For the week of June 18, 2005 / 11 Sivan 5765
Torah: Bemidbar / Numbers 8:1 - 12:16
Haftarah: Zechariah 2:14 - 4:7
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. As long as the cloud stayed over the tabernacle, they remained in camp. (Bemidbar / Numbers 9:17,18)
It would be difficult to overstate how hard a transition it must have been for the people of Israel when they left Egypt. Because of their slavery, almost everything about their lives would have been set for them by their masters. What they did and when they did it was not in their control. The Egyptians ruled their lives.
Once they were freed, everything changed for them. They were now on their way to possess their God-given inheritance in the land of Canaan. They would have much to learn on the way.
In order for Israel to be the blessing to the nations that they were destined to be, they needed to learn how to discern God's will and follow it regardless of their situation. They would face many challenging situations in which God would consistently prove himself to be true and faithful.
In the wilderness God provided a cloud to guide the people. This cloud, which could be seen from anywhere in the camp, covered the special place of worship called the Mishkan (English: Tabernacle). From time to time the cloud would move. This would indicate that the nation should break camp and head out. Then they would follow the cloud to the next place. This was the procedure they followed for the forty years until they entered Canaan. The people never knew beforehand when the cloud would begin to move, where it would lead them, nor how long it would stay in one place.
We see through this God desired to determine Israel's movements. Israel's release from bondage therefore did not mean that they could do whatever they wanted or go wherever they wished.
To some of us this might seem negative. This may be because we place such a high value on self determination. For some people freedom is the opportunity to do anything and everything we desire with no restrictions. But the Bible teaches us that this kind of lifestyle is actually destructive. It is only as we give ourselves over to God's direction that we can discover what true freedom is all about.
Israel was to take the lesson of the cloud with them into the Promised Land. For even though they would no longer need the cloud to guide them, they would still need to continue to follow God’s direction. It would only be as they did so, that they would become the blessing God intended them to be.
The same is true for all of us. We may not have a literal cloud to guide us today, yet God still uses various ways to lead us. It is only as we become sensitive to his direction that we will live in freedom.
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