“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.
“So, brothers and sisters, because of God’s mercies, I encourage you to present your bodies as a living sacrifice that is holy and pleasing to God. This is your appropriate priestly service. Don’t be conformed to the patterns of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your minds so that you can figure out what God’s will is—what is good and pleasing and mature.” (Romans 12:1-2, CEB).
This meditation is a hands-on lesson in how God works in our lives. Give it a try.
- Take a blank sheet of paper and in the middle of the sheet of paper write in large letters:
- Then in the top left-hand corner write in smaller letters:
- Fold the paper in half folding the bottom half behind and to the top so that the words are still showing.
- Then fold the paper in half folding the right half behind and to the left so that the words are still showing.
- Again, fold the paper in half folding the bottom half behind and to the top so that the words are still showing.
- And, again fold the paper in half folding the right half behind and to the left so that the words are still showing.
- You should now have a small square of paper in your hands that is 1/16th of the original paper size with the words printed on it: GOD’S PLAN FOR MY LIFE. These words probably fill or almost fill the small square of paper in your hand.
Here’s the point of this exercise:
We like to think of God’s will as something that is being revealed a little at a time. It’s like something we discover as if it is unfolding before us.
Actually, finding God’s will is more like folding than unfolding. It’s more like the displacement of our own will in favor of God’s will. It’s a place God leads us, not a place we discover.
“Work out your salvation with fear and trembling; for it is God who is at work in you, both to will and to work for His good pleasure” (Philippians 2:12-13, NASB).
Recently I told a friend about an important life decision that I had made, yet I hadn’t received specific guidance from the Lord that this was what I should do. In my heart it just seemed to be the right decision and one that pointed in the same direction as God has been leading me.
My friend then quoted Psalm 37:23 (ESV): “The steps of a man are established by the Lord, when he delights in his way.”
At first I thought that doesn’t seem very spiritual. How can the everyday decisions I make be established by the Lord? After all, I make a lot of bad decisions, too!
“Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with all your might…” (Ecclesiastes 9:10, NASB).
Whatever you do in life, do it with gusto, do it with enthusiasm, do it with passion! Do the best job you can do, no matter what you are doing! Abraham Lincoln said it like this: “Whatever you are, be a good one!”
And then, do whatever you are doing as if you are doing it for God.
When you become passionate for doing God’s will, for achieving success for God’s kingdom and God’s glory and not just your own, then what you do in life takes on eternal significance and it becomes your God-appointed assignment, God’s will for you. “For I have taken all this to my heart and explain it that righteous men, wise men, and their deeds are in the hand of God” (vs. 1).
“See, I have placed the land before you, go in and possess the land which the Lord swore to give to your fathers, to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob, to them and their descendants after them…See, the Lord your God has placed the land before you; go up, take possession, as the Lord, the God of your fathers, has spoken to you. Do not fear or be dismayed” (Deuteronomy 1:8,21, NASB).
Most of the book of Deuteronomy consists of speeches made by Moses to the Israelites during the final months of his life and just prior to entering the land of Canaan. This particular admonition to go and possess the promised land, contained notably in the first chapter of Deuteronomy, was repeated twice in the first twenty-one verses.
But, I think it’s also significant because it was not only God’s injunction to the Israelites, but He’s still directing His people in the same way and with the same provocation today. God implores us to possess the promises He has made to us, to accomplish His plans and purposes for our lives, to achieve our destiny in Him.
“So they camped or traveled at the Lord’s command, and they did whatever the Lord told them through Moses” (Numbers 9:23, NLT).
When Israel was in the wilderness, God led the nation with a pillar of cloud or fire. The pillar regularly appeared as a cloud by day and a pillar of fire by night. When the pillar settled over the Tabernacle and the camp of Israel, it represented God’s presence and protection.
“Early in the morning Jacob took the stone that was near his head and set it up as a marker. He poured oil on top of it and named the place Bethel…Then Jacob made a vow: ‘If God will be with me and watch over me on this journey, if He provides me with food to eat and clothing to wear, and if I return safely to my father’s house, then the Lord will be my God. This stone that I have set up as a marker will be God’s house, and I will give to You a tenth of all that You give me'” (Genesis 28:18-22, HCSB).
Jacob was on a journey to Haran and at the end of one of the days during his journey he stopped and camped outdoors.
That night God appeared to Jacob in a dream of a stairway that started from where he was and reached to heaven. Angels were ascending and descending the stairway. In the dream God transferred to Jacob all the essential elements of the covenant He had established with his grandfather and father, Abraham and Isaac.
“But I will send you the Advocate—the Spirit of truth. He will come to you from the Father and will testify all about me” (John 15:26, NLT).
At the Last Supper Jesus explained to His disciples that He was going away–He was going to be arrested and executed–and so He would send the Holy Spirit, the Advocate, to be with His disciples.
“Then the Lord told him, Go back the same way you came…” (1 Kings 19:15, NLT)
Sometimes we can lose focus on how God is working even though He has done many extraordinary things in our lives.
The prophet Elijah seemed to lose his focus when Queen Jezebel threatened to kill him. Elijah was in such fear for his life that he fled to the wilderness even though he had just called fire down from heaven and called on God for rain that ended a three-year drought in Israel (vs. 18:39, 43-44).
“The Spirit of the Lord will control you, you will prophesy with them, and you will be transformed into a different person. When these signs have happened to you, do whatever your circumstances require because God is with you.” (1 Samuel 10:6-7, HCSB)
In these verses the prophet Samuel is giving Saul instructions on the first thing he should do after he was chosen as the first king of Israel.