So they set out from the mount of the LORD three days’ journey. And the ark of the covenant of the LORD went before them three days’ journey, to seek out a resting place for them. 34 And the cloud of the LORD was over them by day, whenever they set out from the camp. 35 And whenever the ark set out, Moses said, “Arise, O LORD, and let your enemies be scattered, and let those who hate you flee before you.” 36 And when it rested, he said, “Return, O LORD, to the ten thousand thousands of Israel” Numbers 10:33-36
The Hebrew people left a terrible “job” situation. After a spectacular exit from Egypt, they followed Moses “3 full moons” into the desert to Mt. Sinai.
The first five books of the Old Testament cover from Creation to preparations being made to enter the Promised Land, i.e. millennia. Subsequent to the “3 full moons” are eleven months spent at Mt. Sinai—recorded in Exodus 19:1-Numbers 10:10.
For such a short period of time to be given such prominent coverage highlights the importance of this time of instruction at the feet of God. Here, at Mt. Sinai, God revealed His heart to the people, made His covenant with them, and said:
You shall be My treasured possession among all peoples… (Exodus 19:5)
After this 11 month intensive, Moses and the people started on a new journey.
Numbers 10:33-36 paints a beautiful picture of the “show me don’t tell me” version of Psalm 23. This portrait is a rare glimpse of the one on one nature of the Great Shepherd’s loving care and protection.
- God went before them to seek out a resting place—“He makes me lie down in green pastures. He leads me beside still waters.”
- The cloud of the Lord hovered over them as they journeyed in this unknown and uncertain land—“Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me.”
- The Great Shepherd provided guidance and direction—“He leads me in paths of righteousness for His Name’s sake.”
- The Lord God provided food, water, and protection from enemies “You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; you anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows.”
- God faithfully cared for them—“The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want…”
This picture of full abandonment to the Lord is a beautiful thing. Can you imagine how “trust” must look to the Father?
Being filled with God’s presence for 11 months, with no distractions, surely the Hebrew people set out in full confidence as they journeyed further into the desert. However, no sooner had they left than Numbers 11:1 says “And the people complained in the hearing of the Lord…”
The fear of the unknown happened.
And eventually they even longed for the soul-crushing known of Egyptian slavery, i.e. their old “job.”
Choosing to stay in a bad situation over fear of venturing into an unknown situation is a natural human reaction, especially among those in an unfulfilling job. The known is soul-crushing. The unknown is fear-inducing.
Fear sets in when confronting, or contemplating, change. Promised Land or Egyptian slavery? Seems like a no-brainer. But desert unknowns overwhelm the confidence gained during Mt. Sinai sabbaticals. And when uncertainty of a new situation sets in, so do doubt and fear. The people had failed to grasp what they experienced at the mountain—the faithfulness of the Great Shepherd.
If you are crying out for rescue from a miserable job situation, consider the options: soul-crushing of the known vs. fear-inducing of the unknown.
Scripture witnesses over and over to the loving and caring qualities of the Great Shepherd. The last verses of Numbers 10 illustrate this beautifully. But at the beginning of Numbers 11, we see fearful, uncertain, and complaining people—just like some of us. Yet, not for one single second in the uncertain and seemingly impossible journey into a new desert, did God ever fail to guide, provide, protect, and love His children.
Situations change. Jobs change. God does not change. There comes a time when what we have learned at the feet of God must be put to practical use in the desert.
Oh Lord God, I want to quit my job so badly. I am miserable there. But I have bills. I need health insurance. If I left, would I end up making less money but working more hours? After all these years, is my soil filled with thorns? The cares of the world seem to overwhelm me. You are the Good Shepherd. Birds aren’t skeptical. Lilies aren’t skeptical. You watch over all of Your Creation. God, search my heart and tell me why I so desperately fear the unknown. I’ve been asking You for a job that I am passionate about for almost 15 years. Please loose me from the fear that has left me sluggish and inert. I want to take that step of faith. Increase my faith! In the Name that is above all Names, Jesus Christ. Amen.