On the day the tabernacle, the Tent of the Testimony, 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 NIV
I've been thinking about this section of the Old Testament for a couple of weeks now. As I have thought about it I have become more and more aware of how often I say 'no' to God. I think I am saying it to others, but I am actually saying it to God. For example, when we moved back to Colorado more than ten years ago, I turned to my husband as we crossed the state line and said, "You know you're never getting me out of this state again."
I said this as an objection to the constant moving we had done our entire married life (we've moved more than 20 times.) As I figuratively put my foot down, I wasn't just talking to Steve, but I was saying to God that all this moving was over and that it was time to stay put.
Now, even once we were back in Colorado Springs we moved from one apartment into another, then into a rental house and then to the house we purchased in '99 and have lived in ever since. The moving boxes are all unpacked and thrown away. I am done.
As I read this scripture, however, I was certain that God was telling me that I had said this to Him and that he was asking me to be prepared to pull up the tent stakes if he asked me to go. So often I delude myself that I am responding to someone other than God when I stamp my foot and say "No!" or when I whine "but I want to." God is not fooled.
I also felt prompted to share this passage with someone else in regard to the direction our Women's Ministry Committee needs to go. I feel as if we have gone along doing what we think we should do, but have not really searched to see where the cloud is. Where is God leading? Is he leading or is he asking us to stay still?
As I surrendered to God's prompting and said that I would follow the cloud, a feeling of peace and contentment I cannot really describe came over me. I am so glad to so, have, for once, done the surrendering without fighting, whining or complaining.
I have no idea if there is a move in our future, it seemed more like a question of "will you surrender" rather than a confirmation of an impending move, but when you say you are willing, you gotta mean it.
But how do we know where God is leading us when there is no actual cloud to follow now? First, God will never lead us contrary to scripture. Second, we must pray. Through prayer, concentrated and constant, God talks to us, sometimes he reveals himself through a new understanding of his word, sometimes he leads by moving the circumstances.
I have a friend who was recently offered another position at double his current salary. He told me that he already makes plenty of money and wanted to know what I thought he should do. Was this a temptation or an opportunity?
It wasn't clear to me at all, as this is a man who I believe is one of the few who can manage wealth without letting it drag him from serving God, and I told him so. But sometimes I believe that we are led through our spouses and he has a wonderful wife and has godly counsel, so I just agreed to pray for him, and I have.
I am thrilled to report he has decided to turn down the position. I would have been equally thrilled had he decided to take it, as I really believe this man put the matter to prayer and was confident that he was following God's leading. That's the main thing, after all. He followed the cloud. I want to follow it too.