The Journey of Life
Numbers 9:15-23
And on the day that the tabernacle was reared up the cloud covered the tabernacle, namely, the tent of the testimony…

There is no strain upon the imagination in thinking of life as a journey. That is one of the simplest and most beautiful figures by which the action of life can be represented. We are travellers; we are here but for a little time; on our feet are sandals and in our hands are staves; here We have no continuing city, and we are called upon to testify to the age that we seek a country out of sight. So, then, we are familiar with the figure; it commends itself to us, as life enlarges, as quite expressive of the reality of the case — every day a milestone, every year so much nearer the end. Regarding life, then, as a journey, according to the pattern of this text, is there not a mysterious presence or influence in life which really affects our action? In the text that influence is spoken of as a cloud by day and a fire by night — two striking natural images. Our controversy is not about the image or the metaphor; behind it is there not this ever-abiding solemnity, that in life there is a mysterious action — a ministry we cannot comprehend, an influence we cannot overrule? We speak of "impression." When we think of changing our position in life, we say we have an impression. What is an impression? Who created it? Who determined its meaning? How do you account for the impression? Upon what is the impression made? — upon the mind, upon something subtler than itself, upon the consciousness, the soul, the spirit — the innermost man. That is a mystery! Or we speak of "circumstances." We say that circumstances seem to point in this direction or that. What are circumstances? Where do they begin? How do they sum themselves up into influence or into definiteness? Having spoken about "impression" and "circumstances," we speak about another mysterious thing which has come to be known by the name of "tendency." We say the tendency of things is —; or the tendency of life seems to indicate —. We have created a species of rhythm, or harmonic movement, falling into which we say, This is the sweep of tendency, and to resist tendency is impossible. How anxious we are to get rid of religious names! Men who will speak of impression, circumstances, and tendency, will hesitate before saying Providence, God, Father in heaven. Let the Church beware how it gives up the grand old names — God, Providence, heavenly direction, spiritual influence! Why shrink from the definite religious testimony of the eighteenth verse, "At the commandment of the Lord," &c. When a man rises in the morning in God's strength, lies down at night in God's blessing, walks all day in God's energy, he lives and moves and has his being in God; God is in his inmost thought, and every word upon his tongue is an implied or actual confession of childlike trust in God. We need not be ashamed of this definite testimony. It exalts human life. What is the meaning of it? Evidently that our life is recognised by God, our movements are of some consequence to Him; He knows our downsitting and our uprising, our going out and our coming in; and there is not a word upon our tongue, there is not a thought in our heart, but lo, it is known wholly in heaven. This consciousness of Divine guidance in life, Divine care of life, Divine redemption of life, necessitates prayer. The man who seizes this view of things must pray. This religious view of life brings the spirit into the restfulness and blessed joy of obedience. The children of Israel simply obeyed. Theirs was not a life of controversy, ours, unhappily, is. We have made it a life of controversy when we need not. We are always arguing with our orders; we are trying to construe them into different and inferior meanings; we are wasting life by discussing in idle words, which can settle nothing, the gravity and authority of our marching orders. If we accept God's Book, do let us accept it with full trust, not as a field for criticism, but as a code of life — the Word, or the testimony, by which every thought, feeling, and action is to be determined. Live that life and risk your destiny. To obey is to live.

(J. Parker. D. D.)

Parallel Verses
KJV: And on the day that the tabernacle was reared up the cloud covered the tabernacle, namely, the tent of the testimony: and at even there was upon the tabernacle as it were the appearance of fire, until the morning.

WEB: On the day that the tabernacle was raised up, the cloud covered the tabernacle, even the Tent of the Testimony: and at evening it was over the tabernacle as it were the appearance of fire, until morning.

The History of the Cloud
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