Stay In / Set Out

In Numbers this morning, I take note of God’s orderly instructions regarding when the Israelites should stay or go. It’s wonderful to think of God’s care for them in Numbers 9:

At the command of the Lord the people of Israel set out, and at the command of the Lord they camped. As long as the cloud rested over the tabernacle, they remained in camp. Even when the cloud continued over the tabernacle many days, the people of Israel kept the charge of the Lord and did not set out. Sometimes the cloud was a few days over the tabernacle, and according to the command of the Lord they remained in camp; then according to the command of the Lord they set out. And sometimes the cloud remained from evening until morning. And when the cloud lifted in the morning, they set out, or if it continued for a day and a night, when the cloud lifted they set out. Whether it was two days, or a month, or a longer time, that the cloud continued over the tabernacle, abiding there, the people of Israel remained in camp and did not set out, but when it lifted they set out. 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.

If you notice, sometimes God kept the people in place for a day. Sometimes, He kept them still for more than a month. Sometimes two days. Sometimes many days.

This passage reminds me of God’s timing in our lives as we think about ministry, fruitfulness, or even the basic activities of our days. Sometimes we feel kept in place, hidden away in our tent. Other times, we’ll feel like God uproots us and sends us on an exciting adventure. We’re moving! We’re busy! We’re in full view and ready to make things happen! And then the season of staying still comes, and we wonder what the Lord is doing. Can you imagine what it felt like for the Israelites to have no way of knowing when the cloud would lift to indicate the time for setting out? Their job was to watch that cloud. Their job was to wait. Their job was to be ready for anything, whether hidden or on the move.

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