Tag Archives: Numbers 9

The Slippery Sweet-Spot Between Acting and Waiting

Moses answered them, “Wait until I find out what the Lord commands concerning you.”
Numbers 9:8 (NIV)

There are many forks in life’s road. There’s no avoiding it. It just is what it is.

Where do I go to school?
Should I marry him/her?
Do I speak out or hold my tongue?
Should I take this job that’s been offered to me or hold out for the job I really want? 
Should we rent or should we buy?
Do I invest in new or get by with used?
Should we stay or should we go?

As we traverse the Book of Numbers there is a pattern or repetition that many readers don’t catch. The phrase “The Lord said to Moses” is used repeatedly. In fact, it’s used over 50 times. In today’s chapter, some of the people bring Moses a question about how to handle an exceptional circumstance regarding the Passover celebration. Moses simply says he’ll check with God and God provides a seemingly quick answer.

We then go on to read in today’s chapter that the decision of going or staying was miraculously provided for the ancient Hebrews. According to the story there was a cloud that hovered over their traveling tent temple which gave them indication whether God wanted them to move or stay put. When the cloud remained over the tent they stayed put. If the cloud lifted they broke camp and moved.

Wow, I’d love it if God’s guidance and direction were that easy for me to see. At the same time, I have to acknowledge that this may have been the only easy thing in the experience of the Hebrews. I’m quite sure I’d struggle living the life of an ancient nomad wandering in the desert with a couple million cousins.

I have discovered along life’s road that there is a slippery sweet-spot of tension between discernment and decision. We live in an age when time is measured in nanoseconds and we are used to getting things “on demand.” I perceive that the virtues of patience, peace and prayer are increasingly found in short supply in our culture. At the same time, I have known many followers of Jesus who take so long to “prayerfully consider” decisions that they make no progress in their respective  journeys.

This morning I find myself once again seeking to both find and hold the tension between acting and waiting. I don’t want to be so quick to make decisions that I forget to pray for guidance and to give wise consideration to options and potential consequences. At the same time, I don’t want to become paralyzed waiting for some divine sign when there is a clear need to act judiciously and with expedience.

Chapter-a-Day Numbers 9

source: Flickr & aaron geller

Moses said, “Give me some time; I’ll find out what God says in your circumstances.” Numbers 9:8 (MSG)

My wife hates making decisions. Even on small, seemingly insignificant choices she can brood and meditate for long periods of time. When it comes to major decisions her contemplative hesitation can, at times, feel like paralysis to me. I am aware, however, that God often uses our spouse’s contrasting personality to teach us lessons we need for our own journey.

In a market driven, consumerist culture I find myself constantly having things pushed at me. Between television, e-mail, internet, smartphones, and iPads it’s easy to get swept up in every fad and trend. The latest, greatest, newest, and most improved products and services that appeal to every individual appetite are at our fingertips 24/7/365 and if I’m not careful I can make foolish decisions on a whim with a tap on my touchpad.

Observing Wendy think through her choices has taught me the wisdom of patience. Often, she will put off a purchase and discovers that she really didn’t need it in the first place. Other times, I’ve watched her methodically think through all of the positives and negatives only to unearth a negative that would have ultimately disappointed her.

I was struck by Moses’ response to the people in today’s chapter. “Give me some time.” It reminded me that even Jesus made a habit of going off to a mountain to spend long periods of time in prayer and contemplation. Today, I’m reminded that taking time to make decisions is a good thing. Seeking guidance through prayer leads to wise choices. I can give you a long list of snap decisions I’ve made which didn’t end up so well.