Now whenever the cloud lifted from the Tabernacle and moved, the people of Israel would set out on their journey, following it.  But if the cloud stayed, they would stay until it moved again.  The cloud of the LORD rested on the Tabernacle during the day, and at night there was fire in the cloud so all the people of Israel could see it.  This continued throughout all their journeys.       Exodus 40:36-38

PUTTING THE VERSE IN PERSPECTIVE:  After Moses led the Israelites out of Egypt, they became a nomadic people on their way to the Promised Land.  During their nomadic time of wandering God told them He had chosen them from among all nations and tribes to be His Holy people.  Because they’d lived for 400 years as slaves in Egypt, God had to teach them how to be Holy.  Part of His teachings included how to properly worship Him.  Chapters 35-40 of Exodus detail the blueprints and construction for the Tabernacle God instructed the Isrealites to build.  Not only did the Tabernacle serve as a place for the Israelites to worship and make their sacrifices to the Lord, it was also the place for the presence of the LORD to dwell among them. 

God appeared over the Tabernacle as a cloud by day, and as a fire in the cloud by night, so that any time, 24/7, the Israelites could see His physical presence and know He was there with them.

The verse above tells us the Israelites learned to follow the Lord, literally, by moving with the cloud.  When the cloud moved, the people gathered the Tabernacle and moved.  When the cloud stayed, the people stayed. 

APPLICATION FOR US TODAY:  When faced with decisions, uncertainty, or new opportunities, do you ‘follow the cloud’?  Or do you forge ahead in your own way?   Do you seek the Lord’s presence and allow yourself to ‘stop when the cloud stops’ having the faith to trust in His plan and destination for you? 

Many times in our lives we excitedly embark on new journeys.  The journey might be entering a new phase of our life, starting a new job, becoming a parent, making a major purchase, taking on a new interest, starting a new business, moving, or even answering a calling from God!  We’re eager to begin new pursuits, full of hope and ready to make dreams come true!  However, sometimes we find our dreams must be put on hold.  Sometimes life doesn’t move along as fast as we’d like or in the way we expected.  Sometimes, like the Israelites, we’re led out of Egypt and into a time of wandering before we can get to our intended Promised Land.  Sometimes we have to hurry up and wait.

I have two friends who’ve been called into minstries.  After affirming the call, each eagerly moved forward, anxious to answer her call and begin serving in ministry.  However, God didn’t lead them directly into their Promised Lands.  They had to spend a time of wandering, constantly seeking the Lord’s presence, until His desination for them was revealed. 

Another friend was desperate to adopt.  Her desire to adopt was consuming her thoughts.  Unfortunately the adoption process was consuming the funds set aside by her and her husband.  They needed another loan in a short period of time or they would have to give up on their adoption plans.  We met during this anxious time through a prayer request she sent to Proverbs 31 Ministries.  She had prayed so much for this adoption and worried that if she and her husband lost the opportunity to adopt, she’d lose her faith, too.   With great anxiety, she’d been forced to hurry up and wait.

As I read her prayer request, I felt God speak to my heart that He didn’t want her to give up and that He had a child for her.  My friend desperately wanted to believe it was true, but time and money were quickly running out.  Sadly, time and money did run out – but her faith did not!   In the process of ‘wandering’, while trying to get to her Promised Land of adopting a child, she began trusting God again, renewed her strength in the Lord, and was able to accept “Thy will” over her will, even when “Thy will” led to great disappointment.  I rejoiced that her heart had grown in faith, but was disappointed and confused that God hadn’t led them to adoption.  I’d felt sure He said He had a child for them, but it appeared I’d been mistaken.

Time went by, and later I received a new prayer request from my friend.  She wanted me to pray that their adoption would go through!  Yes, indeed, after a period of time when it seemed there was no longer a way, God found a way!  He rewarded their time of ‘wandering’ by presenting them with a wonderful opportunity to adopt!  Praise! 

God had called her ‘out of Egypt’ months earlier when He led my friend and her husband to the desire of adopting, but He didn’t take them straight to their Promised Land of becoming adoptive parents.  He led them through a time of wandering first, during which time they grew in faith.

Like the Israelites, all of us find ourselves called to new endeavors in our lives.  Sometimes God leads us directly to where we’re going.  Other times we have to learn to follow the presence of the Lord.  He might not appear as a visible cloud, but if we stay prayerful and seek His guidance, He will lead us just as He did the Israelites.  Often we’re so anxious to get where we’re going or to achieve our goals, that we fail to follow God’s lead.  We fail to move when the cloud moves and to stop when the cloud stops.  It’s hard to hurry up and wait!  Yet that is often what God leads us to do.  We must maintain faith that even when God isn’t leading us forward, He’s still with us and there’s a reason to stop and wait.  At the right time, and for the right reasons, God will lead us forward in the right ways. 

It was more than a year after being called into ministry before one of the friends mentioned above was finally led to her place of service.  To her surprise it was in another city with another denomination!  My other friend is in her time of wandering, learning to move when the cloud moves and stop when it stops.  The friends who wanted to adopt can hopefully look back now and see how wise and wonderful God was being, even during their times of great disappointment, for eventually He led them to just the right adoption situation, and one in which much good was done.  All praise be to God! 

I’ve certainly experienced many times of having to hurry up and wait.  I have to admit, the wandering and waiting are much easier when I keep my focus on the presence of the Lord, trusting Him to lead the way that’s best for me. 

The best part of the verse above is the ending where it assures us the Lord’s presence will continue with us throughout all of our journeys!