"So it was, whenever the ark set out, that Moses said:
"Rise up, O Lord! Let Your enemies be scattered,
And let those who hate You flee before You."
And when it rested, he said:
"Return, O Lord,
To the many thousands of Israel."
- Numbers 10: 35-36 (NKJV)
God had rescued the people of Israel from Egypt. They were on their way to the promised land. - and they had the most interesting way of getting directions.
The presence of God was dwelling with them in a tent called the Tabernacle - by day it looked like a cloud; by night it looked like fire. When the cloud lifted, and began to move - they followed it. When it stopped, they stopped. The Bible tells us that "whether it was two days, a month, or a year that the cloud remained above the tabernacle, the children of Israel would remain encamped and not journey; but when it was taken up, they would journey." (Numbers 9:22 NKJV)
It struck me this morning what a very simple way to follow God this is - and how much more complicated we make it some days.
The children of Israel knew generally where they were going. But they didn't spend 40 years wandering aimlessly in the desert to get there. There was purpose and intentionality to their movements - but it wasn't purpose and intentionality they brought to the plan - it was God's directions they followed. Sometimes they journeyed and sometimes they camped - and sometimes it was two days and sometimes it was a year. God alone knows why His directions were what they were - but He had his reasons, and Israel's job was to journey and camp as they were directed. So they followed the Presence - and in the end, came to the place they were meant to be.
How often do I try to depend on my own strengths, my own gifts, and my own ability to figure things out in an attempt to get where I think I'm going? When really, those strengths, gifts and abilities aren't truly mine to begin with, but a gift in the first place? And when really, what's needed isn't a plan, but the willingness to follow where He's leading (or not leading) that day - regardless of whether or not I know the reasons for what we're doing in that day? I spend so much time trying to sort it all out, making it far more complicated than it needs to be, when what I really need to do is to "cease striving and know that [He] is God." (Psalm 46:10a NASB).
I love how Eugene Peterson re-worded what Moses said in Numbers 10:36 of the Message Paraphrase:
"And when the Chest was set down, he would say:
"Rest with us, God.
Stay with the many,
Many thousands of Israel."
Rest with us, God.
Oh, would You come and do that today? Would you come and rest with us, and teach us to rest in You?