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. They obeyed the Lord’s order, in accordance with his command through Moses. (Numbers 9:15-23, NLT)
Friday morning as I read over the above scripture I thought about how this is such a perfect picture of being at the mercy of God’s leading. The Israelites were in a position where they couldn’t move forward unless God lead the way. I thought about how difficult it must have been to set up and tear down their camp. There were millions of Israelites, by this time, and each time God said to move, they had to tear down their tents, gather their families, and the numerous animals they had with them, as well as dismantle the Tabernacle. Then when God told them to stop, they had to set everything back up; without knowing whether they would be staying a day, a week, a month, or even a year. They couldn’t see the future, they just had to trust the God who was leading them.
As I read this, I noted how difficult this must have been, especially for control freaks (like me!). Yet, Israel’s obedience to the Lord’s direction is representative of how we ought to be! How often we’re ready to move—perhaps, even with a plan that God has already revealed to us—without the go-ahead from God. We can get so caught up in making something happen, that we can become overwhelmed and frustrated when doors remain shut to us, and ready to give up before God has even prepared the way for us. (I think I’ve said this before, but God loves to place us in impossible situations, so that when He produces a miracle, He receives the credit! For more on this, check out Perfection in Weakness) Moreover, more often than not, we’re not even ready for what God has planned for us; or He’s using us right where we are and just isn’t ready to move us yet. Most of the time there are still areas of our lives that need developing or strengthening before He can lead us on to the next part of His plan.
If we could see exactly every detail of what God has planned for our future, following Him wouldn’t be considered faith! Remember, Hebrews 11:1 says “faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see.” Faith is remaining steadfast to our hope in Christ regardless of what we see or feel, or how hard things get. It’s about not knowing what’s going to happen, or how something will happen, but trusting that God will take care of us, even if it’s in His timing. The Bible never says things will be easy for the believer; in fact, we know that there will be difficult times (Daniel 11:35; Mark 10:29-30; Luke 21:12; 2 Timothy 3:12; Revelation 14:12). There will be (and has been) persecution, imprisonment, and even torture done to our brothers and sisters around the world. But we also know that God’s plan will not fail and there is a future of everlasting life that awaits those who allow Him to lead!
It’s one of the most difficult things, to follow Christ. To truly trust, rely on, and cling to Him, believing that He has our best interest at heart, but that’s exactly what He asks of us: that we let Him take the lead.
Lead me by Your truth and teach me,
for You are the God who saves me.
All day long I put my hope in You.