God set the schedule for the wilderness travels. He said how long to stay in one area, where to go and where to stop.
I love knowing that the “wandering in the desert” wasn’t because the men wouldn’t consult a map. “No we are not lost. No, I don’t need a map. If we keep going this way we will eventually run into something that looks familiar.” I’ve heard that statement more than once in my lifetime and it was usually said by my husband when I was frustrated with not knowing where we were.
Israel didn’t need a map. They had the Creator of the universe leading them along. He also had a MUCH better view of what lay ahead than they did. When God said “Let’s go” they went. When He said “Stop” they stopped. When He said “Be still” they waited. And to know what He was saying all they had to do was look up at the cloud.
I had a couple of things pop into my head while contemplating this phenomenon. First is the behavior of the cloud. Second is the expectation of the people.
I don’t know if you have ever looked up at the clouds and found shapes in them. One might look like a face, another an elephant, another a whale breaching. Once you identified shapes though they soon lost form and shifted. Sometimes they formed into something else and sometimes they just dissipated. But one thing they ALWAYS do is move. They don’t stand still or maintain their form. But THIS cloud did.
The whole desert sky could be filled with clouds moving across it but this cloud stood still. NOTHING moved it but God. That in itself is a miracle. And then this same cloud would appear as if on fire during the night! I wonder, if you had a ladder tall enough do you think you could touch it? I wonder what it would feel like. Something different to bring to my “bench time” when it gets here.
The second thing I was thinking about is the peoples’ attitudes. They never knew when the cloud was going to sit still or when it did, for how long. This is NOT a way I would be comfortable living. I hate not knowing what is coming next! Maybe that’s part of why God didn’t put me in that time in history.
I like lists. I like itineraries. I don’t handle waiting well. I especially don’t handle not knowing well. If I were in their situation I would be afraid to unpack anything. They would have to be ready at a moment’s notice to pack up and go. I would be forever watching the cloud, trying to detect any patterns or predictors. I would want some kind of advance notice.
I plan a two day “camp” for my grandkids every year. I attempt to include a mix of highly physical activities, crafts, relaxing activities, and free time opportunities. I also have to take into account the age range of our attendees and ensure that there is something for everyone. THAT alone is a tall order when they currently range from age 16 years to 5 days old. I also have to take into consideration who will be likely to attend and who to plan for, just in case. To accomplish all this, I start planning MONTHS in advance and one of the first things I do is rough out what kind of schedule I want to use. The last thing I do in preparation is return to that schedule and firm up an order of events and create an itinerary. I CAN’T get through these TWO days without a schedule!
I also have a rough schedule I follow in my daily life. It’s a bit less complicated but I still depend on it to accomplish everything I want to in the day. Some days are more structured than others. I don’t know HOW I would manage not knowing in advance if tomorrow was going to be a “down day” or a “travel day.”
Actually, the Holy Spirit just reminded me of the area in my life where I “have to watch for the signs” every day. My husband’s health is largely unpredictable. There are some signs I can look for. One of them is if we have a busy day one day he will probably need extra rest the next day. But I am never sure what is coming next. I have to hold on and roll with the waves. I have to be prepared for anything at any time.
I wonder if this is how the people learned to accept their daily lives. Did they see a general pattern? Was God predictable enough that they could say, “It is past midday so we won’t be setting out today”? Did God give them warning about moving on or that they were going to be in the same place for a long time? They probably felt safe in assuming they were staying put while they made the pieces of the Tabernacle.
I have a feeling that they knew they would be sitting still on the Sabbath at least. This was the day of rest that God called for. He made sure they observed this special day each week as well as His appointed times of feasts. So there was some pattern for them to follow.
Another thing that separates my understanding from the children of Israel during this time was that they were used to living “out of a suitcase.” Everything they had was portable and easily packable. They didn’t drag along household furnishings that took up space for the sake of aesthetics. They brought only the things that they needed to make living bearable. No plush carpets. No china cabinets. No second set of dishes. No formal dining suites. Only what they needed, could be packed quickly, and could carry with them. I would need a U-Haul truck for my moving needs but then nothing would be accessible if I had to keep it partially packed for moving out at any moment.
SO glad I wasn’t part of that journey on THIS front. But I would have LOVED to be around to have walked between the walls of water or seen the cloud resting on the Tabernacle. They definitely got the good with the bad.
Father God, thank You for bringing me behind the scenes here. I KNOW that You set the itinerary, crafted the map of their journey, and took them where and when they could see Your hand in action the best. You didn’t HAVE to take them to the Red Sea. You could have had them walk around it. You also didn’t have to bring them through during flood stage time. You did it though to build their faith in You. You built trust and patience one day, one event, one trial at a time. Some of Your demonstrations of Your protection stood head shoulders taller than others did but they ALL led to increasing Your children’s reliance and trust in You. It took a generation for that work to be completed but You never gave up.
It has taken me a lifetime to learn to trust too. I know I still have a way to go but I can see some of the fruit of Your labor. I’m not panicking as we approach another yearly recertification. I’m content to wait and see how the visit will work with my daughter in law and the kids, kind of. I’m making contingency plans but am willing to let her make the ultimate decision, no matter how much I want it to go my way.
My patience has certainly grown from my teenage years! But I need Your help to keep growing. I need Your guidance in when to step in and when to wait on several fronts. I need Your wisdom in what to say too so I’m adding encouragement instead of pressure or persuasion. Give me balance between doing for my children and helping them learn to do for themselves. I put it ALL in Your hands Father.