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Read Numbers 9

The Passover

The Lord spoke to Moses in the Desert of Sinai in the first month of the second year after they came out of Egypt. He said, “Have the Israelites celebrate the Passover at the appointed time. Celebrate it at the appointed time, at twilight on the fourteenth day of this month, in accordance with all its rules and regulations.”

So Moses told the Israelites to celebrate the Passover, and they did so in the Desert of Sinai at twilight on the fourteenth day of the first month. The Israelites did everything just as the Lord commanded Moses.

But some of them could not celebrate the Passover on that day because they were ceremonially unclean on account of a dead body. So they came to Moses and Aaron that same day and said to Moses, “We have become unclean because of a dead body, but why should we be kept from presenting the Lord’s offering with the other Israelites at the appointed time?”

Moses answered them, “Wait until I find out what the Lord commands concerning you.”

Then the Lord said to Moses, 10 “Tell the Israelites: ‘When any of you or your descendants are unclean because of a dead body or are away on a journey, they are still to celebrate the Lord’s Passover, 11 but they are to do it on the fourteenth day of the second month at twilight. They are to eat the lamb, together with unleavened bread and bitter herbs. 12 They must not leave any of it till morning or break any of its bones. When they celebrate the Passover, they must follow all the regulations. 13 But if anyone who is ceremonially clean and not on a journey fails to celebrate the Passover, they must be cut off from their people for not presenting the Lord’s offering at the appointed time. They will bear the consequences of their sin.

14 “‘A foreigner residing among you is also to celebrate the Lord’s Passover in accordance with its rules and regulations. You must have the same regulations for both the foreigner and the native-born.’”

The Cloud Above the Tabernacle

15 On the day the tabernacle, the tent of the covenant law, was set up, the cloud covered it. From evening till morning the cloud above the tabernacle looked like fire. 16 That is how it continued to be; the cloud covered it, and at night it looked like fire. 17 Whenever the cloud lifted from above the tent, the Israelites set out; wherever the cloud settled, the Israelites encamped. 18 At the Lord’s command the Israelites set out, and at his command they encamped. As long as the cloud stayed over the tabernacle, they remainedin camp. 19 When the cloud remained over the tabernacle a long time, the Israelites obeyed the Lord’s order and did not set out. 20 Sometimes the cloud was over the tabernacle only a few days; at the Lord’s command they would encamp, and then at his command they would set out. 21 Sometimes the cloud stayed only from evening till morning, and when it lifted in the morning, they set out. Whether by day or by night, whenever the cloud lifted, they set out. 22 Whether the cloud stayed over the tabernacle for two days or a month or a year, the Israelites would remain in camp and not set out; but when it lifted, they would set out. 23 At the Lord’s command they encamped, and at the Lord’s command they set out. They obeyed the Lord’s order, in accordance with his command through Moses.

Go Deeper

When the next steps are unclear, our human tendency is toward one of two responses: give up and do nothing or surge ahead doing what we think is best. Both of these choices rely on our limited understanding, and we fail to experience God’s best. Numbers 9 demonstrates alternatives that offer better solutions: ask God and wait for His guidance. 

In the first part of the chapter, God directs the Israelites to celebrate the Passover at a specific time according to His directions. However, some group members could not participate because they were “unclean.” They still wanted to follow God’s commands but they were in a situation with conflicting rules, so Moses asked God and God provided a way. It would have been easier just to say, “We’ll catch the Passover next year,” or participate anyway, but they did what we should do: they asked God for guidance. James 1:5 says “If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him.”

In the second section of the chapter, God’s Spirit in the form of a cloud constantly directs the Israelites in their journey. As humans, we like to have plans. Most of us want to know where we’re going, what we’re doing, how long it will take, how to prepare, etc. God has plans, too, yet we don’t always know them, and therein lies the rub. In the absence of clear long-term plans from God, we tend to take matters into our own hands. 

The Israelites would have liked to know the plans, too, but God only provided the guidance they needed at the time they needed it. God does the same for us through the Holy Spirit. John 16:13 assures us, “But when He, the Spirit of truth, comes, He will guide you into all the truth; for He will not speak on His own initiative, but whatever He hears, He will speak; and He will disclose to you what is to come.” As Christians, we can trust that the Holy Spirit – the same Spirit that led the Israelites – will lead us. It will tell us when to stop and when to go when we listen and obey. 

Rather than trusting in ourselves with uncertain outcomes, we can experience God’s best when we ask God for guidance and follow the Spirit’s lead.


  1. When the next steps are unclear, do you tend to give up or surge ahead?
  2. What situation have you faced recently or are currently facing where the next steps are unclear? 
  3. Have you asked God for guidance and listened to the Holy Spirit’s lead at some point in the past week? If not, do so now. If you have, what was the direction provided?

Keep Digging

Being “unclean” did not mean the Israelites had sinned. Learn more about this concept in this article from

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4 thoughts on “Numbers 9”

  1. V23 captured the heart of this chapter, “At the Lord’s command they encamped, and at the Lord’s command they set out. They obeyed the Lord’s order, in accordance with his command through Moses.” Guidance, that’s one thing we all desire as we navigate this one life we’ve been given. There are conflicting voices that drift into our minds seeking to lead us. Either they will lead us to the Father or away from him. As Christ followers, we may partake of divine guidance through Scripture preserved for generations, the Holy Spirit, and the counsel of other believers. Regardless of the state we are presently in, waiting on the next step or proceeding onward, we may choose to abide in Christ each moment. That’s what faithfulness looks like.

  2. And Moses said to them, “Wait, that I may hear what the LORD will command concerning you. That is the BEST statement. I really need to hear and learn from this chapter. Wait, let me ask God and then follow His lead. Wow what a concept that should be automatic. This is why I do like texting, emails, and commenting due to I can see what I am saying and think it over and resay when I do think it is wise or not the best/Godly response. But on the other hand there is not the emotions that come through, so there is that. Wait that I may hear what God has to say. Perhaps as we are talking to someone that should be our response even in the middle, lets stop right now and ask God direction for the situation and our mouths, words and thoughts. Perhaps our outcomes would be better for our long term.

    God thank You that I can be that person. Thank You that no matter the worldly situation I can be bold to say lets just stop and talk to God about this. Thank You for words, guidance and directions. What amazing sight it must have been the pillar of clouds and fire at night. God You are so worthy of all my honor, glory and praise in Jesus name amen


    When the Israelites wandered forty years in the wilderness, it wasn’t because they didn’t know where they were going … but because they DID know Who they were following!

    As one who has logged in many miles in my own wilderness, I am both inspired and challenged by this story. Just imagine the trust and obedience required to patiently stay put no matter how restless you felt … and get going just as you got comfortable.

    While we no longer have visible clouds and pillars of fire before us, we ALWAYS have God’s Word. I love the message of AJ Svoboda’s book “The Dusty Ones: Why Wandering Deepens Your Faith”: the Bible is a book about wanderers, FOR wanderers.

    Lord, help me to be a Christ-follower who trusts you daily in my wanderings, faithfully following you!

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