For the week of June 21, 2003 / 21 Sivan 5763
Torah: Bemidbar / Numbers 8:1 - 12:16
Haftarah: Zechariah 2:14 - 4:7


Whether the cloud stayed over the tabernacle for two days or a month or a year, the Israelites would remain in camp and not set out; but when it lifted, they would set out. At the LORD's command they encamped, and at the LORD's command they set out (Bemidbar / Numbers 9:22,23).

The wilderness journey of the people of Israel was one of learning to respond to the word of God. This included receiving his instructions at Mt. Sinai as well as discovering the ways of God in the midst of their day-to-day life experiences.

Each step of the journey was directed by God. God guided the people by means of a pillar of fire and cloud. This cloud normally hovered over their place of worship, but when it moved, the people were to pack up and head out to the next place to which God would lead them.

The people were given no warning as to when the cloud would begin to move. Also how long the cloud would remain in one place was not known. That means that the people would sometimes camp in a location for a day or two, and other times for much longer.

Large groups of people moving from one place to another was not uncommon in that part of the world. Nomadic tribes moved around according to their needs. But that is not what was happening with Israel. Nomads usually have some indication as to when a current location would no longer suit them. They would also likely know well in advance where they were going next.

Israel on the other hand had to live each day not knowing if they would be staying or going. Then once they set out to a new location, they would not have known where their next stop would be.

Israel needed to learn as the people of God to look only to him for guidance. He was in charge of where they lived and how long they would live there. This prevented them from ever developing a sense of routine or predictability.

We tend to think that our lives tomorrow are linked to our experiences today. We develop routines which become the framework of our daily plans. We actually predict what we think will happen based on our current situations. We find security in these predictions.

This was a security not available to the people of Israel, since they never knew when they would have to get up and go.

If we stopped to think about it, we don't actually know what a day will bring. When we go to bed at night we presume that tomorrow will go as planned, but, in fact, we have no control over our circumstances. Yet we still take comfort in our predictions.

I find that we often resist God's leading because we think we can predict how God will lead us based on what he did for us yesterday. We are more concerned to preserve our current situation than we are diligent to discern how God may be leading us. We find it easier to interpret God's will via our circumstances than to hear what he is saying to us each day.

Unpredictability is uncomfortable, but if we are going to truly know God, then we need to follow him, rather than figuring out life on our own.

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