Numbers 9:15-23 (AMP)
16 So it was constantly; the cloud covered it by day, and the appearance of fire by night.
17 Whenever the cloud was taken up from over the Tent, after that the Israelites journeyed; and in the place where the cloud rested, there the Israelites encamped.
18 At the Lord’s command the Israelites journeyed, and at [His] command they encamped. As long as the cloud rested upon the tabernacle they remained encamped.
19 Even when the cloud tarried upon the tabernacle many days, the Israelites kept the Lord’s charge and did not set out.
20 And sometimes the cloud was only a few days upon the tabernacle, but according to the command of the Lord they remained encamped, and at His command they journeyed.
21 And sometimes the cloud remained [over the tabernacle] from evening only until morning, but when the cloud was taken up, they journeyed; whether it was taken up by day or by night, they journeyed.
22 Whether it was two days or a month or a longer time that the cloud tarried upon the tabernacle, dwelling on it, the Israelites remained encamped; but when it was taken up, they journeyed.
23 At the command of the Lord they remained encamped, and at [His] command they journeyed; they kept the charge of the Lord, at the command of the Lord through Moses.
This section of scripture relates the Israelites following of the Lord via the cloud or pillar of fire. The obvious message here is to follow God daily, regardless of how quickly or slowly He seems to be moving. The time for stopping and journeying doesn’t follow a consistent pattern.
What really strikes me about this passage, though, is the number of times the same thing is repeated. I count eight times that the Word says when the cloud tarried, they remained encamped and when the cloud was taken up, they journeyed. Eight times. In a row. It must be important for us to get this message if God says it eight times in a row.
When God moves, then we move. When God waits, then we wait. God always moves first. Then we follow. We move or tarry at God’s command—not our own time table. To illustrate the point further, specific examples are given. The word even is used in verse 19 (AMP). “Even” when the cloud tarried many days, the Israelites did not set out. So, even when we think God is taking a long time, we are still to wait.
The next verse provides a contrast. Sometimes it is only a few days of tarrying before the Israelites are up and moving again. Yet they don’t delay. There is no debate, no “oh we’re not ready, Lord. We thought we’d have one more day.” They are ready to move. And there aren’t any excuses. God provides their food, and their clothes never wear out. They aren’t hunting. They aren’t stopping to do laundry. They are unencumbered.
When we are waiting for God, we have to be watching to know when to move. We have to be ready when it is time. We have to be prepared at every moment because when God says, “Now,” we can’t hesitate.
Verse 21 says sometimes the Israelites only tarried from evening until morning—that didn’t give them time to do much except rest. And rest is important when we are on a long journey. Verse 22 indicates the cloud might tarry two days, a month, or longer. (Some translations say a year.) Just as the Israelites had to be ready when the cloud only tarried one night, they also had to be ready if the cloud tarried a year. They couldn’t become complacent and think, “Well, God hasn’t moved for a year so I guess we will set up a community here and stay.” NO! They still had to be ready to move.
And think about where they were. In the DESERT! The desert is certainly not somewhere we want to tarry any longer than necessary. Certainly not forever. We don’t want to take up residence there. God will move us through and out if we follow His lead.
The Israelites could not forget God’s presence. The cloud was there constantly to remind them (verse 16.) They were aware of its presence and had to keep their eyes on it so they would know what to do. If they took their eyes off the cloud, they would miss God’s cues. Verse 21 tells us the cloud even moved at night. God moves at unexpected times. All the repetition in these verses makes it clear we must be ready and we must follow.
Everything is done at God’s command. This phrase is also repeated—9 times! Our comings and goings, working and rest, journeying and tarrying are all timed by the Commander—God.
Are you currently in a period of tarrying? Wait expectantly; keep your eyes on God so you know when it is time to move. Are your currently on the move? Keep moving and don’t give up until God says it’s time for a stop. Keep your eyes on Him and do everything at His command.
Here are the lessons in a nutshell:
- God is always in charge.
- We must keep our eyes on Him at all times. (We don’t have a pillar, but we do have God’s Word.)
- We must be on God’s timetable, even in the desert.
- We must be ready to move when it’s time, even if it’s unexpected.
- We must wait when God tarries.
- We can’t become complacent or encumbered with worldly concerns.
- These lessons are important because God repeats Himself.
Ecclesiastes 3:1 also reminds us that “To everything there is a season,”—even tarrying and moving. May God’s peace be upon you as follow His command.
Until next time,