On the day that the tabernacle was set up, the cloud covered the tabernacle, the tent of the testimony. And at evening it was over the tabernacle like the appearance of fire until morning. So it was always: the cloud covered it by day and the appearance of fire by night. And whenever the cloud lifted from over the tent, after that the people of Israel set out, and in the place where the cloud settled down, there the people of Israel camped. At the command of the LORD the people of Israel set out, and at the command of the LORD they camped. As long as the cloud rested over the tabernacle, they remained in camp. Even when the cloud continued over the tabernacle many days, the people of Israel kept the charge of the LORD and did not set out. Sometimes the cloud was a few days over the tabernacle, and according to the command of the LORD they remained in camp; then according to the command of the LORD they set out. And sometimes the cloud remained from evening until morning. And when the cloud lifted in the morning, they set out, or if it continued for a day and a night, when the cloud lifted they set out. Whether it was two days, or a month, or a longer time, that the cloud continued over the tabernacle, abiding there, the people of Israel remained in camp and did not set out, but when it lifted they set out. At the command of the LORD they camped, and at the command of the LORD they set out. They kept the charge of the LORD, at the command of the LORD by Moses. (Numbers 9:15-23 ESV)
Can you imagine being an Israelite, living in a tent in the wilderness with your family, waking each morning to look to the sky to see if the cloud of Yahweh’s protection was going to move or not, signaling you had to pack up all your possessions and your tent and begin walking? Would you hope it would stay put for a while? And at night, to see a pillar of fire hovering over the camp must have been captivating, or would you get so used to it that you wouldn’t care anymore?
This cloud/fire over head was Yahweh’s way of leading Israel through the wilderness, showing her His presence in a tangible way, providing protection from the sun and the cold, and generally training them to look to Him for all direction. Are we looking to Him in every situation to know what He wants us to do and to obey Him? Perhaps even more importantly, are we patient when it seems we must wait on Him to give us direction? Will we move without Him?
I never remember in all my Christian course that I ever sincerely and patiently sought to know the will of God by the teaching of the Holy Ghost through the instrumentality of the Word of God but that I have always been rightly directed. But, if honesty of heart and uprightness before God were lacking, or if I did not patiently wait on God for instruction, or if I preferred the counsel of my fellowmen to the declarations of the Word of God, I made great mistakes.—George Muller