NUMBERS 9:20-23: “…Then in accordance with the command of the Lord they set out. If sometimes the cloud remained from evening until morning, when the cloud was lifted in the morning they would set out; or if it remained in the daytime and at night, whenever the cloud was lifted, they would set out. Whether it was two days, a month, or a year that the cloud lingered over the tabernacle, staying above it, the sons of Israel remained camped and ldid 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 did what the Lord required, in accordance with the command of the Lord through Moses.” NASB
OBSERVATION: Am I following God’s timing in my life? To be honest, this is an area I have struggled with all my life and still do. You don’t have to be a follower of Christ long to learn that God’s timing is not our timing. We live in an “instant” society. As I ponder this question, an annoying commercial pops into my mind that goes – “It’s my money and I want it now!” This commercial is brilliant because it plays on the general impatience we all struggle with. We want instant results, instant answers, instant miracles, and instant breakthroughs.
Everyone has difficulty learning how to wait!
The book of Numbers is a very interesting book. It is a book that outlines God’s formation of the nation of Israel into an ordered society. At times, the reading can seem tedious and we may wander in our minds as we read its pages. Yet, if we pay attention we can learn some important lessons. The first lesson is that God is a God or order. Many equate the move of the Holy Spirit with freedom from order. This cannot be further from the truth. While we are warned about dead form and religion, we are still called to do things decently and in order. Disorder is not the move of the Spirit, it is the manifestation of our old nature.
I love the instruction the children of Israel received regarding following God’s timing. When they constructed the tabernacle the cloud of God’s presence rested over it. It would appear as a cloud by day and a pillar of fire by night. When the cloud rested over the tabernacle, the children of Israel rested and stayed encamped where they were. When the cloud lifted from the tabernacle the children of Israel would pack up and in an organized military formation, they would follow the cloud until it once again came to rest. This is a natural picture of the Christian life in learning to follow the leading of the Holy Spirit. Learning how to walk after the Spirit is crucial to our spiritual growth and victory!
- “But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not carry out the desire of the flesh. For the desire of the flesh is against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; for these are in opposition to one another, in order to keep you from doing whatever you want. But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the Law.” Galatians 5:16-18 NASB
We all know this truth. Yet, to know the truth and to live it out are two completely different things. And, when we think about this truth concerning our future, it becomes even more difficult.
It is always a wonderful break to go camping or to take a weekend off and stay somewhere we enjoy visiting. The break in the routine is both refreshing and needed. Yet, when we take these breaks all forward motion is halted. We must return to life and the responsibilities we all have to deal with. It is in the normal day-in and day-out journey of life that we find it hard to wait on the Lord. We may find ourselves camped in the same place in life. We are not on a vacation break – this is our real life. We want to move forward! We want to break camp! We want to see change!
And – the cloud does not move!
This is when waiting on the Lord becomes difficult. This is when we are tempted to move ahead of God’s timing. If the cloud does not move on its own – we try to help it. We are all great at manufacturing excuses why we don’t have to wait. God needs us to move forward. We can’t afford to stay in the same place. If we don’t move now, life will simply pass us by. And, the list goes on and on. Yet, when we read these words from Numbers we are challenged to the core of our being.
- “…Then in accordance with the command of the Lord they set out. If sometimes the cloud remained from evening until morning, when the cloud was lifted in the morning they would set out; or if it remained in the daytime and at night, whenever the cloud was lifted, they would set out. Whether it was two days, 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 did what the Lord required, in accordance with the command of the Lord through Moses.”
Note these important words. “Whether it was two days, a month, or a year…” For the children of Israel, it did not matter how long the cloud stood still. The key to their future and success was to wait on the Lord. If God was not moving then neither would they. Yes, they did grumble and complain about this as we all do. Yet, Moses knew that they were all traveling in a direction that none of them was prepared for. It was crucial to follow the leading of the Lord and to only move when God’s presence moved before them.
Isn’t our life like a wilderness journey? We all have plans and dreams but in reality, none of us knows where we are going. We don’t know what the day holds, let alone the week, month, or years ahead. It is presumptuous on our part to live as if we have the full understanding in life to lay out the plan. We need to learn this lesson from Israel’s wilderness wandering – we will not move until God’s Spirit goes before us! Yet, we don’t have a physical cloud hovering over our lives. How are we supposed to discern when God is calling us to move? There are three wonderful indicators that God has given us in our journey of life.
1. We have the Word of God to guide us!
2. We have the inner witness of the Holy Spirit that will give us His peace when we are moving in the will of God.
3. We have open doors that God provides as confirmation of His leading.
To follow God’s will we must never mix up the order. To do so can be just as disastrous as it would have been for the children of Israel to break camp before the cloud moved. We cannot rely on the mere opportunity to be our guide. We must surrender and test all opportunities to the written Word of God and seek the Lord in sincere prayer. God will never call us to do something that is contrary to His Word or that will lead us in a direction that causes us to lose our peace. This does not mean that following God’s leading will be a piece of cake without struggle. What it does mean is that we will be sustained by God’s Word, led by the Holy Spirit, and comforted by His peace all along the way.
One final note. Waiting is not inactivity. It is simply being faithful where God has put us until He leads us to the next open door in our life. The children of Israel stayed camped as long as the cloud stayed over the tabernacle. In doing so, they did not stop their daily activities. They went on each day in full obedience to God’s will. They simply refused to break camp and move forward until God led them by the cloud of His presence. How many times have I jumped the gun and rushed through, or broken through a door of opportunity before God had opened it? I need to learn to be faithful where I am planted and continue doing what I have been called to do until God opens the next door. This needs to be my attitude whether it is for a day, a week, a month, years, or even for the rest of my life!
To be faithful and obedient to the Lord is more important than to be successful in the eyes of man!
Lord, quiet my spirit this morning and teach me to wait upon You! May I surrender my life to Your Word? May I learn to hear the still small voice of Your Spirit and wait for Your peace to lead me? Give me the grace to refuse to break camp until I hear Your calling from the Word, have confirmation from the Holy Spirit, and have Your peace that the open door before me is from You!
In Jesus’ Name!
Great post. 👍