Should I Stay or Should I Go?
For those of you that are reading the Chronological Bible we are about to finish up the book of Numbers. Last week I wrote quite a bit in my journal after reading the passage from March 2nd. A couple of nights ago I sat down and compiled my thoughts into a "lesson". I'm glad I took the time to make it cohesive - it's not every day that you see your physical situation mirrored in the pages of Scripture. And when you do, you must write it down...
This week in Numbers we see that God gives instructions, and lots of them. He gives specific instructions on setting up the Tabernacle, who was qualified to do the work at the Tent of Meeting and how to consecrate the workers for God’s work. All these detailed instructions were very important because after the work was completed and the Tabernacle was set up, the cloud covered it (Numbers 9:15). The cloud was the presence of God meeting with his people. He gave them a cloud by day and a cloud that looked like fire at night to guide them from evening until the next day.
“Whenever the cloud lifted from above the Tent, the Israelites set out; wherever the cloud settled, the Israelites encamped. At the LORD’S command the Israelites set out, and at his command they encamped.” – Numbers 9:17-18
“On the twentieth day of the second month of the second year, the cloud lifted from above the tabernacle of the Testimony. Then the Israelites set out from the Desert of Sinai and traveled from place to place until the cloud came to rest in the Desert of Paran. They set out, this first time, at the LORD’S command through Moses.” – Numbers 10:11-13
God gave the Israelites a visual so they would know when it was time to move. When the cloud stayed, they stayed. When the cloud moved, they moved. While we as believers don’t have a physical cloud to follow when making decisions, we have something greater. The still small voice of the Holy Spirit lives inside us and speaks to us the way in which we are to go. Isaiah 30:21 says, “Whether you turn to the right or to the left, your ears will hear a voice behind you, saying, ‘This is the way; walk in it.’”
So what can we learn from this passage on staying put or moving? There are four truths we can learn from Numbers 9 and10 on when to stay and when to go.
1.) The decision to move is not ours to make; we are to wait for the Lord to speak. Seven times in chapter 9 and 10, it says the Israelites set out “at the LORD’S command.” We’ve already seen several examples in our chronological reading where decisions were made based on human reasoning instead of the Lord’s prompting. Remember in Genesis 12:10 when Abram left Bethel to go down to Egypt when there was a severe famine in the land even though the Lord didn’t tell him to go? That didn’t work out so well for him and Sarai. And neither will it for us when we make our decisions based on the flesh and not of the Spirit.
2.) When God tells you to move, it is because He desires to bring glory to Himself. Numbers 10:35 says, “Whenever the ark set out, Moses said, ‘Rise up, O LORD! May your enemies be scattered; may your foes flee before you.’”
Strong’s Concordance gives the Hebrew word for “rise” in this verse as “quwm” which is defined “to establish, to arise, to set, to come about.” Moses wanted the LORD to receive honor and praise in their move. Wherever they were going, he wanted His Name to be established among the people and for all His enemies and opponents to fall before the Living God.
And look at where He led them to rest in Numbers 10:12… in the Desert of Paran. The word “Paran” means “ornamental.” It comes from the Hebrew word “paar” which means, “to embellish, to gleam, beautify.” When God tells you to move, it is to glorify Himself – to show you His beauty.
3.) When God tells you to stay, it is because He desires to strengthen you in your situation and empower you by His Spirit. Numbers 10:36 says, “Whenever it (the ark) came to rest, he said, ‘Return, O LORD, to the countless thousands of Israel.’”
The Hebrew word for “return” in this verse is “shuwb” which is defined as “to turn back, return, restore, recover.” Strong’s Concordance goes on to explain it is “returning along a path already traversed – not necessarily with the idea of returning to the starting point. The opposite of going out. It signifies empowering or strengthening.”
When God is telling you not to make a move but to return to your situation, he is saying you will not return alone. His power will go with you, restoring you, and strengthening you for what lies ahead.
4.) We won’t always understand God’s directions. It says in Numbers 9:19-22, that sometimes the cloud was over the tabernacle only a few days, sometimes just for a night, and other times up to a year! Can you imagine what it was like not knowing if you were settling for just the night, a month or an entire year?
God’s instructions don’t always make sense to us. He tells us in Isaiah 55:9, “As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.” We may not know immediately what God’s instructions mean and we many never know this side of heaven. Iva May says, “Every puzzle crafted by the hand of God has a purpose that will one day become clear.”
We are called to obey whether it makes sense to us or not. We can trust Him. For God’s Word promises us in Jeremiah 29:11, “’For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the LORD, ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.’”
O LORD, make us sensitive to Your leading. May we dare not go without Your Presence and may we never stay when our moving would bring glory to Your Name.