Following the cloud, revisited*

Photo source: See Notes
Photo source: See Notes

I admit I have my head in “the Cloud.”  You too?

Wait… We might not be on the same page.  Are you thinking the internet, the World Wide Web?

It’s true, it IS pretty amazing, stunning even. An estimated 34 percent of the world’s population, 2.4 billion people, are communicating and exchanging information on the Worldwide Web.  Introduced just 22 years ago in 1991, this very real cyber reality is also called the internet and, more recently, the cloud. 1

But that’s not the cloud I’m thinking about. Rather, I have this cloud in mind that showed up long before 1991 – around 1400 B.C. Its first mention is in the Bible, in Exodus 13:21, on the day that the Israelites departed from Egypt. 2

The Lord … guided them during the day with a pillar of cloud, and he provided light at night with a pillar of fire…”

This “God Cloud” led the Israelites around a desert for 40 years.  When the Cloud stayed put, so did they and when it moved, they broke camp and followed it.  So the Israelites are “following the cloud” – their own “God Cloud.”

While the Cloud is just one of many ways God showed up to Israel during this period of their history, it must have been a pretty stunning manifestation of God’s presence don’t you think?  Even the surrounding nations were aware of it.  (See Numbers 14:13-16).

On the surface, having a God Cloud to lead you around, provide for you and guide major decisions seems like it would be a great asset on the tumultuous rode of life. But hold that thought until you check out this “cloud behavior” description in Numbers 9 .

… they remained in their camp as long as the cloud stayed over the Tabernacle…Sometimes the cloud would stay … for only a few days…Sometimes the cloud stayed only overnight and lifted the next morning. … Whether the cloud stayed above the Tabernacle for two days, a month, or a year, the people of Israel stayed in camp and did not move on. But as soon as it lifted, they broke camp and moved on. (Excerpts from Numbers 9:17-23, NLT)

Imagine 2.5 million people and their herds of sheep and cattle setting up camp one night and having to break camp and move the next morning?  Or how about getting settled for a while and then the Cloud moves and having to unsettle in a hurry?

I think believers today have a lot in common with the Israelites of old.  We have our God Cloud too – how we sync with the Lord to find his will for our lives.  Also like them, following God today isn’t easy or smooth.  You try to live faithfully and obediently and occasionally manage to arrive at a place in life that seems to be working.  And then, something changes – a health crisis, an accident, a job loss, a financial setback, a moral failing, fill in the blank…

Do you ever ask yourself, “What happened?  What moved – me or God?

Maybe you also share this problem that I have with the God Cloud. While on the one hand, I seek to align myself with him, I don’t always want to do God’s will.  And when I do, I don’t want to do it when he wants me to do it.  Like when I want to go and he wants me to wait or when he wants me to go and I want to wait.

Sometimes I’d rather follow the cRowd than the cLoud!

Unfortunately, following the crowd is the human default mode.  That’s the most natural thing to do.  Following God isn’t natural even if it’s what’s best.

Amazingly, the God Cloud dogged the Israelites when they turned away from him and he does the same with me – because I matter to God and so do you.  He draws near even when I try to pull away.  And when I succumb to his charms and draw back near to him, my transformation process continues.

Which cloud is your head in?

Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is–his good, pleasing and perfect will. (Romans 12:2, NIV84)

 


Notes:

1) * revisited because this was initially posted January 15, 2013

2) Photo source: http://mindbodysmile.com/2011/10/10/cloud-meditation-head-in-the-clouds/ from Dr. Rob Kiltz’ blog, MindBodySmile

3) Follow along the story of Israel’s “God Cloud” from Exodus 13:21 through the crossing of the Jordan into Canaan and the “Promised Land” (see Joshua 3:10 and following).

4)  World Wide Web (“www”), Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/World_Wide_Web; Worldwide internet users: http://www.internetworldstats.com/stats.htm

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