Numbers 9:22-23 “Whether it was two days, or a month, or a longer time, that the cloud continued over the tabernacle, abiding there, the people of Israel remained in camp and did not set out, but when it lifted they set out. At the command of the Lord they camped, and at the command of the Lord they set out. They kept the charge of the Lord, at the command of the Lord by Moses.”
Life is full of decisions. From the decision as to when we’ll crawl out of bed in the morning to the decision on what to wear, from deciding what we’ll eat (or not) for breakfast to the decision on what we’ll do that day – we must continually make decisions. Some decisions seem to be neither here nor there, but others – like what we’ll do for a career, whom we’ll marry, and how we will spend (or save) our money, will have lifelong consequences.
So, to this issue of decision-making, what does the Bible have to say, for surely God’s Word must speak to something that so fundamental to our existence? And obviously the Bible does speak to this in profound ways that make all the difference in life.
An example that is given to us is the way God led Israel in their 40-year wanderings in the wilderness. In the passage above we see reference to the way God led them as to when they would camp and when they would break camp and travel further on. He did so by way of a cloud that settled over the tabernacle. In this pillar of cloud by day and pillar of fire by night God gave them a physical sign of His presence. They were to follow this cloud day after day. They stayed put when the cloud remained stationary, and they moved on when the cloud lifted and set out.
As I thought about this it dawned on me that the orientation of the view of the Israelites as they followed God’s direction by way of the cloud was always “up.” Every day and every night they had a skyward gaze, for it was the only way they knew what to do next. Their decisions on whether to stay or move were not made by asking their neighbor. They didn’t move on based on personal intuition or based on what “felt right” to them, personally. No, their gaze was always up, heavenward if you will. And that’s exactly what the Word of God would tell us about our own decision-making.
We are told to “Trust in the Lord with all (our) heart, and do not lean on (our) own understanding. In all (our) ways acknowledge Him, and He will make straight (our) paths” (Proverbs 3:5-6). Do you hear that? We are not to make decisions based just on our own understanding. Just as with ancient Israel, we are to acknowledge God in all our ways. We are to look up to Him and seek His guidance. And the promise is that if we will do this, He will direct our paths.
In James we are told that “If any of you lacks wisdom (and we all do!), let him ask God, Who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him” (James 1:5). And this from Paul in his letter to the church at Colosse: “If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth” (Colossians 3:1-2).
As one very practical example, some of the biggest decisions we make have to do with how we spend our money. The message to us is the same regarding those decisions, as Jesus taught us in the Sermon on the Mount with these words: “Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rustdestroy and where thieves break in and steal,but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also” (Matthew 6:19-21).
But how do we do this? How do we orient our life with an upward gaze so that we might orient our decisions in a way that follows God’s direction for us? It’s simply by the means God has given us to look continually up to Him. Primarily it is by looking into His Word. It’s a heavenly lamp to our feet and light to our path (Psalm 119:18). It’s a gaze at the ways of God, for He has told us “For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts” (Isaiah 55:9). And in our seeking the Lord by way of His Word, that seeking should always be bathed in prayer. Prayer is that wonderful means by which God has enabled us to “with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need” (Hebrews 4:16). As we pray, we are told that those prayers rise as incense before God in heaven (Revelation 8:4). It’s an upward orientation that God will always honor. And in the face of all the horrible times that will surround us at the end of the age, a time when “people (are) fainting with fear and with foreboding of what is coming on the world (sounds like the days in which we live, doesn’t it?) . . . straighten up and raise your heads, because your redemption is drawing near” (Luke 21:28).
Everywhere we look we see this upward gaze, i.e., an orientation to seek first the kingdom of God in every aspect of life. May God help us to look up, to seek Him, and lean not on our own understanding as we navigate our way through this life, for that’s always the way of wisdom that comes from the One Whose ways are higher than ours as the heavens are above the earth.