Despite being God’s chosen people, the Israelites earned somewhat of a bad rap in the Bible. Even after having front-row seats to some of the most astounding miracles–the ten plagues! The parting of the Red Sea! Manna from Heaven!–they still managed to quickly forget how good God had been to them and instead turn into a bunch of whining, complaining brats at the first sign of trouble.
And oh, how I can relate to them. Because I, too, am prone to forget all the times that God has come through for me, and instead focus on what I don’t have that I *think* I need. I whine. I complain. I turn into an utter brat. It is not a pretty sight. The older I get (and can more clearly see my own stubborn, bratty ways), the more often I empathize with the Israelites’ weaknesses rather than shake my head in wonder at their lack of trust.
The Israelites did have at least one quality that I truly admire and long to have. Exodus 40 chronicles the elaborate construction of the Tabernacle, a new dwelling place for the Lord:
Then the cloud covered the Tabernacle, and the glory of the Lord filled the Tabernacle. Moses could no longer enter the Tabernacle because the cloud had settled down over it, and the glory of the Lord filled the Tabernacle.
Now whenever the cloud lifted from the Tabernacle, the people of Israel would set out on their journey, following it. But if the cloud did not rise, they remained where they were until it lifted. The cloud of the Lord hovered over the Tabernacle during the day, and at night fire glowed inside the cloud so the whole family of Israel could see it. This continued throughout all their journeys. (Exodus 40:34-38, emphasis mine)
Several times throughout my life I’d read the story of the construction of the Tabernacle, but it wasn’t until recently that I paid attention to the last couple of verses of Exodus 40, where it states that the people of Israel didn’t move unless the cloud containing the presence of the Lord moved first. Where He went, they went. Where He stopped, they stopped. These people who struggled–and many times failed–to trust and obey God throughout their journey to the Promised Land remained steadfast in their commitment to follow the cloud wherever it went.
How I long to have that kind of faith to follow God’s lead, no matter when and where He moves!