The Cloud and the Charge

Numbers 9:15 And on the day that the tabernacle was reared up the cloud covered the tabernacle, namely, the tent of the testimony: and at even there was upon the tabernacle as it were the appearance of fire, until the morning.16 So it was alway: the cloud covered it by day, and the appearance of fire by night. 17  And when the cloud was taken up from the tabernacle, then after that the children of Israel journeyed: and in the place where the cloud abode, there the children of Israel pitched their tents. 18 At the commandment of the Lord the children of Israel journeyed, and at the commandment of the Lord they pitched: as long as the cloud abode upon the tabernacle they rested in their tents. 19 And when the cloud tarried long upon the tabernacle many days, then the children of Israel kept the charge of the Lord, and journeyed not. 20 And so it was, when the cloud was a few days upon the tabernacle; according to the commandment of the Lord they abode in their tents, and according to the commandment of the Lord they journeyed. 21 And so it was, when the cloud abode from even unto the morning, and that the cloud was taken up in the morning, then they journeyed: whether it was by day or by night that the cloud was taken up, they journeyed. 22 Or whether it were two days, or a month, or a year, that the cloud tarried upon the tabernacle, remaining thereon, the children of Israel abode in their tents, and journeyed not: but when it was taken up, they journeyed. 23 At the commandment of the Lord they rested in the tents, and at the commandment of the Lord they journeyed: they kept the charge of the Lord, at the commandment of the Lord by the hand of Moses.

I read some statistics that said the average person will move 11 to 15 times in their lifetime. I didn’t really believe that until I started counting.  Nita and I moved 9 times. From when I was born until I was 18 years old I moved 4 times. That means I’ve moved 13 times myself. There is one more move I do want to make, the one to heaven!

The Children of Israel stopped and moved many times.  Verse 22 says at times they tarried; it may have been two days, a month, or a year at a time. They stayed put until the cloud moved, sometimes at night and sometimes at day. They packed up their tents and the tabernacle and gathered their animals so they could move on. Now that we’re saved our life is a journey toward heaven. The place God is preparing is our land of promise; it’s being prepared for his children and there we’ll enjoy the “milk and honey” of heaven.  Unlike Canaan, Israel’s land of promise, there will be no enemies to get rid of. Heaven will be devil free, sin free, worry free. We’re on that journey.

God released Israel from slavery in Egypt and was with them every step of the way to their land. God is the God of the Promised Land and the God of the cloud. He was God when the 10 plagues came upon Egypt to ensure Israel’s release. He was God at the parting of the Red Sea separating the people from the armies of Egypt. Seventy people had gone down into Egypt and after 400 years their intended place of solace was a land of harsh slavery. They were then a nation, but more, they were a family. We’re the family nation of God.  As Israel traveled, when God stopped the cloud that guided them, the Levites knew it was time to rest no matter where they were. It could have been the desert, the wilderness, or a land of palm trees and water. Or it could have been a place so dry that God had to bring water from a rock. When the cloud stopped the Levites rushed in to set up the tabernacle. The people set up their tents. God was in complete control and nobody moved until God moved first.

The Bible says that the Lord will be with us wherever we go.  But don’t use that to say that you can go just any place you want and He will be with you.  There was only one way for Israel. God knew it. We don’t know the way on our own. We get mixed up and run around in circles on our own.  God was in the lead as the God of the cloud. They followed it. It did not follow them. Can you imagine some kind of cloud, maybe an anvil shaped one like a thunderhead cloud.  It would be many miles in diameter. God provided them with shade by day in the hot sun and at night it was a cloudy pillar of fire to warm them. God knows how to take care of his people.

God saw fit for them to rest and they may have said “why here?”  Sometimes we go through desperate times. We have trying times. We look to the Lord and wonder why he’s not moving us out of it. He keeps us there as long as he sees fit. It’s for our learning. He knows what he’s doing.  The children of Israel had resting days where they focused on the tabernacle. It was not set up somewhere outside of where the people were. No, the people set up camp in a circle by their tribes, and the tabernacle was in the middle where everyone could see it. They could see God’s presence in his house and keep it the center of their life. We too have to keep God and his house at the center of our life.  If we keep our eyes on him, we’ll not be forsaken. That’s the Christian journey. Resting times. Staying times. Moving times.

Verse 21 says And so it was, when the cloud abode from even unto the morning, and that the cloud was taken up in the morning, then they journeyed: whether it was by day or by night that the cloud was taken up, they journeyed. They loaded up and by tribes they followed the pillar of cloud or the pillar of fire until they made it to the Promised Land. They did it by the command of the Lord through the hand of Moses. The Bible tells us that God’s Word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path. At his command we follow and do what he says. We are to fulfill the responsibility he gives.  We are not to pack up our bags and tend to ourselves.

God deliberately chose to have his house in a tent while they traveled. The tabernacle of God was with his people. Revelation tells us the time will come when the tabernacle of God is with men, and he will dwell with them, and they shall be his people, and God himself shall be with them, and be their God. Can we ask for a better guide than the Lord?  A better mover? His long range plan is to get us there. The short range plan is a day by day journey.  Fulfill the charge. Do his command. He will make it possible for us to follow as he leads.

One day at a time, sweet Jesus, that’s all I’m asking from you. Give me the strength to do everyday what I have to do. Yesterday’s gone, sweet Jesus, and tomorrow may never be mine. So for my sake, teach me to take one day at a time.

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