Numbers 9 and 10 show a pretty incredible picture of God’s guidance. He physically shows up in a pillar of cloud and fire. When the pillar moves, the Israelites move. When it stays, they stay. Pretty simple. It seems to relieve a lot of the confusion we struggle with from day to day. Or does it?
The pillar teaches the Israelites an important lesson. They are dependent on God for guidance from day to day. He leads them to their next stop. He goes before them to drive their enemies away and returns to protect and provide for them.
We can make this out to mean more than it says. We might imagine God pointing out all the different decisions that each of the million-plus Israelites had to make, moment-by-moment, throughout every day. That isn’t what happened. God set the general direction and gave more specific guidance for day-to-day issues through Moses. For example, they were to go out each morning and gather enough manna for that day. They weren’t supposed to gather too much or it would spoil. On the day before the Sabbath, they were to gather enough for two days and rest on the Sabbath. Other laws were also provided to give general direction, but they didn’t cover every decision.
Numbers 10:29-32 is an interesting passage. Before and after this passage, God is miraculously guiding Israel with a cloud. In these verses, we find Moses begging his brother-in-law to stay with them. Why? Hobab knows the desert better than Moses. When the cloud stops, they still have to decide where to set up camp. As they travel, they will need to find water. There will be other variables that will come up, such as storms, difficult terrain, and other “deserty things”. Hobab has knowledge of the desert that will help them. He can provide practical guidance to fill in the blanks underneath God’s overarching direction.
The same is true today. God gives us general, overall guidance, such as “Seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well” (Matthew 6:33) or “If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.” (Luke 9:23) In addition, there are countless other morally and ethically neutral decisions that must be made each day and God doesn’t speak to them at all (like what to wear, what to have for lunch, or what job should I pursue). If we seek first the kingdom and take up our cross daily, we are free to choose in the other areas. Will I wear the red shirt or black shirt? Will I have sushi or a chilidog? Will I be a butcher, baker, or candlestick maker to the glory of God?
1. What causes the change in the Israelites attitude (11:4-9)? Do you suppose their food supply in Egypt was much meatier? Does Moses consider their complaints valid? Would you? Why or why not?
2. How have the rabble-rousers affected Moses? Why does Moses want to quit (11:10-15)? Why does he wish that all God’s people could prophesy, as did the seventy elders (11:25-29)?
3. When are you, like Israel and Moses, most likely to become discouraged with your allotment or position in life? When discouraged, do you listen more to people’s complaints, to God’s provision, or to inner doubts?