17Whenever the cloud lifted from over the tent, then the Israelites would set out; and in the place where the cloud settled down, there the Israelites would camp. 18At the command of the Lord the Israelites would set out, and at the command of the Lord they would camp. As long as the cloud rested over the tabernacle, they would remain in camp.
And so it went for the Israelites through the valley out of the known to the unknown land God had destined for them. One step at a time, one stop at a time, the people looking to the sky and cloud cover as their guide – a sort of traffic signal. Cloud hovering over the tent? Stay put. Lifted? Onward through the valley on the road laid out by Him and leading they knew not where.
Gosh, I wish it were that easy. I live in an area of the country often buried in fog at different times of nearly every day. And during the summer the cloud cover doesn’t often lift before noon. As a writer-in-residence once quipped about the place, “The coldest winter I ever spent was a winter here.”
This past week was an exception. For several days in a row it was spectacularly sunny, hot and clear with nary a cloud to be seen. Then yesterday the fog returned with some fanfare because a national outdoor event was taking place and the sudden change in the weather invited comment.
It is in this type of exception to normal day to day life that intersects with the scriptural readings of the day in which I find the Spirit speaks – whispers a personal application that would otherwise elude.
Had the weather – cloud cover and fog – not been a hot topic, it wouldn’t have occurred to me to see any relevance in today’s reading from Numbers. But there it was. The cloud cover, that is – all the buzz on national television yesterday afternoon and then this morning coming in through the office windows, setting a cooler, calmer tone for the day than a sunny, cloudless one would have.
And in this foggy place, I hear the Spirit in the Numbers reading suggesting this.
If I were to have adopted the Israelites sure-fire method for walking the walk God intends for me, I would have made a lot of progress this past week. I would have been much closer to the new life I trust He has been leading me to for the better part of three years, now. Five days of cloudless sunny skies, dry heat and just enough movement in the air so as not to be stifling. Perfect get up and go weather.
If I were looking to the cloud cover for the signal to move onward into the unknown it would have been so easy to do so.
And this morning, God would have settled me down for a rest stop. The fog rolled in. If I had been looking to the cloud cover for the signal to STOP, I would be somewhere different than where I am this morning. I don’t know where that would be, but somewhere different.
I wish it were this easy. I wish I could know not only where God is taking me, but at the same time be assured that I am on the path He as called me onto. I wish I could see and hear God in something so explicit as cloud cover.
I suppose the Spirit wants me thinking about this. To what or to whom do I look to make life-moving-forward decisions? And to what or whom do I look to see where God is in the decisions I do make? And if I am not on the journey from here to there alone anymore than the Israelites were, am I reading God’s signals – onward or settle – as they are?
No answers yet. But I’m grateful for the Spirit speaking to me through the Israelites experience with God’s signals. It helps and encourages me to think on these things, just as Paul suggests people of faith should do for one another and a good reminder to close off today’s reflection:
12…may (we) be mutually encouraged by each other’s faith, both yours and mine. 13