And whenever the Ark set out, Moses would shout, “Arise, O LORD, and let Your enemies be scattered! Let them flee before You!” And when the Ark was set down, he would say, “Return, O LORD, to the countless thousands of Israel!” (Numbers 10:35-36, NLT)
I don’t enjoy traveling. I enjoy visiting new places and meeting new people, and spreading the Gospel; but I don’t enjoy the process of getting from point A to point B. If there was a way to get to my destination instantaneously, I’d choose it in a second. Beam me up, Scotty!
Times of transition are always difficult times for people – having to leave the familiar to journey off into the unknown, not knowing how long the trip will be or where it will end up. During their trek from Egypt to the Promised Land, the children of Israel had many times of transition. The LORD led them by a pillar of cloud during the day and a pillar of fire at night. When the pillar stopped moving, the Israelites would set up their camp and remain in that place until the pillar began moving again. Then they would pack up the camp (a city really – there were thousands and thousands of people) and the tabernacle and move to the next location. Sometimes they would be in a location for a year, sometimes months, sometimes only days; but they were to follow God’s Spirit wherever He would lead them.
I found this passage of Scripture interesting because it says that whenever the Israelites began the period of transition from one location to the next, the LORD wasn’t in their midst. He was out ahead of them clearing the path, removing any obstacles that would hinder them.
During times of transition, we often feel as though God has forsaken us; that He has left us out in the desert to die (the Israelites murmured and complained about this often). In reality, God has not left us, nor forsaken us; He has just moved out ahead of us to clear the way for our journey to be effortless.
Perhaps our periods of transition are difficult for us because we try very hard to keep up with the LORD or maybe even get ahead of Him instead of walking peacefully and safely behind Him, allowing Him to be our Shield and our Defense. In our rush to get through times of transition we tend to make things harder than God intends them to be.
As much as I dislike the amount of time it takes to get places, when I’m flying from one destination to another it really is effortless. The pilot is doing all the difficult stuff; I just have to sit back and enjoy the ride. In the same way, if you are facing a time of transition in your life, don’t try to fly the plane yourself. That’s the job of the Holy Spirit. When moving from point A to point B, take the time to enjoy the new experiences that are all around you. As the old Greyhound bus ads used to say: “Leave the driving to us.”
Another key to remember is that even during the times of transition when the LORD was moving ahead of the people, the Israelites were not alone. They supported and encouraged each other. They walked together in unity. It’s important to remember also that with thousands of people walking the same path, some arrived at their destination ahead of others; but they all eventually reached the same place of rest.
When Israel had reached the next place of rest in their journey, Moses would ask the LORD’s Spirit to return again to the people. In times of rest when the period of transition is over the LORD surrounds us and dwells in our midst. He refreshes us, renews us, and prepares us for the next leg of the journey. These times of rest, these times of God’s Presence in our lives, is really what the process is all about. We are always going to have times of transition and times of rest until we reach our Promised Land – eternity with The Father, Son and Spirit.
Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit. (1 Corinthians 3:17-18, ESV)
It is the work of the Holy Spirit to sanctify us, to lead us from one degree of glory to another, as we grow nearer and nearer to the LORD. Our focus during the journey should not be on the periods of transition, but rather on the Lord Jesus Christ, Who is the Author and Finisher of our faith (Hebrews 12:2).
I want to close this blog with the chorus of the hymn “Turn Your Eyes Upon Jesus”:
Turn your eyes upon Jesus | Look full in His wonderful face | And the things of earth will grow strangely dim | In the light of His Glory and Grace.