When God dwelled over the tabernacle in Numbers 9:15-23, the Israelites “obeyed the Lord’s order.” When the cloud lifted, they broke camp and set out. When the cloud remained, they stayed put and did not set out. Sometimes the cloud remained over the tabernacle for a long time, and the Israelites obeyed the Lord’s order and did not set out. “Sometimes the cloud was over the tabernacle for just a few days, and at the Lord’s command they would encamp and then at his command they would set out.” (v. 20)
I can’t help but imagine the logistics of this flexibility on the part of the Israelites. As a mom with 4 children, I think about all that goes into packing for a trip. Each member of my family has items they need: clothes, shoes, food, blankets, etc. It is stressful packing and managing the items needed for a family going on a trip, so I can’t even begin to imagine when the packing and planning involved everything families own, including livestock and food preparation material and seed and grain. If I knew the date and time that this move was going to take place it would be hard enough, but to set up camp, my home, without any clue how long we would be staying would be so difficult.
Forget homey touches and comfort items. Forget favorite spots and routines. “If the cloud moves, we move” would be a very difficult lifestyle to follow. I can imagine some of the longer encampments when the whole family develops a comfortable routine at a certain location. Everyone has their favorite sleep spot and the ground at that spot has become molded to the shape of their frame. The field where the kids kick the cones in friendly games has become worn in the right spots and the boundaries are known and familiar. The women know all the best spots to gather their food and water and where to sit as they work and cook. The men have their livestock trained in grazing in certain areas and have developed a familiar routine. Then…..the cloud lifts. It’s time to move.
But, Lord, couldn’t we just stay here a little bit longer? It’s so nice here. We are comfortable and the kids are happy. Our livestock is thriving and our garden has just begun to sprout. Why do we have to leave now, Lord? Please can we just stay?
Instead, ”They obeyed the Lord’s order, in accordance with his command through Moses.” (v. 23)
But then… in Numbers 11:1 the people behaved in a manner I can relate to. “The people complained about the hardships in the hearing of the Lord.” He was providing what they needed. He was giving them manna to eat and scattering their enemies. He was WITH THEM! They could see his presence through the fire by night and cloud by day. Yet, the people complained. Not only did the general population complain but their leader complained. The Bible says Moses was so troubled that he asked God to take his life so he didn’t have to be in charge anymore.
God’s solution was community and abundant provision!!! God distributed his Holy Spirit on 70 elders so that Moses would not carry this burden alone. He also provided enough meat for all the people to eat their fill for a whole month. Unfortunately the people demonstrated gluttony and their overindulgent greed had consequences. The people were discontent with the provision that fulfilled their needs (manna) and demanded more meat to fulfill their desires. When God provided the desires of their heart, they got greedy. We are, after all, sinful people.
Thankfully, God is gracious. He is slow to anger and abounding in love. His mercies are new every morning.
When we complain, He listens.
When we ask… He provides.
When we demand… He corrects.
Inheritance of Hope families know better then most the uncertainties that come with an unknown future. They have a cloud, of sorts, constantly over their heads, and it is not the presence of God in this case. It is a terminal diagnosis that makes it difficult to plan ahead. The Israelites went through a “vast and dreadful wilderness,” and I imagine some IoH families would describe their situations similarly. Sometimes a treatment is working and they get to enjoy a few months or years with the status quo, and other times within a day or two their entire lives are uprooted. It makes planning impossible and most comfort touches irrelevant. It is hard, unpredictable, scary, and frustrating.
The good news is the God who was present in the cloud that surrounded the Israelites now lives among us!!! He actually created a new tabernacle that is inside each of us who have accepted Christ as our Messiah. He has promised to provide all we need. Sometimes it doesn’t make sense to us. If He has the power to let us be comfortable, then why doesn’t He? Could it be because He is providing a far greater gift to us? Could it be because He is teaching us, molding us, equipping us for a much bigger life than the earthly one we know? If we are considering eternity filled with every good thing forever, then how does that change our perspective on the uncertainty we are facing today or the bland manna we are eating?
We are faced with a choice: be thankful for the provision and handle it responsibly while trusting God’s way, or complain and demand our way in the face of earthly circumstances. None of us want unpredictability and hardship. None of us want boring and bland. The good news is that God promises an abundant life to those who are His tabernacle. There are people who can no longer control the use of their arms and legs, people who can’t breath on their own anymore, people who have mere weeks left on earth, people who have no money to their names, people who are in prison for their faith, people who know hardship yet have abundant life. They know their pain is temporary and eternity is forever. They invite God into the cloud of their circumstances and ask Him to lead the way.
An interesting side note… In my time walking alongside Kristen Milligan during her terminal diagnosis, the start of Inheritance of Hope, plans for her death, and ultimately by her side during her last breath on earth, I was able to see firsthand the uncertainty that comes with terminal illness. I saw the frustration that comes with not being able to plan ahead due to treatments and side effects and surgeries and pain. But I also saw the profound impact of inviting God into the uncertainty and trusting Him with all things. Right before Moses died, God brought him up to the Mount in Pisgah. (Guess where Kristen’s home in the North Carolina mountains is located, the place where she died? PISGAH Forest!!!) God said to Moses in Deuteronomy 3:27, “Go up to the top of Pisgah, and look to the west and north and south and east. Look at the land with your own eyes, since you are not going to cross this Jordan. But commission Joshua, and encourage and strengthen him, for he will lead this people across and will cause them to inherit the land that you will see.”
In a similar way, God has blessed Inheritance of Hope immensely. Sometimes it is hard for me to believe that Kristen died after we had served a little over 100 families, and now we have served over 400 and are on track to serve 100 more this year alone. Through Christ’s power she was a great encourager and strengthener, and I feel like she played a huge role in commissioning each of us to this hard work. But ultimately it is God who is leading us into the Promised Land. God is so faithful and amazing!
Jill Thompson didn’t give much thought to intentional living until her best friend, Kristen Milligan, was diagnosed with terminal liver cancer at age 30. She had a front row seat as Kristen planned and prepared for her death and was inspired to be as intentional with each day. Kristen rarely missed a single moment to speak truth to her children and to teach, inspire, and encourage others. Because of her intentionality, her life and legacy are still greatly impacting others even 5 years after her death. Jill lives in Florida with her husband and four children and tries to make the most of each and every day, living intentionally as a wife and mom. Read more posts from Jill >>