Those who enjoy travel, love to hear tales of adventurous backpackers who head off into “parts unknown” without a clear plan of action. Most people, however, would not travel without a plan - even the most basic itinerary such as a list of sites one would like to visit.
When the Israelites followed Moses out of Egypt, they had no plan, only the hope of following Moses to the Promised Land. The journey, perhaps, could have been straightforward (there were, after all, active trade routes), but God had different plans and implemented His own Global Positioning System to guide the Israelites through the Wilderness. They were guided by the movement of the Clouds of Glory.
When the cloud that normally rested on the Tabernacle rolled itself upwards, the Israelites knew that it was time to move. This system served to protect the people both from aimless wandering and, according to Numbers Rabbah 1:2, by striking “down before them the snakes and scorpions...”
On the other hand, by following the Clouds of Glory, the Israelites were better able to recognize God’s leadership, particularly as they had no foreknowledge of when they would be traveling or to where. As it is written in the Book of Numbers: “Sometimes the cloud tarried on the Tabernacle many days, then the Children of Israel kept the charge of the Lord and did not journey. Sometimes the cloud was a few days upon the Tabernacle...and sometimes the cloud was from evening until morning" (Numbers 9:19-21).
The Children of Israel have come a long way since their travels in the Wilderness, but the lesson that can be learned from God’s “Cloud Positioning System” is one that is relevant even today. Every person’s journey in life, no matter how free-flowing it may appear, is guided by the hand of God.
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