“At the Lord’s command they encamped, and at the Lord’s command they set out. They obeyed the Lord’s order, in accordance with his command through Moses.” Numbers 9:23
As God’s chosen nation, Israel had the privilege of knowing the living, Creator of everything. The people did not imagine a God… they did not make a God… they did not sculpt one out of created material… they knew, in a personal way, the one and only, living God. Their connection to Him was not tangential but one that was deep and abiding. In book of Numbers, this relationship was physically revealed in a cloud which covered the tabernacle. The cloud signified the presence of the Lord God, the Great I Am. The people of God so needed, so desired the presence of the Lord, that as the cloud move so moved the people. For the people, following the cloud meant following their Lord. The ninth chapter of Numbers recounts the peoples obedience when it states, "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."
Many of us may say, of course they would follow the cloud. It was obvious where God was and was easy for them to follow Him. This may seem the obvious reply to this narrative found in Numbers, yet is it the appropriate response? I would contend it is not! It easy to observe the people of Israel, their obedience and disobedience, and to think the whole time that following God during this state of redemptive history would have been so easy. Yet, this is a flippant approach and demonstrations a superficial understanding of Scripture. Yes, God physically manifested Himself to the people of Israel. Yes, one could experience God in visible, tangible manner. Yet, it is my contention that the same God can be felt as palpably today as then… maybe more so. You see, this early in redemptive history, the people primarily knew God experimentally. The people of ancient Israel had knowledge of God through His current actions and accounts of His past actions. In the present day, God’s people are privilege to have a deeper understanding of Him and His ways. With a completed canon of Scripture, each person who pics up a bible can know the Great I Am in a way the people of ancient Israel could not have even imagined.
If this is the truth, if the God who appeared before Israel in the cloud appears before those who seek him, then how is a person to respond? In view of this reality, it is the duty of each Christ-follower to find the ‘cloud’ that rest over his or her life and follow its movement. An easy Christianity who requires nothing out of its adherents is just a gathering of cloud watchers. A biblical Christianity is one in which devotees move as the cloud moves!