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Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Fire by Night

Whether the cloud stayed above the Tabernacle for two days, a month, or a year, the people of Israel stayed in camp and did not move on. But as soon as it lifted, they broke camp and moved on. Numbers 9:22
New Living Translation (NLT)

Two days, a month, or a year. The Israelites stayed put, camped in one spot, did not take another step toward the Promised Land until God's presence lifted and moved them forward.

Am I this patient? When God's presence is with me, teaching me, speaking to me yet, I am not moving any closer to a desired goal, do I grumble? Ummmmm...yeah.

I feel like I've been in the same spot for years. Literally. This little, bitty, crowded but in a joyful way, chaotic but in an organized way, home. I love my kids. I have loved, loved being home with them. More than I could ever express I have loved it. It never felt like moving forward but I did enjoy standing still...in some ways. In many ways I longed to move forward to the type of ministry I thought was desirable. While serving them. Serving God. In the same place. In the same way. Servanthood. Loved it. Longed to move at the same time.

Now both could happen I am aware. I could be moving forward while caring for young children. That is not how it happened with me. I am now walking. Not staying home so much but walking in new realms of ministry. Still ministering at home. Adding new ministries to my horizons.

Walking toward goals other than becoming a mother. I like movement. I do.

Days, months and years that I am called to camp out, waiting on God to reveal my next step find me rather impatient. I ask God if I should send an email, make a phone call, do something. Do anything.

He has answered me on most occassions with a resounding, "Just wait."

I love this picture of the cloud lifting by day or the fire lifting by night to move the people forward. The Israelites must have wondered if God had a plan at all. No walking for an entire year and then day after day after day of moving, traveling and just when they set up camp for a good night's rest protected by God's fiery presence, it lifts and on they go. How many hours would they walk when all they wanted was to lie down for a good night's rest?
They must have been exhausted at times. They must have begged God to let them stop moving as vehemently as they had begged Him, just days before, to let them begin their journey again.
Sound familiar?

The struggle for contentment is as old as the world. The Cure for contentment is even older. He lasts from everlasting to everlasting. Only when our eyes are on the cloud by day and the fire by night will we ever stay truly content no matter if our feet are moving forward or serving in the same place.
Being led by fire at night walking through the wilderness creates a rather vivid and intense picture in my mind. In order to traverse the desert at night, following the pillar of fire would have been crucial. Walking forward, unseeing in total darkness except for the path that the fire of God's presence illuminated.
Sound familiar?
How often does God call me to walk forward to a place I cannot see? Many times all I can see is His face, His hand, His leading. Often I cannot see where He is taking me or even the path I will follow. Sometimes I just know He has said to go. Sometimes I just know He has said to stop.
I meditate on the feeling of traveling through the scorching heat. Sand burning their feet and their eyes and their faces. Mothers carrying babies on their hips and fathers carrying households on their shoulders. Did they ever forget to be thankful for the cloud? Did the cloud ever seem too small in the scorching sun? Did they get sunburned or dehydrated? Somehow I believe Our God was more than enough. Yet, do I remember that as I travel through the desert? In a hot, arid, desolate wilderness do I thank God for His presence? Even though a cloud is barely seen and often taken for granted, do I stop to notice? At all? Ever?
I love reading this verse. It reminds me that God is the same yesterday and today (and forever). He hasn't asked me to do anything He never asked others to do before me.
And, I am so grateful He has given me their example to follow. I know the eventual result is entering a land flowing with milk and honey! God does what He says He will do!

Lord, give me eyes to see the shade from the scorching heat by day and the feel the warmth of your presence by night. Give me grace to receive your comfort and your strength no matter where I am journeying to the Promised Land. Amen.

When the Cloud lifted above the Tent, the People of Israel marched out; and when the Cloud descended the people camped. The People of Israel marched at God's command and they camped at his command. As long as the Cloud was over The Dwelling, they camped. Even when the Cloud hovered over The Dwelling for many days, they honored God's command and wouldn't march. They stayed in camp, obedient to God's command, as long as the Cloud was over The Dwelling, but the moment God issued orders they marched. If the Cloud stayed only from sunset to daybreak and then lifted at daybreak, they marched. Night or day, it made no difference—when the Cloud lifted, they marched. It made no difference whether the Cloud hovered over The Dwelling for two days or a month or a year, as long as the Cloud was there, they were there. And when the Cloud went up, they got up and marched. They camped at God's command and they marched at God's command. They lived obediently by God's orders as delivered by Moses. Numbers 9:22
The Message (MSG)


Melanie Dorsey said...

I like movement, too. And I've had my months/years of feeling as though I'm standing still.

Luanne said...

Yea--me too. Those are the hardest times when in my mind, I want to do "great" things for God, and He says, "Keep loving those kids and that hubby--that's the great things I want you to do for me."

And then I grumble and complain and miss the blessings.

B His Girl said...

I think most of grumble and don't even notice it. I'm actually moving right now, mind you it's at a turtle's pace, but I am going. This stop, go, and wait has always been. Thanks for connecting this so beautifully to us today. B

Melissa @ Breath of Life said...

Contentment is an area of struggle for me. He's teaching me great things, though.

There's a devotion book by Lydia Brownback called "Contentment". I highly recommend it for anyone who battles in this area.