Follow Me

Follow Me

As we prepare to read the word of God, let’s go before him in prayer. Father, the desire that our hearts would be warmed, our affections would be changed such that we would pray even as the Psalmist prays. Remember your word to your servant in which you have made me hope. This is my comfort and my affliction that your promise gives me life. The insolent utterly deride me. But I do not turn away from your law. When I think of your rules from old, I take comfort, oh Lord. Hot indignation seizes me because of the wicked who forsake your law. Your statutes have been my songs in the house of my sojourning. I remember your name in the night, oh Lord, and keep your law. The blessing has fallen on me that I have hope, that I have kept Your promises. Father, we ask that you would warm our hearts that we would hear your word this day. Amen. This morning we’ll be looking at chapters 9, verses 15 to Chapter 10, verse 10. There’s a selection from that section printed in your bulletin, which I’ll read. This is the Word of God. On the day that the tabernacle was set up, the cloud covered the tabernacle, the tent of the testimony.

And at evening, it was over the tabernacle like the appearance of fire until morning. So it was always. The cloud covered it by day and the appearance of fire by night. And whenever the cloud lifted from over the tent, after that, the people of Israel set out. And in the place where the cloud settled down, there the people of Israel camped. At the command of the Lord, the people of Israel set out, and at the command of the Lord they camped. As long as the cloud rested over the tabernacle, they remained in camp. And from Chapter 10, And the sons of Aaron the priest shall blow the trumpets. The trumpets shall be to you for a perpetual statute throughout your generations. And when you go to war in your land against the adversary who oppresses you, then you will sound the alarm with the trumpets that you may be remembered before the Lord your God, and you shall be saved from all your enemies. And on the day of your gladness also, and at your appointed feast, and at the beginning of your months, you shall blow the trumpets over your burnt offerings and over the sacrifices of your peace offerings.

They shall be a reminder of you before your God. I am the Lord your God. The word of our Lord, you may be seated. Let me pray for the preaching of God’s Word. Father, as my words are true to your word, may they be taken to heart. But if my word should stray from your word, may they be quickly forgotten. I pray this in the name and of the power of Jesus Christ, Amen. I once read a story of a chase between a police officer nearing his retirement and a young athletic thief. The young fit thief just couldn’t shake the older, experienced, and I need to say, heavy set cop. The thief was dressed in a dark gray, perfect for the light fog of the evening, and he would duck down alleyways, cut across the abandoned lots, and still in the distance, the officer followed. Finally, in desperation, thinking that perhaps the officer could hear his running, he sprinted ahead to increase the distance, and running alongside a park, turned the corner by a thick bush, and then dove into the bush, lying still in complete silence, waiting and hoping for the officer to run by.

He could hear the officer running and huffing and puffing and then jogging and then simply walking. And then a hand reached into the bush, grabbed him out of it, and he was caught. And he wondered out loud, How did you follow me? You’re so slow. And the experienced officer just laughed and said, Your shoes gave you away. The heels light up with every step. True story. I just followed the light in the darkness. Of course, the only similarity between that story and our text today is the image of fire in the darkness. Not much else fits. For ours is a God who desires that we follow Him. And He, intentionally and in his sovereignty, enables us to follow Him. And He is a good God. And He is aware of our tendencies to distraction in terms of our needs, the directions that we have, and even our affections for this life. And so He has given us a clear guidance and a clarion call to follow. And because our good God is sovereign, we must follow His leading into action. Israel is poised to head off into the wilderness. And indeed, the journey begins in the very next sentence after our text ends.

But here in our text is a brief final word, a final reminder, just a few more details that the budding nation needs for their journey. Now, in the first place, there are introduced to the beta or to the prototype version of a GPS, God’s positioning system, go or stay. That’s the message that they could quickly gain from just looking at the cloud by day and what appears as a cloud of fire by night. Should we stay or should we go now? That was their regular question. And the answer, at the command of the Lord, is given seven times in verses 18 to 23. Now, the structure of this text is arranged in a poetic style, but some of the elements of pure Hebrew poetry are missing. And so most scholars feel that Moses’ goal here is that of elevated praise, a heightening the anticipation and the excitement of the journey which is to begin. No doubt, the questions that were swirling around in the minds of the heads of the tribal leaders was, Which way shall we go? How should we get there? Are we going to find food and water in the wilderness? And God answers in cloud and fire, Follow me now. or Stay a little while longer in camp here.

Gordon Winam notes, The cloud hovering over the tabernacle was the perfect means of divine guidance. And the people had to respond with perfect obedience. And therein lies the trouble. And our text gives a variety of scenarios with respect to the cloud, so that the the people would understand of moving and of camping for single or for multiple days. And the consistent refrain is at the command of the Lord. Israel was to obey their God, to follow his lead with their lives and in their journey, in step with his will. And all they had to do was look to the tabernacle. Is the cloud still there? Then we stay. Is it moving? Then we move. God, in his goodness and his mercy, has given them such a clear sign. The first time God appeared as a cloud was just after the first Passover. Exodus 13 tells us of that occasion between Egypt and a pursuing army, and the Red Sea, God’s people departed Egypt. Verse 21 says, And the Lord went before them by day in a pillar of cloud to lead them along the way, and by night, in a pillar of fire, to give them light, that they might travel by day and by night.

It did not depart from before the people. Here in our text, the cloud and the fire serve in the same way, the same purpose of guidance and directional aid. But the cloud would also give them an incredibly reassuring sign of God’s presence. It wasn’t just giving them directions and then sending them off on their own. He was leading them. One scholar notes, what a comfort it would have been on a dark desert night to look to the tabernacle and see the presence of God in the fire. God is with us. This cloud of God’s presence for Israel is referred to about 70 times throughout the scriptures. Exodus, numbers, Deuteronomy, they speak to it in length, as well as reference in multiple Psalmists. And several of the prophets all speak of God’s leading presence to his children, Israel, through a wilderness experience. The cloud, it provides covering and even shade by day, they write of. It provides directional guidance, it provides protection, and it is a reminder of the presence of God and of his glory. It is the cloud of God’s shakina glory that fills Solomon’s temple at its dedication. And it was so thick and so weighty that no one could enter for a time.

The theme carries on into the New Testament. Luke 9, during the transfiguration, we see that Jesus is overshadowed by a cloud through which God speaks, This is my son, my chosen son. Listen to him. It is in that same chapter that Jesus issues the command, Follow me. And to the individuals that he commands, excuses come quickly. First, I have some family business to attend to. I wonder, what keeps us from following Jesus? What keeps us from listening to his command to follow him? Perhaps we can’t see his voice. Perhaps we’ve never been in relationship with him anyway. We have not discovered the cloud, if you will, over the tabernacle. We don’t know where to look. We don’t sense his presence. What is keeping us from following Jesus? The cloud also appears at the ascension of Jesus. There in Acts 1, verse 9, we read that as the disciples looked on, Jesus was lifted up and a cloud took him out of their sight. Yet though Christ is taken in a cloud, God still remains with us. His presence now, as the comforting and sometimes convicting and dwelling of the Holy Spirit, fills us the living temple, the living tabernacle of God.

Both Peter and Paul use that imagery of our bodies as tabernacles or tents. Paul, in 2 Corinthians 5, reminds us that in this tent we groan, longing to put on our heavenly dwelling. Peter, in 2 Peter 1 verses 13 and 14, he declares that as long as he has this body, and he uses the word tent in the Greek, as long as he has this tent, he wants to remind us to stir us up to the reality that soon we will put off this temporary body and gain a more permanent one from Christ. We are not left alone to wander. Israel was guided by the ever present Lord in a cloud, and we are guided by the ever present Lord in dwelling in us. And he is a good God and he is sovereign, and we must keep his eyes towards his dwelling place. We must keep our ears attuned to his word to look and see if he’s lifted, if he’s calling us to follow him, to engage in some endeavor somewhere, or if he’s directing us to settle down and camp a little longer and be involved a little more in this place.

Now for Israel, stationed by tribes around the four cardinal points of the tabernacle, the placement of the cloud and of the fire in the center made sense. And anytime one was outside their tent and looking towards the tabernacle, they could see. Was it time to break camp and move? Or should they stay a little longer? But what if they weren’t looking towards the center? What if they were distracted by life? What if it was in the evening in which the families would simply be inside the tent? God, in his goodness, has given them another form of communication. Trumpets. Ours is a good God who leads us, and he is also a good God who calls us into action. The plan for the trumpets comes from God. He is the one who instructs Moses to have them made. And more than simply giving him a plan for the construction of trumpets to be hammered work of silver, he also gives him the plan for the signaling of the trumpets. These trumpets, when blown, signal different commands. When both are blown, verse 3 tells us that the congregation is to gather. And typically that’s understood as the heads of each of the individual families.

However, if only one trumpet is blown, then only the tribal chiefs are to gather. So in times of peace, the trumpets serve as an efficient means of assembling the people to worship, to the sharing of information and instruction. Trumpets serve another purpose as well. Old Testament scholar Timothy Ashley summarizes the trumpets role as simply, quote, to Summon God’s people to action. In addition to the call to gather the trumpets, there’s a short blast which can be given as an alarm. It’s a call to movement. A single short blast moves the Eastern tribes. Two blasts move the Southern tribes. And while it’s not said here, it’s understood elsewhere that three seem to move the Northern tribes and four, the Western, the rear guard tribes. Verse 9, text printed in your bulletin, it indicates that the trumpets are to be used while they’re on their journey as well, not simply while in camp. This is a nation that when it’s traveling is headed towards war, but it also has to be aware that war could happen at any time, and the trumpets are used again. They play, trumpets as a symbol, play a crucial role in Summoning Aid through literary history.

Whether it’s the horn in the Song of Roland, bringing back the King in the nick of Time. Whether it’s Susan’s horn in Narnia, whether it’s Boromir’s horn in the Lord of the Rings. Horns are used to Summon Aid and to bring great help. The same is the case here. The priest positioned in the central location with the tabernacle in camp, they can see where the attack might be coming from? Is it coming from the east? Is it coming from the south? I can blow the appropriate alarm. And the tribes would know they would be alerted to where the danger lay and how they could bring aid. The same would be true while they were traveling. Verse 9 indicates that battle is expected. Yes, they were headed into Canine, but the expectation was that they would be fighting along the way. These calls, these alarms, they’re not given to an individual, but they’re given to the entire community. One scholar reminds us that, fighting as a community has to be more than simply Sunday morning. To be a community, we need to spend time together. We need to endure hardships and celebrations together. Working together worshiping together, working together, worshiping together, working in study or community service or missions, endeavors.

It is to this idea of being a body of Christ that we’re trying to highlight and promote the shepherding groups at Faith Covenant. They’re listed downstairs, as you’ve already heard. They’re also printed in the back of the directory, which there are some out in the landing if you don’t have one. You should know your elder and your deacon more than just knowing their name. To that end, this year, we’re hosting shepherding lunches. Today is the first lunch with the trent Newman Kyle Hansen Group for a central callous spell. If you’re in that group, I hope you have planned on staying for the lunch. And if you haven’t, I hope right now you’ll change your plans and stay for that lunch. If you’re not in their group, if you’re another, I hope you’re beginning to look forward to when your group will meet. It’s admittedly a small step, but it’s a small step towards the bigger goal of growing a community of brothers and sisters in Christ that are willing to rally to each other’s aids in times of challenges and also in the joyful time of celebration. Well, if verse 9 is a call to warfare, then verse 10 is a trumpet call to worship.

The text reads, On the day of your gladness, your celebration. And at your appointed feast, at the beginning of your months, you shall blow the trumpet over your burnt offerings and over the sacrifice of your peace offerings. Trumpets are regularly used in calling people to worship. For instance, the young King Joas, who was hidden from the wrath of a usurping queen, was finally ready to be installed he was standing by his trumpeteers and the captain of the guard in the temple when he was rightly installed and when he took back the kingdom from the usurping queen,ethelia. Or Psalm 98, verse 6, along many Psalms that reminds us, with the sound of the horn, make a joyful noise before the King, the Lord. Esra, Chapter 3, details the blowing of trumpets in the celebration of the laying on of the laying down of the foundation for the temple. Trumpets have long been a call to worship. And finally, on the last day, Matthew 24, verse 31, and Paul speaking in 1 Corinthians 15 52, speak of a trumpet call that will call the elect from the four winds, or that will raise the dead imperishable and will change us to worship our King fully and forever.

The trumpet signals need to be learned. The tone of the trumpet needs to be understood. One’s ears need to be trained to recognize the call. And while we may not still be using trumpets in the same way, the need is still there to know and to recognize the voice of one rightly calling us to fight or to fellowship, to gather for worship or for spiritual warfare. And in John 10, Jesus, our King, reminds us that his sheep hear his voice. They know his voice and they follow him. So how are you training yourself to know his voice? Many are calling you. Wisdom stands on one street corner and call. Folly stands on another street corner and calls. And much of what they say is very similar. If you doubt me, here again, look up Proverbs chapter 9. And notice especially verse 4 and verse 16 of Proverbs 9, their call is quite similar, but the differences make all the difference in your life. And so what voices are you listening to? And how are you laboring to learn Jesus’ voice? Trumpets may call us to action, and one day they will call us home. Ian Dugid reminds us that we are still a wandering people.

And he notes, we should have no illusions about the difficulty of our pilgrimage. We must be reminded again and again that the world is not our home. And these are words that can provide great comfort for those in grief. I think now of Duane and his family recently losing Carol, wife, mother, grandmother. And if they know that this is not our home, they will tell you that they grieve, yet not as those without hope, because they know and we know that Carol is fully restored and in the presence of our Savior. This world is not our home. And that is a great word in time of pain and need. This world is not our home. It’s also a challenge to us in our times of plenty and of health because we are tempted to find fulfillment here, to find peace and rest and fulfill all of our dreams in the here and the now. Of course, there are plenty of acceptable opportunities to better our circumstances, but beware because the evil one tempts us with an insatiable desire, just just a little more. That’s all I want. Brothers and sisters, the world cannot satisfy your greatest hungers.

Your heavenly desires can only be met in Jesus Christ, and only in him can you fully experience fulfillment that can only be experienced in his presence. The world is not your home. To Israel, they were told that Egypt wasn’t their home. And in the desert, they were simply passing through. Although we’ll see that admittedly, it was quite a long journey due to their disobedience. But they always were headed towards the promised land. And even that promised land pointed to, to use Nancy Guthrie’s title that the women are studying, even that promised land pointed to one better than Eden. And now between now rather, and when we finally arrived, our good God leads us with his presence and with the guidance of his word. And our good God calls us to action, sometimes to assemble, sometimes for spiritual warfare, sometimes in celebration of his worship, and one day, with a trumpet call, he will call us home. Until then, let us follow him. Let’s pray. Father, thank you for your presence to the children in the wilderness. You gave a visible sign that they could see and know. And Father, for us, you have endowed us by your Spirit, who leads us into truth in your word that you have given us that we might know.

And Father, we rejoice in that. Lord, we ask that your spirit would be at work in our life to comfort and to convict as we have need. Father, that you would remind us that we are all pilgrims here on a journey to a better land. And you are the faithful and good God who is leading us along the way in times of sorrow and in times of joy. Father, teach us to trust you, that we might follow you, that you would work out your will in our life. We pray, Amen. I invite you to stand and we’ll sing together in response to the word preached.

Disclaimer: Automated Sermon Transcription

Only a Holy God