Last December I started on a schedule that was designed to have me read through the entire Bible in one year. If you look online you can find a number of different ways to do this. The one that I am using divides the Bible into seven sections, roughly according to major type of writing within each book. On Mondays I read from the Law (Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy), Tuesdays is History, Wednesday is Psalms, Thursday is Poetry, Friday is Prophecy, Saturday is Gospels and Acts, and Sunday is Epistles.
As I am reading through the Bible some things I read are very familiar, while others are not. Like most Christians, I presume, I am much more fond of and familiar with the writing of the New Testament than the Old. And while there are many parts of the Old Testament that are familiar, such as most of Genesis and many Psalms, there are other parts of it that I have likely read, at most, only once or twice before, such as Numbers and 1 and 2 Chronicles.
One of the strengths of a one-year reading plan is that I become better acquainted with the entire Bible, rather than just reading the parts I enjoy the most. Some of this is challenging, because when I read it I have little understanding of the context a specific part arose from and what God’s intent was in both the initial writing and preserving it for us today. I have had those challenging moments repeatedly in some portions of the Old Testament, particularly lately, as I have read Leviticus and started Numbers.
Yesterday I read Numbers 9, 10, 11 and 12. It had a mixture of things that seemed clear and others that would need closer study and prayer for me to understand more fully. And I was pleasantly surprised to read something that spoke directly to the circumstances of me and my family at this time and place in our life. That was Numbers 9:15-23.
The setting is relatively early in the Exodus. The Hebrew people have left Egypt and Moses is leading them through the desert. According to the instructions given in Leviticus they have constructed the Tabernacle, which is to be their place of worship as they journey, the place where God has told them he will be present among them.
Since the first moment when they have fled from Egypt, after the Passover, God has physically shown his presence among the Hebrews through a cloud during the day and a pillar of fire at night. Day or night, the Hebrews can look to the sky and see the symbol of God’s presence with them.
The passage from Numbers 9:15-23 tells how the Hebrews are to know when to break their camp and where they are to go next. If God’s cloud is over the Tabernacle they are to stay put, and if the cloud lifts and moves they are to pack up and follow it. Verse 21 notes that a stay could be for as brief a time as one night and verse 22 notes they could be in camp for a month or longer. Verse 23 sums up their following of God’s cloud like this:
“At the command of the Lord they camped and at the command of the Lord they set out. They kept the charge of the Lord, at the command of the Lord by Moses.”
This passage speaks to me because our family feels as if we are under the cloud of the Lord, watching and waiting to see when it lifts and where it will lead us.
Looking back over the past few years we can see that God has been at work preparing and leading us by steps. We have made some choices in the belief that God is leading us to a place which at present is known only to Him.
At times we get a bit antsy and wish that God used clearer signals with us, perhaps like the cloud leading the Hebrews through the desert. But that doesn’t seem to be the case. We have to remind ourselves that, to paraphrase Isaiah, “God’s ways are not our ways.” And that is a very good thing.
And we know that waiting for God to move the cloud isn’t a passive activity. We aren’t sitting like bumps on a log. We continue to do all of the things as people and a family that we did before we embarked on this part of our journey through life with God. But we do so with our eyes open, scanning the horizon to see if the cloud is moving and where we may be headed to next.
How does God show his presence in your life, and where is He leading you to?
Scripture quotations are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version® (ESV®), copyright © 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.