appear in this passage of scripture?
- How does this passage apply to my life, here and now? Do I need to do anything about it?
- What prayer would I offer up to God after reading this piece of scripture?
Tomorrow’s Reading: Numbers 11-13