According to the US Census Bureau, Americans move from one address to another an average of eleven to twelve times during the course of a lifetime. In a recent year, 28 million people packed up, moved, and unpacked under a new roof.
During Israel’s forty years in the wilderness, the cloud of God’s presence led a whole family nation to make one move after another in anticipation of a new homeland. The account is so repetitious, it reads almost like a comedy. Over and over the huge family packed and unpacked not only its own belongings but also the tent and furnishings of the tabernacle, where the God of the cloud met with Moses (see Exodus 25:22).
Many years later, Jesus would give fuller meaning to the story of Israel’s moving days. Instead of leading from a cloud, He came in person. When He said, “Follow me” (Matthew 4:19), He began showing that the most important changes of address happen on roads of the heart. By leading both friends and enemies to the foot of a Roman cross, He showed how far the God of the cloud and tabernacle would go to rescue us.
Like changes of address, such moves of the heart are unsettling. But someday, from a window in our Father’s house, we’ll see that Jesus led us all the way.
In what ways does choosing to follow God unsettle you? How might prayer help to strengthen your faith and trust in Him?
The divine unpredictability described in Numbers 9:15–23 adds repetition and emphasis to the last words of Exodus (40:36–38). Both describe how the God of the exodus used a mysterious cloud, a portable tent of symbols (25:8–9), and a terrifying desert to show the urgency of learning to rely on Him. Because of the Israelites’ failure to trust God when the twelve spies surveyed their new homeland flowing with milk and honey (Numbers 13; Deuteronomy 1), it took forty years and the death of a generation to help them trust Him more than their own eyes or fears.