As the children of Israel journeyed to the Promised Land, God wanted them to know that He was always near. The cloud over the tabernacle revealed the Lord’s presence during the day. At night, a fire in the cloud showed the people that God never slept. In the Scriptures, clouds often signal the presence of God. A cloud appeared at the time of Jesus’ transfiguration (Matt. 17:5). When Christ comes again, He will appear in the clouds with great power and glory (mark 13:26).
When the cloud over the tabernacle moved, the people traveled. When the cloud remained, they waited. The delay in their journey could be a day or a year. It was important that they move when God gave the signal. As long as they traveled at the pace God set, they were safe. Christ demonstrated that He was moving through His ministry on God’s timetable. Jesus told His mother at the marriage in Cana of Galilee, “Mine hour is not yet come” (John 2:4). As Jesus drew near the time of His death, He told His disciples, “The hour is come, that the Son of man should be glorified” (12:23). Waiting for God’s time is the key to completing our work for the Lord. One temptation is to run ahead.
Proceeding too quickly, however, will lead to frustration and discouragement that may cause us to abandon a project. On the other hand, we may hesitate when God signals us to move ahead. We are too comfortable in our present situation to risk something new. Or we may feel timid about facing the dangers that we think are ahead.
If we want to live according to God’s timetable, He will reveal it to us. That revelation may come as God’s Spirit places a concern on our hearts. God may open opportunities that we realize are just right for us. God’s timing may appear through contacts with Christian friends. We have the assurance that God works in our minds to help us see what is important.
A Christian who prays and who knows God’s teaching in the Bible will understand when God is providing a new opportunity. He will step out in faith and find that God provides the needs for his ministry. As he takes the first steps of faith, he discovers that God provides guidance and fresh insights. God meets us at every corner.
A wonderful satisfaction comes as we work on God’s schedule. We have the sense that we have been in the right places at the right times. Although there may have been hardships, we would not have wanted to be in any other situation. Different types of people are needed to serve in the development of a new church. A pioneer missionary may make the first contacts and plant a church. Other missionaries come to establish a school to train national leaders. God uses each person in His time.