The Cloud & Fire
- Numbers 9:15 (NIV)
- Numbers 9:16 (NIV)
- Numbers 9:17 (NIV)
- Numbers 9:18 (NIV)
- Numbers 9:19 (NIV)
- Numbers 9:20 (NIV)
- Numbers 9:21 (NIV)
- Numbers 9:22 (NIV)
- Numbers 9:23 (NIV)
The sign of the Lord's presence in Israel's day was the cloud over the Tabernacle, which also looked like fire at night. The settling of the cloud over the Tabernacle was an order to cease moving and wait. The cloud looking like fire at night provided both light and assurance that the Lord was still with them. When the cloud lifted, it was the Lord's order for the Israelites to break camp and move out.
This harkens back to Moses' wish (almost demand) that the Lord go with the Israelites. A representative, even an angel of the Lord, was not good enough. Moses specifically ask how else the Israelites would be known as God's people and how others would recognize that Israel had God's favor, unless God Himself went with the camp of Israel. The cloud and the fire are God's way of answering Moses' prayer.
And so, the manifestation of God's presence among God's people defines who God's people are. It seems to be that way in the Garden, with Noah, with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, and with Moses and the Israelites. It is that way in the age of Israel's kingdom where God dwells in the Temple. It is that way when Jesus walked among His disciples. And today, it is that way as the Holy Spirit dwells inside of us as God's church. The presence of the Holy Spirit marks out that we belong to God and are among God's people.
The Israelites were able to see with their own eyes the manifestation of God's presence in the cloud and fire. Seeing the cloud and fire assured them that God was present among them, that they had His favor, and could rely on God's direction. This is why it was so important for them to follow God's leading and moving.
Today, we do not see God's presence in cloud and flame, but as believers in Jesus, we carry God's presence within us always in the Holy Spirit. It is all but inconceivable that the same God who dwelt in the Holy of Holies in the Tabernacle and the Temple where only the high priest could enter once a year at the risk of his life now lives inside of us. It is a reminder that although God freely gives of His Spirit to those who call upon Him through Jesus Christ, there should be a great sense of awe and reverence for the One who has taken residence inside of us.
If one looks upon God he will die. If the high priest did not properly prepare himself to enter the Holy of Holies with a sacrifice, he would die. It is no wonder that Paul describes believers as a temple of God. This reality gives us pause on how we act, feel, and even think.
In the same way the Israelites looked to the cloud for direction, we, as God's people, today should look to the Holy Spirit for that same direction. When He moves, we should move with Him. When He stops, we should stop with Him. The Holy Spirit speaks with our own spirit, and we need only look that far to hear Him, whether literally or figuratively.
And, although we are promised that the God would never leave us, we know that we can certainly quench the Spirit through disobedience, probably far too often by simply ignoring His voice and direction over our lives.
But can we, as individuals and as the Church, take the posture of waiting on God's Spirit to direct our lives? Waiting like the Israelites waited and watched the cloud. This posture is very much the picture of the church we see in Acts. Immersed in God's word and teaching, they knelt down in prayer, waiting for the Spirit to speak. Do we have any less of God's word and teaching? Do we lack knees to kneel on?
Waiting for the Holy Spirit to speak, I believe, is something that we can equally do. In this sense, prayer is not just calling out our wish list to God. Prayer is our means of hearing God's specific direction to live out and spread God's kingdom through His Holy Spirit.
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