“Whenever the cloud lifted from above the tent, the Israelites set out; wherever the cloud settled, the Israelites encamped.” (Numbers 9:17)
A popular children’s game is “Follow the Leader.” In this game you only have one job: do whatever the leader does. If the leader walks up a hill, you follow up the hill. If the leader jumps, you jump. When the leader stops, you stop.
In the wilderness, Israel followed the Lord, their leader. A cloud that represented God’s presence settled on the tabernacle. God came in this cloud to be with his people. By day it looked like a cloud, probably like thick fog or smoke. And at night it looked like fire. When the cloud moved, Israel moved. When the cloud settled, Israel camped. The Israelites were not supposed to go in front of the cloud. They were not to move on when the cloud stood still. All they needed to do was follow. This passage shows that they learned to do that.
Following God through the wilderness of life is our task too. It takes faith and trust. Often we’d like to run ahead of God into our future. Sometimes we might not like where the Lord is leading, so following him can be frightening. But the God who leads us is the God who is with us and for us. “He is the faithful God” (Deuteronomy 7:9).
Jesus, you called your disciples to leave their old lives behind and follow you. May we be your faithful followers too. For your sake, Amen.