The Cloud that Goes Before Us: Following God in our Wilderness

By Elias Ayala (M.A.T. & Mdiv)

“Now on the day that the tabernacle was erected the cloud covered the tabernacle, the tent of testimony, and in the evening it was like the appearance of fire over the tabernacle, until morning. So it was continuously; the cloud would cover it by day, and the appearance of fire by night. Whenever the cloud was lifted from over the tent, afterwards the sons of Israel would then set out; and in the place where the cloud settled down, there the sons of Israel would camp. At the command of the Lord the sons of Israel would set out, and at the command of the Lord they would camp; as long as the cloud settled over the tabernacle” -Numbers 9:15-18

As the Lord appointed Moses over the people of Israel to lead them in the wilderness, God miraculously guided them by a powerful manifestation of His presence. By day the children of Israel were guided by the cloud of God’s presence, and by night they dwelled within the midst of the pillar of fire which was also a manifestation of God’s presence. However, a most powerful analogy of the Christian life is played out in the fact that while the Israelites wandered the wilderness, which was a dangerous and desolate place, they were guided by God’s presence among them. Interestingly enough, the children of Israel did not move unless they were led by the cloud of God’s presence. The text even goes so far as to say, “Even when the cloud lingered over the tabernacle for many days, the sons of Israel would keep the Lord’s charge and not set out” (vs.19). Unless God moved, the people did not move.

While we are not guided by the miraculous cloud of God’s presence today, there is still a valuable lesson to be learned here. Often times we jump ahead quite presumptuously not considering the leading of the Lord. We often tend to over rationalize our situations while not considering the fact that the God of miracles is not so hampered by our limitations. While it is true that trusting in God does not mean we sit idly by waiting for a miracle to happen, it does mean that we should consider where God is leading, what he is leading us to, and how we should proceed in this process. In certain cases, we will not know the what, where, and how; but that does not mean that God is not leading. Sometimes following God’s lead is made clear by a miraculous manifestation, but often times, following God’s lead is done by applying biblical wisdom to the various situations of our lives. Inasmuch as we apply God’s truth to our wilderness wanderings , we can rest assure that he is leading us. God’s leading often does not include answering all of our questions and concerns, because in answering all of our questions and concerns usually does not result in growth. Remember, that God does not lead you through the wilderness without the intention of stripping you of all you have, so as to refine you, reshape, and mold you into the image of Christ.

You do not have to travel the wilderness of life in the dark. Let God’s truth guide you as a pillar of fire by night and as a cloud by day. Where God leads, go! When God tells you to stop and camp out for a while, then trust and obey; because there is wisdom in camping out in the wilderness while God paves the road that you are to walk. Never forget that a road paved by God is not always smooth and easy. Often time the road he paves is rough, ragged, and dangerous, but even through such dangers and fear, it is the Lord who guides our steps. As a people of a powerful and mighty God, let us not fear, but rather, let follow obediently and trustingly the cloud that goes before us.

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