15-16As soon as the sacred tent was set up, a thick cloud appeared and covered it. The cloud was there each day, and during the night, a fire could be seen in it. 17-19The Lord used this cloud to tell the Israelites when to move their camp and where to set it up again. As long as the cloud covered the tent, the Israelites did not break camp. But when the cloud moved, they followed it, and wherever it stopped, they camped and stayed there, 20-22whether it was only one night, a few days, a month, or even a year. As long as the cloud remained over the tent, the Israelites stayed where they were. But when the cloud moved, so did the Israelites. 23They obeyed the Lord's commands and went wherever he directed Moses.
That we follow God’s leading to come or to go or to stay where we are is clear enough from this passage. But the idea that God does not always use verbal commands in the sense of Scripture verses or other people’s words or placing sentences in our mind should also be understood. The cloud is the sign of God’s presence and its movement or absence of movement is the command. It may not be a cloud that God uses but it could be a sunrise or sunset that speaks to us of God’s will, a herd of deer running through the forest, something we see our child or grandchild doing, it could be a painting or sculpture, it could be whitecaps on the ocean. But if we sense God’s presence in the moment, and sense his leading, and that leading is tied into what we know is true of him in Scripture, then we come to the realization he is using what is in the world around us to speak his word into our hearts. In the same way the cloud over the tabernacle was a symbol of God’s presence and power to Israel. In the same way the psalm writers saw God’s majesty and faithfulness and eternal love in the mountains.
God’s words to us can come in the form of the things around us. We need to cultivate an awareness of his presence that is not solely based on sentences in English or French or Greek in the Bible or books or speech from others’ lips. The heavens declare the glory of God . . . They have no speech, they use no words . . . Yet their voice goes out into all the earth (Psalm 19:1,3,4 NIV)
Lord, help me to hear your voice when there are no words spoken. Help me to hear your call when the language used is one of clouds and mountains and sunsets. Guide my steps to the left and to the right and let me always be aware of your presence. Through Jesus Christ our Lord, Amen.