Cloud was taken up, the
An exhortation delivered on the final day of an American Bible
"And when the cloud was taken up from the tabernacle, then
after that the children of Israel journeyed... at the commandment of the Lord
the children of Israel journeyed" (Num 9:17,18).
Brothers and sisters, for this past week we have been resting
and refreshing ourselves in the presence of the Lord. We have pitched our tents
together as the camp of Israel in this place. But now, as we knew it would, the
time has finally come for us to go. The "cloud" has been taken up from the
tabernacle, and once more we must begin our journey.
How often have we heard it said, "Oh, if only the Bible School
could go on forever!" If only we just didn't have to leave here, but could
remain in this quiet, secluded place indefinitely.
Peter said much the same thing one time. Once he climbed a
mountain with Jesus, and there he beheld him speaking with Moses and Elijah.
Peter was overcome with emotion:
"Master, it is good for us to be here!" And he was
This week we have stood on the "mountain" with Jesus
and the Apostle Paul and Elijah and Joshua the captain of Israel. And it has
been good for us to be here with Jesus, to catch a glimpse of the glory that is
his, and that will be Peter's and Paul's and ours also.
But it would not have been good for Peter and James and
John to build three tabernacles and camp indefinitely on that mountain. There
was work to do, down on the plains. They had to come down from the mountain, to
leave that private place of sweet fellowship with God, and to go out into the
If Peter had remained on that mountain, contemplating that
glorious vision, the Jews assembled at Jerusalem would never have heard his
words, "Repent and be baptized!"
If Peter had remained on that mountain, the lame man would
have lain daily at the gate of the Temple until he died, never having felt the
powerful hand of healing.
If Peter had remained on that mountain, Cornelius and his
house would never have heard the gospel call, and the door of hope would never
have been flung open to the Gentiles.
Why We Must Leave
Brothers, and sisters, if we all remained here, how many of
our families and friends would never have a chance to enjoy the same privilege
that we have had this week, this "feast of fat things"? How good it would be,
not that we remain here, but rather that we leave here with a firm
resolve that, if Christ remain away, we will try our best to bring someone new
back to this wonderful place next year!!
And there is another reason why we cannot remain on this
spiritual "mountain", why we cannot continue to pitch our tents in peace around
the tabernacle of the Lord: Peter had to come down off the mountain in order to
follow Jesus in the way. He had to leave that wonderful retreat in order to
fail, and in that failure to find greater strength through the forgiveness of
sins that only his Master could provide. Peter had to go back into the world
before he could meet the resurrected Christ, before he could be a partaker of
his Lord's sufferings so that he might be a partaker of his glory.
And the children of Israel had to resume their wilderness trek
if they, and their children, and their children's children were to have any hope
of reaching the Promised Land with Joshua.
Disciples of Christ are not made by sitting in the peaceful
shade, but by struggling along the "rugged pathway". Here, in this place, we may
be well-instructed. But only out there, in the bustle and turmoil and
frustrations of the world about us, can we become by experience true disciples.
Only out there can we begin to put into practice, and to prove the efficacy of,
the lessons we have learned this week.
And, besides, why shouldn't we continue our journey? ...
because, for all we know, just over the next hill, or around the next bend, we
might find ourselves in the presence of Christ, in God's Kingdom. "The
Bridegroom cometh"; we must go out to meet him!!
"The Lord is my Shepherd "
We read that God "made His own people to go forth like sheep,
and guided them in the wilderness like a flock... and led them on safely, so
that they feared not" (Psa 78:52,53). His pillar of cloud and fire led them on
through a dangerous land, and through treacherous enemies, on their way toward
the Kingdom. It is here and now, as we prepare to leave this place of peace and
spiritual plenty, and resume our "wilderness journey", that the familiar
words of Psalm 23 can be to us most meaningful:
"The Lord is my shepherd..."
not just "our" shepherd collectively, but "mine" individually.
Each one of us might say these words. Wherever I go, He will be there to
guide me. Though all men forsake me, "and days are dark and friends are few",
yet the Lord will shepherd me. And even when I stumble and fall --
especially then -- He will be there to lift me up and set my feet on the
"I shall not want..."
True, I may lack many things that I would naturally desire,
but I will lack nothing that I really need for my spiritual development. All
things have been provided for my salvation, and even the lack of some things
have been designed by God for my ultimate benefit (Rom 8:28). And though I have
"nothing" now, as the world might count treasure, yet in Paul's words "I possess
all things" because the Lord of heaven and earth is my Shepherd, my Guide and my
"He maketh me to lie down in green pastures;
He leadeth me beside the still waters;
He restoreth my soul..."
Here we have rested and drunk of still waters; our "soul", our
"inner man" has been refreshed and strengthened. But now we must stand again.
Now we must follow Christ in the path of righteousness. Now we must walk through
the valley of the shadow of death, so that we can learn to trust in God rather
than ourselves, and so that we can (as did Paul) rejoice in deliverances past,
present, and future (2Co 1:9,10). When our problems are small, then we are
scarcely even conscious of our need for a Savior. But when those problems, and
the doubts and fears that accompany them, mount up in our lives... then we can
seek -- and find!! -- a Savior who will bless us abundantly above all we
might ever imagine. Then he will be a Savior who is as great as our
trials, who delights to bless us in a myriad of ways, and whose strength
finds perfection only along side our weakness.
If our lives were altogether pleasant... if there were never
trials, or illnesses, or pain, or failure, or death... would we still desire the
Kingdom? Why should we? It follows therefore that God tries us because He loves
us. It is the mercy of God that leads us out of our idleness and into the
valley of tears. For it is there only, in the "world", that we can truly
find God. It is through "tribulation" -- trial, pressure, stress -- that we must
enter the Kingdom (Acts 14:22). These "stresses" and "pressures" are the "rod"
and "staff" of the Divine Shepherd, which discipline and even "hurt" us, yet at
the same time strengthen and direct us in the right paths. And thereby are we
Even in the dreary wilderness, with the "wild beasts", our
Shepherd prepares us a table, as He did for our fathers who came out of Egypt --
causing waters to run down like rivers and raining down manna from heaven (Psalm
78:16,24). We must not complain or doubt. We must never ask, as did they, "Can
God provide a table in this wilderness?" (v 19). He can, and He does!
Here before us on this table are the emblems of a body dedicated and blood
poured out. Here as sheep we feed on the pasture provided by the Good Shepherd.
And even while the beasts of prey circle menacingly, and the shadows lengthen,
we are fed in hope, the words echoing in our ears:
"Fear not, little flock, it is your Father's good pleasure to
give you the kingdom."
What comfort there is, what encouragement, in these words!
They keep in our minds the beautiful vision of our destination. The cloud has
been taken up from the tabernacle. Let us arise! Let us pack our bags and gather
our children about us. Let us renew our journey through the