We Will Move...When the Cloud Moves: Part SixSunday, May 27, 2012
Part Six: The Cloud Provided a Constant Sense of Direction
I do believe God wants us to live in patience and contentment while we wait. If the lifting, moving and settling of the cloud provided simple instruction and direction for the Israelites, what were they doing in the mean time? They were either living life where they were, or they were travelling to their next destination. When the cloud settled, they unpacked their stuff, setup tents, setup their communities and neighborhoods, constructed the tabernacle and…just settled down and lived life.
We often forget that there were about two million Israelites that cross the Red Sea. And we often forget that those two million people were having babies and raising families while they were in the wilderness. Those two million could have turned into 2.5 million or more during the forty year wilderness travels. The nation was split up by tribe or family, each one tracing their lineage back to one of the twelve sons of Jacob. The families or tribes were arranged around the tabernacle in a specific order. It would have resembled something very much like our neighborhoods and suburbs with tents for houses and paths for streets. It would have been quite easy to find your way around the massive population if you had memorized the layout, which never changed when they moved to a new location.
When the cloud settled the families settled, tents and homes went up, instant neighborhoods and communities were built. Friendships that were formed within your own tribe might have meant pitching your tent closer to them on the next trip or even moving next door! Friendships formed in other tribes meant frequent travel to and from those neighborhoods in the days, weeks, months and years to follow. With over two million people camping out, communities and neighborhoods would have even been separated by many miles. That meant a lot of walking if you wanted to travel to see your friends in another part of the nation. Birthday parties, feasts, festivals, jobs, raising kids, raising animals, making clothes, mending clothes, changing diapers, taking baths, collecting manna each morning, making bread each day, sweeping out the tents, changing the linens, brushing teeth before bedtime…all in all they lived pretty much a normal life when the cloud settled. This made their direction life quite simple: live life where you are until God moves you somewhere else.
But when the cloud lifted, most of that changed. To be sure, life went on, diapers were changed when on the move, bedtime routines were interrupted and feeding and herding animals was a challenge. There’s really no telling how long they all had to take down their tents, pack up their homes and lives, gather their children and animals, and be ready to move with the cloud. Perhaps a day, maybe a week? Who knows? One thing is for sure: when the cloud started moving, you’d better be ready to move your family and stuff.
In short, when the cloud settled, you settled. When the cloud lifted, you lifted. When the cloud moved, you moved. Such direction about where you were to live and what you were to do was so simple in those days. And it becomes so easy for me today to think that my life is somehow so much more complicated that I can’t follow God this way any longer. When God wants to move my family, He’ll make it plain and obvious how He is going to do that. It may not look like me getting a job first, and then finding a house. That’s how it plays out in my mind, at least. But God is God, and His ways are not my ways, and His thoughts are not my thoughts. Sure, my job is to find a job where I want to move. I do my part. I work hard where I am to provide for my family, and I work hard to find a job in our next city. Between now and then, however, my responsibility is to wait on the cloud, to wait on the Lord.
Practically speaking, there are two things that just jump right out at me personally when I meditate on the cloud in the wilderness. The first is that life is a mission. In the wilderness, the mission was to worship God. In the church today the mission is preach the gospel to the nations so that they may worship, too. Words like worship, mission, and nations all inherently connote movement. You can’t be still doing any of those things. They all carry a constant undertone of transition. And that’s just the way God intends it. If the book of Joshua teaches anything, it’s that settling down too long in one place brings an unhealthy ease to the soul. That’s why we have two narratives in the Old Testament to teach us this fact. Abraham and Moses’ stories both show us that the real “promised land” will never be on this earth, but awaits us in heaven. It is there that we will finally settle down and rest once and for all. Until then, the life of a believer is about movement and transition.
The second practical thing I learn from this story is to live light. If the believer’s life is about the movements and transitions involved in worship, mission, and nations then it makes sense to live light, to no store up treasures for myself on earth. That’s because when the cloud moves, I’ve got pack it all up! My wife remarks that I/we are definitely not living light when we have to pack up and move my four-to-five thousand volume library! Perhaps not. But I tell her that they are like the bones of Joseph which we’ll continue to carry until they reach whatever promised land God wants to leave them in! Seriously though, it does make sense to pare down to the essentials of life in order to be ready to move when the cloud does.
The cloud is settled here for us right now. This is where we currently live, and this is where we will continue to live until God makes the way. His leadership for us will be as clear as the path He carved through the Red Sea. It will be as plain for us as the cloud of fire leading them across dry land. It will be as obvious to us as the pillar of cloud leading them through the wilderness day by day. And until that cloud lifts, we settle here, making friends, building relationships, discipling others, raising a family, enjoying bedtime routines, praying and looking for work, putting out resumes, cutting my grass, cleaning my house, cooking meals, and herding children.
The fact that the cloud has not lifted brings simplicity to my life. I cannot make a move until God makes it. The cloud brings security to my life. I know that God is with me, even though I do not have a literal cloud in front of me every day. The cloud brings safety. I feel safe with such secure and simple direction. And I would be wise to battle on every front to fight against the idols that produce distraction, confusion, lying and foolish acts of desperation. This was the battle of the average Israelite in the wilderness. And according to the apostle Paul, it’s the same battle of the average Christian today.
Read the entire series here in one document.
About the Author: Rob is a entrepreneur in Statesboro, GA, where he envisions and pursues missional-shaped business for the kingdom. He and his wife Sherri have been married for 18 years and together have three sons and a daughter. Rob believes the mission of the gospel is summed up in four simple phrases: know God, obey Jesus, make disciples, and plant churches. This is the pursuit of his life, as well as the point of his blog.