As much as I appreciate the love of God being real to me, I also need to embrace the fear of the Lord. The two are not mutually exclusive. God's love is not "sloppy agape." Knowing the Lord generates reverential awe. It cleans us up. If we know the fear of the Lord, we can draw near to him and feel his love. Being in awe of the Lord causes us to revere his holy presence, his great love.
Awe is the feeling you get when you see the lightning strike or a volcano erupt or a huge wave roll in. It can be mixed with fear. Have you seen the epic movie, "The Ten Commandments?" Charlton Heston played Moses. It is worth watching. It shows Israel leaving Egypt and crossing the wilderness toward the promised land. The people moved according to a divine plan. At times they camped in one spot. At other times they broke camp, packed up and set out to travel further on the journey. Their fear of God's mighty power kept them on track and on time.
The wilderness trip took longer than was necessary. In fact, an unbelieving generation had to perish in the wilderness. Why was this? Israel had come out of Egypt, but Egypt was still in them. Idolatry and immorality had to be purged. The Lord worked in them while he delivered them. This requires something called repentance. To repent is to change your mind and your attitude.
It is not enough to come out of sin. You must come into your new identity in Christ or else not fulfill your destiny. This involves a shift in our mentality. A constant barrier to entering our own land of promise is that we don't think the right way. Isaiah the prophet wrote that our thoughts and our ways are not like the Lord's. Therefore, we need to repent. Only then can we properly believe, become and behave.
Israel's journey was geographical and societal, both external and internal. Internally, they moved from slavery to liberty, into citizenship in God. The Lord shaped their values along the way. He set up governance by elders under Moses. He gave them the Ten Commandments and introduced a system of worship. He established a holy calendar and festivals, including Passover. They had to learn war to defend their nation. They had to learn obedience to his word, to stay under the protecting hand of God.
Along the way, something supernatural appeared over the tabernacle. By night, a pillar of fire hovered over the tent. By day, a cloud. Israel knew this portable place of worship was holy, marked by the distinct presence of God. The fire by night and the cloud by day was a sign of God's manifest presence. They had a testimony, something peculiar and unique among all the nations. They were marked.
How did Israel know when to stay and when to move? According to Numbers 9:15-23, when they saw the cloud lift, Israel moved with it. That was their signal to relocate. They camped for a time in certain places, but they were always on a pilgrimage. They had to follow the glory to keep up with God.
What happens when the cloud moves on, but God's people don't break camp? What if we fail to reverence the presence of God over the tent? Look up and notice -- has it left us behind? It is easy to settle in one spot and get comfortable, forgetting we were brought out to be brought in.
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Ron Wood is a writer and minister. Email him at email@example.com or visit www.touchedbygrace.org. Opinions expressed are those of the author.Editorial on 06/06/2018
Print Headline: The cloud moves -- look up and notice