Echoes from the wilderness: The cloud and pillar of fire. ☁️🔥

Numbers 9:17-23; 10:33-34

Why did the cloud and pillar of fire keep moving all over the place during the Israelites’ journey in the wilderness? Studying it, I found that in our wilderness seasons, God tells us when to move and when to stop. Whether it was two days, a month or a year that the cloud/fire remained static, the Israelites also remained in place and did not journey. Each movement or stopping was done at the command of the Lord. (Num 9:23). Better said, the wilderness period is intentional of God and His children must root themselves in Him so they know the reason for the season and what to do therein. 

The wilderness is not a constant period of activity. Ask anyone who’s been through a wilderness experience and they’ll tell you how they like the feeling of activity because it keeps them busy or makes them feel as if a breakthrough is near. But Num 10:33 tells us that the cloud moved to show the people where next to stop and rest!

Inadvertently the process of moving around allowed the people exercise their muscles and also their faith in the guidance of God. It also ensured that they didn’t get comfortable with the status quo because God had a much bigger plan for where He was taking them to. Just like Abraham, Isaac and Jacob who were in a constant state of motion, living like foreigners in tents as they looked forward confidently to the city God promised (Heb 11:9), so the Israelites were to be. 

God also used the process of moving around to show His faithfulness. The sandals and clothes of the people never wore out and they always had food to eat (Deut 29:5). All their basic human needs were satisfied! Indeed it was not food as delicious as what they fed on in Egypt, but God wanted to strengthen their ability to subject appetite and human desires to spiritual things. But the people constantly complained, desiring the goodies from their former life. God in His anger fed them meat (quail) in abundance but as they ate it, a severe plague broke out amongst them.

With God moving the people around, it was easy for them to get frustrated with all the stops and starts. God wanted to use the experience to humble and test them to know what was in their hearts, whether or not they would keep His commands (Deut 8:2). 

God wanted the people to remember all the things He had done for them in the past (Num 14:11). He wanted His past works in their behalf to serve as reassurance that whatever they were going through was just and that He was in control. He had rescued them and shown Himself strong multiple times in the past and He would do it again. He had even descended upon Mt. Sinai with fire and earthquake to give them the ten commandments. They also had the cloud and pillar of fire as visible witnesses of God’s presence. But lo, just as we do even today, they forgot it all and foolishly complained. Unfortunately for them, God heard it all and punished their ungratefulness. 

As they moved at God’s divine command, He was also teaching them many other lessons along the way. Lessons which would be necessary for them to succeed and sustain the blessings in the promised land. But the people were so narrowly focused on their immediate challenges that they couldn’t appreciate the big picture. Indeed only God knows the end from the beginning but He wants us to know that everything works together for our good because we are loved and called according to His purpose. Nothing is a mistake with Him. Even what seems to be a mistake, He causes to work in our behalf. He redeems the time – look at Joseph and Mordecai! He doesn’t want us to rely on our own understanding of life’s events but to just stay connected to Him. To let Him be our number 1 desire i.e. seeking first His kingdom and His righteousness and every other thing will be added unto us. But through the wilderness we must respond correctly otherwise we stay there for much longer than He desires. We should be asking God to show us what He wants us to learn during the season. 

Finally, it wasn’t God’s plan for them to wander in the wilderness for 40 years. They lacked faith when the spies saw the promised land and complained against God, causing Him to curse them. Not only did they lack faith, but they couldn’t appreciate the blessing of God when it came. They perhaps had an image in their mind of how God would bless them but when He finally showed them the blessing, because it didn’t match, they complained and brought a curse on their head. We all need to be careful that we remain connected to God so that we are able to recognize His providence when it finally presents itself. Even if it may not look like the fancy image we had in mind, when God opens a door and we know it’s only God that could have opened it, we should step into it with faith and keep moving. He is a good father and knows how to give good gifts. 😁😇

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