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
When was the last time you saw a cloud stand still. This “condensate” of God was present for the Israelites in a way that required immediate obedience… the cloud moves you pick up camp and move. The cloud stays for a month, a year, you settle in and hang out. This level of obedience is a stark contrast to the more legalistic obedience and rules described in Leviticus. This kind of obedience feels a lot more like when Jesus said to the fisherman “leave your nets and follow me”. In some ways Jesus was as ethereal as a cloud in the ways he healed, spoke, and loved those around him.
I think God’s spirit still does this in our lives. Although we do not see a visible cloud, His spirit settles on certain areas of our life. I think He intends for us to dwell with him at these times and places, but be ready to pull up our tent stakes and move on when he needs us elsewhere. This can be hard. I tend to be a “doer”. Sometimes I feel like a “human doing” rather than a “human being”. If something needs to get done my tendency is to do it right away.
I went for a job interview once in Montana in the middle of winter. I drove all the way from Salmon, Idaho where I was living at the time. When I got to the interview one of the people who I was talking to had me pegged within the first 5 minutes. He said “Peter you have only two speeds, full on and full off”. I am not sure how he was able to see into my heart and soul so quickly but he got it right. I do have only two speeds.
I got the job by the way, apparently they needed someone with only two gears. On my way home after the interview I stayed in Butte, Montana and it got to about 20 degrees below zero. I woke up to find out my heater core had frozen. There was no damage to my car, but also no heat on my drive from Butte, Montana to Salmon, Idaho. I have never been so cold. I was driving in my sleeping bag and wearing all the clothes I had brought. Finally within the last 30 minutes of my drive my heater core thawed and I had heat again.
Now having only two gears can be good if one needs to get something done, but it can make waiting on God more challenging. It is hard to sit still when your engine is revving and you want to do something. I am increasingly convinced as I get older (and hopefully wiser) that there are times when God needs us to do nothing (full off), so that we can be observant and participate in what He is doing. How does one know when to move on and when to camp out with God in a place where he needs us? I don’t have a great answer to this other than to say I think it comes from experience and practice. How does someone get really good at a sport — practice and making mistakes. Maybe getting really good at following God’s is like this — full of practice and mistakes.
I made many mistakes as a new Christian in college. I often charged ahead without looking to see if I was following God or not. I am still learning, but I would like to believe that I am making fewer mistakes. The “walking on water” blog has been very good for me in that regard. I have been forced to slow down and rely on God daily for my Omer of blog post. I cannot rush ahead, although there were times when I wanted to when I was in Leviticus. Waiting on God as he daily reveals ways that he is using water to communicate through the bible is helping me to find additional gears. Perhaps someday I will be a 5-speed with overdrive 🙂
Prayer: God help me to see where your spirit is resting and give me contentment in resting in you. When your spirit moves on and you need me elsewhere, give me the boldness and faith to follow you.