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Numbers 9: They camped at God’s command and they marched at God’s command.
It’s pretty straightforward. There’s a big cloud that glows like fire at night. All they have to do is follow it. When it moves, they move. When it stands still, they stand still. That’s the one that catches my attention: “stand still.” I do a lot better job of moving. After all, I’m a valuable part of the Kingdom of God and I’m sure the Lord needs for me to be in the game from start to finish. Other players might get a break but no bench time for me! Well, seriously, I know there’s always something else to be done. I need to take note that even as the Lord leads the Israelites in this clear and unmistakable way that sometimes he leads them to stop. For one thing that means taking time out. God built a day off into the very fabric of Creation. A minimum of one day out of seven is a day for the Pillar of Cloud in our lives to stand still. Another thing that comes to mind is that I don’t listen to God very well when I’m on the move. His Voice is precious, but it’s often so quiet that I won’t hear it at all unless I still my life and pay attention. Every day needs to have times when the Pillar of Cloud stands still for a while and I focus my attention entirely on the Lord.
Take Away: Taking time out is not only a good thing to do, it’s actually a requirement.
Exodus 13: The Pillar of Cloud by day and the Pillar of Fire by night never left the people.
The journey begins. Freed from bondage they’re now on the way to the Promised Land. This is the land God promised to their ancestor, Abraham. Moses is their leader yet God provides even more direct guidance. He guides them with a daytime cloud and a nighttime fire in the sky. When the pillar moves, they move. When it stands still, they stand still. What could be easier? Honestly, I kind of envy them, don’t you? Who could ask for a more clear way to know God’s plan. Still, as I think about it, I realize that many years later Jesus promises a “pillar” of his own. One of his last words of instruction to his disciples contains the promise of the Holy Spirit who will be their Guide. Instead of scanning the horizon to follow a pillar of cloud (have you ever wondered how that worked on a rainy day or during a nighttime thunderstorm?) the disciples will have an Inner Guide directing their lives. And it won’t be a case of God dragging them along in directions they don’t want to go either (remember, even with the pillars, there are an abundance of spiritual failures coming). This Guide, promised by Jesus, transforms hearts — changing his followers at the heart level. He not only guides; he also enables us to follow. It isn’t a pillar of fire but it is a wonderful way to be led by the Lord.
Take Away: The Holy Spirit is our “pillar of fire.”