“At the Lord’s Command”

“At the Lord’s Command” February 21, 2024

Photo by Alec Krum on Unsplash

The Israelites saw God’s presence in “the Lord’s cloud”; that enabled them to know the Lord’s command. But “knowing” and “doing” are two different things!


Numbers, chapters 8-9; Acts, chapter 28

Numbers 9:15-23 (CEB):

On the day the dwelling was erected, the cloud covered the dwelling. At night until morning, the cloud appeared with lightning over the dwelling. It was always there. The cloud covered it by day, appearing with lightning at night. Whenever the cloud ascended from the tent, the Israelites would march. And the Israelites would camp wherever the cloud settled. At the Lord’s command, the Israelites would march, and at the Lord’s command they would camp. As long as the cloud settled on the dwelling, they would camp.

When the cloud lingered on the meeting tent for many days, the Israelites would observe the Lord’s direction and they wouldn’t march. Sometimes the cloud would be over the dwelling for a number of days, so they would camp at the Lord’s command, marching again only at the Lord’s command. Sometimes the cloud would settle only overnight, and they would march when the cloud ascended in the morning.

Whether it was day or night, they would march when the cloud ascended. Whether it was two days, or a month, or a long time, the Israelites would camp so long as the cloud lingered on the dwelling and settled on it. They wouldn’t march. But when it ascended, they would march. They camped at the Lord’s command and they marched at the Lord’s command. They followed the Lord’s direction according to the Lord’s command through Moses.

Observations:  At the Lord’s Command

In the book of Exodus, God gave Moses the directions for constructing the tabernacle – the “meeting tent.” The directions were very specific, because the tent would be “a sanctuary so I can be present among them” (Exodus 25:8). “Moses did everything exactly as the Lord had commanded him” (Exodus 40:16). The book of Exodus closes with this report: “When Moses finished all the work, the cloud covered the meeting tent and the Lord’s glorious presence filled the dwelling…The Lord’s cloud stayed over the dwelling during the day, with lightning in it at night, clearly visible to the whole household of Israel at every stage of their journey” (Exodus 40:33-38).

In today’s passage from Numbers 9, we find that “the Lord’s cloud” is still there over the tabernacle. In fact, verse 16 tells us “It was always there.” Imagine what it would be like to have a visible manifestation of God’s presence with us all the time! It constantly reminded them that God was with them. The fact that it was always there demonstrated that God was always there with them.

That visible manifestation of God’s presence enabled the people to know what God wanted them to do. The phrase at the Lord’s command occurs six times in our passage for today. When the cloud settled in a place, they stopped and camped there.  When the cloud rose, they marched. Every day, God’s presence was visible among them.  “The Lord’s cloud” demonstrated the Lord’s command, and the people did what God directed them to do.

Application – At the Lord’s Command

Surely if we had God’s visible presence among us, we would always do what God commands! Well, not so much. As we’ll see as we read on in Numbers, the time came when the Lord’s command was to go in and take the Promised Land.  They refused. In spite of God’s visible presence, and in spite of all the ways God had worked for them, they rejected God’s command. The visible presence of “the Lord’s cloud” was not enough to convince them to obey.

It has always been that way. God has given us plenty of evidence of his presence. He has made his will clear to us. His Word tells us everything we need to know to live the way he calls us to live. Yet people still refuse to believe, refuse to obey. Why? I think for the same reason the Israelites ultimately refused to obey. It’s easy to follow the Lord’s command when God is leading us in the way we want to go. But when God’s command calls us outside our comfort zone, we struggle. We convince ourselves that God will forgive us, and that God will never abandon us – so we do what we want.  And then we experience the consequences. We need to “want” to do God’s will!

We don’t need a cloud and lightning to demonstrate the Lord’s presence. He’s given us his Holy Spirit to live in us a “down payment” toward our eternal inheritance (2 Corinthians 1:22). We don’t need a cloud to lead us; the Holy Spirit guides us in the truth (John 16:13). God has given us his written Word to show us the way, and the Spirit helps us to understand. The fact is that we know the Lord’s command; we just need to do it!


Father, thank you for the gift of your Spirit to lead us. Just as you led the Israelites by the cloud of your presence, you lead us by your Spirit. The Holy Spirit helps us not only to know “the Lord’s command,” but also to do it. “God is the one who enables you both to want and to actually live out his good purposes” (Philippians 2:13). Help us today to know and to do your will.  Amen.


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