A Cloud by Day

    February 01, 2023 | Letters from the Lead Pastor by Brandon Lenhart

    On the day the Tabernacle was set up, the cloud covered it. But from evening until morning the cloud over the Tabernacle looked like a pillar of fire. This was the regular pattern—at night the cloud that covered the Tabernacle had the appearance of fire. Whenever the cloud lifted from over the sacred tent, the people of Israel would break camp and follow it. And wherever the cloud settled, the people of Israel would set up camp. In this way, they traveled and camped at the LORD’s command wherever he told them to go. Then they remained in their camp as long as the cloud stayed over the Tabernacle.

    Numbers 9:15-18 (NLT)

    In this Old Testament passage from the book of Numbers, the Israelites are living under the judgment of GOD in the wilderness outside of the Promised Land because of their disbelief. GOD, who led the out of Egypt with might, power, and miracles, was rejected by His people as they grumbled and complained in the wilderness. Because they didn't believe GOD would be with them as they conquered the Promised Land, and because they believed that they would be devoured by its large inhabitants, GOD punished them by not allowing them to enter the land He promised to give them. So, for 40 years the land flowing with "milk and honey" would lay just out of reach.

    However, it was in the wilderness that the Israelites had to learn to trust again. They had to learn what complete submission to GOD really meant. They had to come to a place of full surrender to GOD's will and ways to benefit from GOD's promises. Though they still wrestled against GOD, it was in the wilderness that they learned of the very nature of GOD's loving-kindness. Even though they failed Him time and time again, they would ultimately learn that He would never fail them.

    This specific passage from Numbers 9 is a good example of the Israelites' learning to follow GOD wherever He led them. Notice how the presence of GOD (a cloud by day and fire by night) was what caused them to stay or move from a place. Like an infant learning to walk for the first time, the Israelites had to learn the heart of GOD, and their first lesson was in learning to follow. As they learned to follow GOD, they ultimately learned about the heart of GOD. They learned that wherever He led them, He would be with them. Though it didn't always look safe (and oftentimes wasn't) GOD's protection and provision over them and for them was proven time and time again. GOD not only proved to His people that He was trustworthy, but He also proved to them that He loved and cared for them by providing what they could not find in great supply in the wilderness (food and water).

    Today, the GOD of the Israelites' wilderness wanderings in the book of Numbers is the very same GOD who walks with us through our wildernesses. His loving-kindness is readily available to anyone who would seek to follow Him. Though not by cloud or by fire, GOD still leads today through the power of His Holy Spirit for those who would listen and obey. And it all starts with "trust."

    To follow GOD, we must first trust Him and believe in Jesus Christ, His Son. We must trust that Jesus died for our sins and that He took our punishment. We must trust that the sacrifice Christ made on our behalf was enough to lead us out of the wilderness of our own making and into the Promised Land of salvation and eternal life. We must learn to lean upon the truth of GOD's Word to direct and guide us as well as learn to commune with Him in prayer and praise. It's through these disciplines that we come to understand and learn the heart of GOD, and how good, loving, and kind He really is.

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