I've been reading Exodus recently, about how Moses set up the tabernacle, following all the instructions about poles, bases, crossbars, curtains, lampstands, table, altar and all the requirements about garments to wear, anointing and so on. I read in Exodus 40:34, after Moses had followed all the instructions, how it was then that the cloud, representing God's presence, came and ‘covered the Tent of Meeting and the glory of the Lord filled the tabernacle’. It made me think how nice it would be to have clear and specific instructions from God like Moses did. When I’m unsure of myself and don’t know what to do, there are times when I'd just like the Lord to spell it out and tell me what to do! As I pondered on this passage I realised it wasn’t about the instructions at all. The cloud was actually with the Israelites all the time, moving ahead of them to guide them and didn't just come from nowhere when Moses had done everything right. God was there all the time. I have the temperament that would want everything right, or at least the best that it can be, so I would feel safe if the opportunity for making mistakes, or even completely failing, was minimised by just following a set of clear instructions.
I can remember as a child looking up at the sky on one of those sunny days when there are white fluffy cumulus clouds and trying to see shapes in the ever-changing forms, imagining that I could see a rabbit or something. Once my imagination was sparked I could see all sorts of things! We look to God for direction, hoping that understanding will emerge from our circumstances, much as I did as a girl as I looked for cloud shapes to emerge in the sky. Life can be confusing; we look to God to help us make sense of the difficult things, the challenges and dilemmas that life brings, but it is enough to just look up and know that He is there. We can trust him with the things that concern us, the things that we don’t understand, our plans for the future and the desires of our hearts because we belong to him. We don’t have to anticipate criticism, fear making mistakes or the consequences of failure. God didn’t just show up when Moses had got everything right; Moses obeyed the Lord because he knew God was with him. Moses didn’t have to work anything out; he followed the instructions because he knew he belonged to God, and that was enough.
Claire Sillett, February 2018