Ready or not, when the cloud lifts it’s time to move on.
I doesn’t matter how long we’ve remained in one place, how settled we’ve become, or how successful we are while there, once the cloud indicates it’s time to depart, we have but two options: obey or rebel.
We know what obedience is ans, as far as we can tell, we do pretty well at that. But, maybe rebel seems like a dirty word; something a little to extreme. We associate it with teenagers who decide to act out, but you’ll be hard pressed to find a stable adult who accepts that term as definition of himself. We aren’t rebels…at least we don’t see it that way.
What is this cloud I’m speaking of? It’s the physical reminder of God’s presence and leading. Exodus 31:21 tells us,
“The Lord showed them the way; during the day he went ahead of them in a pillar of cloud, and during the night he was in a pillar of fire to give them light. In this way they could travel during the day or night.”
Following the exile of the Israelites out of Egypt, God gifted the people a “pillar of fire” and a “cloud of smoke” as a GPS system to keep them on the right path. These two, supernatural guides were reminders of the One who not only exiled them from hellish slavery, but also stood beside them as they moved forward. You would’ve thought the people would have been grateful for these tokens of God’s provision, but they payed little mind to the powerful display of love and faithfully set before them each day and night. They were delivered from the hand of their enemy and, in the fact of whether to obey or rebel, they chose the latter. What a way to say, “Thank you,” to Someone who did so much for them.
- When the cloud led them onward, they grumbled because they didn’t have anything to drink. (Exodus 17)
- When the cloud settled, they complained because they wanted meat. (Exodus 16)
- When God’s chosen messenger, Moses, was not present, they demanded a statue be built as a god they might worship. (Exodus 32)
It didn’t matter what the Lord did through that cloud (or even Moses), the people were always interested in something else. They were never satisfied, never obedient, always ready to run the other way. Always ready to rebel.
If you’re anything like me, the temptation to “do something else” when God says to stay, move, rest, or drink is real. When the call comes to stay, I’m ready to pack up my bags and high tail it out of wherever I’ve been planted. When the call says to go, I find myself afraid of the blind step I must take to be faithful and inclined to stand on the side of the line that innocently says, “rebel.” It’s not because I consciously think I know better, that God’s power isn’t enough, or that he got the wrong girl. It’s because my flesh recoils as the thought of climbing back up on the altar one more time letting go of all control and trusting that the Father truly does know best.
The will of God is never exactly what you expect it to be. It may seem to be much worse, but in the end it’s going to be a lot better and a lot bigger. (Elisabeth Elliot)
Deep within us all we know his gentle call wasn’t an error. We sense “the peace that surpasses all understanding (Philippians 4:7)” departing as we try to go our own way. His call, regardless of how hard we try to ignore it, sticks with us and we are left with the choice to abide in his will or remain within our own. Do we step forward in faith or do we fall back in fear? Because the choice isn’t simply whether or not we believe in God’s promise that “all things will work for our good (Romans 8:28)” and that he “will never leave or forsake us (Deuteronomy 31:8),” our refusal to step forward reiterates the idea that God cannot be trusted.
We might not see it like that and we might believe that stepping forward while grumbling is enough, but God asks for more. He asks for all of us sacrificed on the altar (Romans 12:1). He calls us to give up everything for his service and his mission. He might call us into a difficult, painful situation, but he won’t walk us there without having a plan for his glory in the process.
We have to trust him when he says it’s time to move forward and we have to believe that his beckoning onward is exactly the path he has laid out for us.