“Whenever the cloud was taken up from above the tabernacle, the children of Israel would go onward in all their journeys. But if the cloud was not taken up, then they did not journey till the day that it was taken up. For the cloud of the Lord was above the tabernacle by day, and fire was over it by night, in the sight of all the house of Israel, throughout all their journeys” (Exodus 40:36-38).
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There’s something beautifully simplistic about the dependence Israel had upon God, and His timing. The sun rose each day with a question: will this be a day of packing up and moving on, or staying put?
You couldn’t very well put down roots or become attached to your surroundings when you might be saying good-bye to that spot at any moment. Utter dependence on that cloud, or that fire … or the lack thereof. No other agenda. No long-range plans. Just watching the sky above the tabernacle, and waiting for God to say “stay,” or “go.”
The New Testament counterpart to this passage is James 4:13-15:
“Come now, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go to such and such a city, spend a year there, buy and sell, and make a profit”; whereas you do not know what will happen tomorrow. For what is your life? It is even a vapor that appears for a little time and then vanishes away. Instead you ought to say, “If the Lord wills, we shall live and do this or that.”
A lot of people put a great deal of stock in planning and scheduling and the setting of goals. I can’t speak against that, but I will say that I’ve seen it become a hindrance to the planner and the goal-setter. It’s easy to miss a whisper when you’re busy listening to your own intentions; it’s easy to miss the Shekinah glory when you forget to watch the sky.