At the Lord’s command they encamped, and at the Lord’s command they set out. Numbers 9:23
In the latter part of Numbers chapter 9, it is described how the Israelites decided when to go and when to stay. Quite simply, God told them. When the cloud (or fire at night) was covering the tabernacle, they stayed. When the cloud or fire lifted from the tabernacle, they moved. Honestly, I sometimes wish God still spoke to us this way. This specifically. I wish he would say, “This is the college you should attend.” Or “Take this job.” Or “Move to this state.” Or “This is exactly how you should parent that child.” But he does not. Not anymore.
And while I do like the idea of a direct do this/do not do this statement, I also don’t particularly want to roam the dessert, have to practice sacrifices, or you know, deal with plagues… So I guess figuring out how to hear God this side of the cross is not so bad after-all.
One of my favorite poems is the one popularized (though not written) by Elizabeth Elliot: Do the Next Thing.
From an old English parsonage down by the sea There came in the twilight a message to me; Its quaint Saxon legend, deeply engraven, Hath, it seems to me, teaching from Heaven. And on through the doors the quiet words ring Like a low inspiration: “DO THE NEXT THING.” Many a questioning, many a fear, Many a doubt, hath its quieting here. Moment by moment, let down from Heaven, Time, opportunity, and guidance are given. Fear not tomorrows, child of the King, Trust them with Jesus, do the next thing Do it immediately, do it with prayer; Do it reliantly, casting all care; Do it with reverence, tracing His hand Who placed it before thee with earnest command. Stayed on Omnipotence, safe ‘neath His wing, Leave all results, do the next thing. Looking for Jesus, ever serener, Working or suffering, be thy demeanor; In His dear presence, the rest of His calm, The light of His countenance be thy psalm, Strong in His faithfulness, praise and sing. Then, as He beckons thee, do the next thing.
I think this so beautifully describes how we listen and obey God now, on this side of the cross where there is no cloud or fire over a tabernacle. It is about knowing God. Knowing Jesus. Knowing and loving His word. And being obedient to the Holy Spirt, the helper He left with us.
If we are Christians of the Word we will have a much better chance of ‘hearing’ God. He left us a book. It’s all in there. We need to read it. All of it. Every day. Make it a habit. You brush your teeth every day. You eat every day. Read the Bible every day. It is not as hard as it sounds, and I am embarrassed it took me so many years to develop this habit. But now, with the help of the audio version on the Bible App, I read it every day. I am also part of the Bible Reading Challenge that helps me schedule it out. The point is, how can we possibly expect to hear from God if we’re not reading His word? That’s how we know Him. As the saying goes, “If you want to hear God speak, read His word. If you want to hear God speak audibly, read it out loud.”
Living in this in between place can be difficult. We don’t have God speaking directly through His profits, or manifesting Himself to show us exactly what to do. And He has not yet returned to gather His people. So in the In Between, we read His word. We listen to His Spirit within us, and we pray…then we do the next right thing.