“At the command of the Lord they camped, and at the command of the Lord they set out” (Numbers 9:23, ESV).
After their escape from Egyptian slavery, the Israelites constructed a transportable tabernacle to worship God during their Sinai wilderness wanderings. God demonstrated His presence among them by covering the tabernacle with a cloud by day and the appearance of fire by night.
The cloud and appearance of fire indicated the presence of God’s Spirit with His chosen people.
Whenever the cloud lifted over the great tent, the Israelites would set out and continue on their journey and then encamp in the place where the cloud would settle. They might set up camp for for a few days, a month and even longer when the cloud settled over the tabernacle (Numbers 9:22). Undoubtedly, it was quite a feat to disassemble and reassemble the tabernacle when the cloud lifted (see Numbers 1:50–52; 3–4).
God leads His people by setting and revealing a path for each believer’s life. This verse indicates that there are two important aspects to God’s guidance: stopping and going. Stopping means remaining and waiting on God to lead and going means moving forward when He leads in a new direction.
In the same way that God’s presence covered the tabernacle and guided the Israelites in the wilderness, God’s Spirit dwells within believers and guides them through their lives in this world.
Sometimes the Holy Spirit leads you to move forward and sometimes the Spirit leads you to stop and wait. The waiting may be for a little while or it may be for an extended period of time. And, moving forward may require some complex disassembling and reassembling of your life.
Stopping, waiting and remaining can often be the more difficult part of the Spirit’s leading for us to obey. We don’t like to wait for God’s time to advance. It’s routine and monotonous. We always want a new direction, forward progress. It’s more exciting.
The English poet John Milton expressed this sentiment best in one of his sonnets: “God doth not need either man’s work or his own gifts; who best bear his mild yoke, they serve him best… They also serve who only stand and wait.”
Our responsibility as God’s children is not to see how much we can accomplish for Him but to be led by His Holy Spirit.
For those who are led by the Spirit of God are the children of God. (Romans 8:14, NIV)