Numbers 9:15-23 (Part 2) – When the Cloud Hovers Over the Tabernacle, We Stay…

Posted: August 17, 2016 in 04-Numbers
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Numbers 9:15-23

The Fiery Cloud (Part 2)

A little over two years ago in May 2014, I graduated from the North Greenville University Brashier Graduate School with a Masters of Arts in Christian Ministry. It was a proud achievement after three years. It was three years of hard work and sacrifice. Working full-time in a very demanding job as controller of Fujikura America, Inc. along with going to school in a very demanding atmosphere. I had done a master’s degree before in 1999-2000 when I got my Master of Science in Business Administration from Southern Wesleyan University but my job back then was much less demanding and fewer responsibilities than I have in my current job. So, this degree was a tough road for me. It was a lot of hard work and many late nights of studying until 1:00am. It was working til 6pm or so. Coming home and eating dinner and then immediately hitting the books til the wee hours of the morning. All of it was worth it to me though. Since I had accepted Christ as my Savior back in 2001, the calling to be in full-time ministry was something that I had struggled with mightily in those years. I always had managed to skirt God’s calling on my life because of financial responsibilities that I could barely keep up with and sometimes couldn’t. I made valid excuses of the fact that I would have no support from whom I was married to at the time. I made valid excuses about having young kids. Later, I made excuses of having teenage kids whose lives I just couldn’t disrupt. However, among the plethora of excuses I had for not going to seminary, God in His sovereignty one by one removed each one of those excuses I had built up in my life.


In 2011, at the age of 49, I relented to the Lord and went to seminary. I absolutely loved the experience. My faith was made stronger and I was able to do what I love most, writing. While others might dread multiple research papers in each class I took, I looked forward to the challenge. I love learning. I love debating and get to the heart of a subject and when it is a subject I am passionate about. I ate it up. I love learning about Jesus Christ, the Christian faith, and what a wonderfully sound theology our faith has. I just lapped it all up like my cat, Flash, does his water bowl when he is thirsty in the summer time. It was a great time in my life. Elena and I were growing in our faith and growing in the amount of leadership responsibilities that we were being allowed by God and by our senior pastor to take on. We were in one of those passionate phases of ministry where results abound. It was a fantastic time. I love learning and I love learning about leadership. I love my Lord and love learning more and more about Him. All the while, the latent expectation in the back of my mind was that I would go into full-time ministry as a solo pastor at a smaller church or as an associate pastor at a larger church and, hopefully, that larger church would be our church, LifeSong Church. That was the dream, that was the calling, full-time ministry as a full-time pastor. We were both stoked for that and anticipatory of that. We felt that all the work I put in at school and the things that we were learning about leadership at LifeSong were all part of the deal that would come to fruition soon after graduation.


However, sometimes God’s plans are not our plans even though sometimes we think we know what God’s plan is. I became frustrated that no church ever called and that a full-time position has not materialized at my own church. I have for the last year (as of tomorrow, August 18th) been working in an administrative role. I guess you could call what I do at church an administrative pastor or director of finance and administration position. I am bi-vocational. In both jobs, I do what I have done for 30 years in my professional life. Certainly, God has gifted me in that way – to bring administrative order to that which had no order before. I have done that throughout my career. However, in my flesh, I wanted more than the same ol’-same ol’ when it came to my pastoral future. At the same time, in my flesh, I am not getting any younger and time is running out. I was impatient with God. I wanted to be a full-time pastor. I wanted to be more than a church administrator or church accountant. I wanted to be able to express my skills of writing and wanted to learn how to translate that into being a pulpit preacher. To be given opportunities to express that side of how I have been talented by God. The time period between graduation in May 2014 and just a few months ago was a spiritual struggle of which only my wife, Elena, only really knew about.


Although most don’t desire to follow a calling to full-time ministry, because, as they say, “the pay is not that good but the retirement benefits are out of this world” and it is a life full of scrutiny that most desire not to exposed to, most of us though can relate to the greener pasture syndrome. All of us want what is next. We get a new iPhone 6s only to find that the iPhone 7 is coming out in a couple of months. We get a new car and in a few months a newer, better, faster, better looking version of our car comes out. We buy our houses and want new ones within 3 years. We are as Americans enamored with something better being out there to have and to hold. Just look at the divorce rates in America and you will know that we want new, better, faster, prettier.


Although Elena and I have grown spiritually beyond keeping up with the Joneses and the American dream and our house is just fine with us and our two cars are both paid for and as long as they continue to operate efficiently as they do now we have no desire to buy a new car, either one of us. We are enjoying that living below our means allows us to be generous without having to worry about where the generosity dollars are going to come from. However, yes, there are still areas where I still had and still have struggle with the greener pasture syndrome.


Let us read through this passage, Numbers 9:15-23, for a second and final time this morning and think about that concept of greener pastures and moving onto the next big thing as we read it today. After we read through it will consider what the passage means from that perspective and how I have grown to apply that to my life. Maybe, you will get something out my own experience that will help you:


15 On the day the tabernacle, the tent of the covenant law, was set up, the cloud covered it. From evening till morning the cloud above the tabernacle looked like fire. 16 That is how it continued to be; the cloud covered it, and at night it looked like fire. 17 Whenever the cloud lifted from above the tent, the Israelites set out; wherever the cloud settled, the Israelites encamped. 18 At the Lord’s command the Israelites set out, and at his command they encamped. As long as the cloud stayed over the tabernacle, they remained in camp. 19 When the cloud remained over the tabernacle a long time, the Israelites obeyed the Lord’s order and did not set out. 20 Sometimes the cloud was over the tabernacle only a few days; at the Lord’s command they would encamp, and then at his command they would set out. 21 Sometimes the cloud stayed only from evening till morning, and when it lifted in the morning, they set out. Whether by day or by night, whenever the cloud lifted, they set out. 22 Whether the cloud stayed over the tabernacle for two days or a month or a year, the Israelites would remain in camp and not set out; but when it lifted, they would set out. 23 At the Lord’s command they encamped, and at the Lord’s command they set out. They obeyed the Lord’s order, in accordance with his command through Moses.



Here, we see that the Israelites traveled and camped as God guided. When He moved, they moved. When He stayed, they stayed. This passage was originally a song sung by the Israelites, according to my research, during their wilderness, as the people followed the Lord in the cloud by day and the pillar of fire by night. The song set the stage for the departure from Mt. Sinai. The song also reiterates the theme of faithfulness of the Israelites (at least at this point in the journey), who were to follow the Lord’s leading in the movement of the cloud in the wilderness. When we follow God’s guidance as opposed to our own selfish desires for what we want, you know you are where God wants you. Whether you are moving or staying, God has intention for it. Instead of praying to God fervently about what’s next, we should be praying about the Lord teaching us what we need to do right now right where we are at. God, what do you want me to do, right here, right now. Direction from God is not always about your NEXT move. Sometimes, His direction is about what He wants us to do right now in what you might think is a transitional phase or an unimportant phase or a phase that seems to be underutilizing your true talents. Sure, we must pray for God to open our eyes to the opportunities that are next but not at the neglect of where He has us right now. He has a purpose in placing us right where we are right now. Just think about Joseph back in Genesis. He could have whined and complained about being in prison. But, he did not. He was faithful that God had a purpose even in prison for Him. However, if he had not been faithful and became a trustworthy prisoner and servant while there, he would never have been in position to become the most trusted man in all the land of Egypt. Through His humble service in whatever position he was in regardless of whether it was glitzy or not, Joseph just served and did what was put in front of him to the best of His ability and trusted the Lord with the results, whatever that might be.


For me, that is the conclusion that I have had to come to. God has me bi-vocational right now for a specific purpose. I must do what He has in my place. I must, most of all, trust God’s plan for it all. I must do what He puts in front of me to the best of my ability and to the glory of God. He will use my faithfulness for the kingdom when I am faithful. Who knows what impact the work that I am doing at the church will have as part of God’s plan. I must see it as about being giving glory to God and not about what my flesh desires. I am learning, Lord, to trust you more and more each day. I admit it, Lord; I struggle with pride. I struggle with wanting what I want. I struggle with wanting fulltime pastoral ministry. I struggle with the greener pasture syndrome. Help me to enjoy the moment of where you have me right now. When I can trust you completely, I can have joy. When I can trust that you have a purpose for this phase of my life, there is joy in it. When I can have joy in this moment, the next phase doesn’t really matter. God will take me there when He is ready for me to go. He will lift the pillar of smoke and go ahead of me and I will follow. When we submit to Him, we will see the pillar of smoke move and we will know that it is time to move to the next phase. In the meantime, the pillar of smoke is hovering over the tabernacle and we stay. We serve. We depend on Him. We learn. We grow. We have joy in know that we are exactly where God want us to be – right here and right now.



Amen and Amen.

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