Then he [Moses] said, “Please do not leave us, inasmuch as you [Moses’ brother-in-law] know where we should camp in the wilderness, and you will be as eyes for us.”
I read this verse and thought, “Whoa, Moses and I have something in common … and it’s not a good thing.”
Israel is being guided by God. By GOD. I need to let that sink in a minute before I’m really ready to think about this verse. The Bible is not saying God gave Israel guidance through prophecies or interpretation of His Word. God is literally going before Israel. Pillar of cloud/fire rises up, Israel packs their stuff and follows until the pillar comes to rest again. Lather. Rinse. Repeat. This pattern of direct guidance will go on for a long time. What do Moses’ request to his brother-in-law (BiL) and God’s guidance have in common? They’re happening at the same time. Moses asks his BiL to act as a guide to them and show them where they should camp. That’s what the verse says. But The Bible just established that the pillar of cloud/fire was guiding Israel to where they should camp. What gives?
I think that what’s happening is an all-too-common occurrence among believers. I know it happens to me more often than I’d like to admit. The believer gets clear, indisputable guidance from God about what they should do and the believer (pause for effect) looks for human counsel. Sometimes it’s good to confirm that what I think I’ve heard from God is, in fact ,what God said. Sometimes we as believers are listening for what we want to hear not what God is actually saying. So confirmation can be good. But when God’s direction to us is obvious — we’re talking painfully, blatantly, screamingly obvious (Say a pillar of cloud/fire obvious? Yes! THAT obvious.) — then asking for human counsel is crazy. I mean, Moses is following the pillar of cloud/fire that is the presence of God — the One Who created the Earth, wilderness included — and he’s asking his BiL for directions to good camp sites? This seems like a problem to me. Worse, I know I’m guilty of this same thing.
Years ago, I was engaged and the engagement ended. Things did not end gently or calmly and there was much hurt on both sides. But I had prayed and had clear direction from God on what should be done. I was talking with a family member about what I had been instructed to do; what I planned to do and this family member told me, in essence, that I was crazy to do it. For a time, I listened to the family member’s advice about what I should do and all the peace God had given me — every last morsel — was gone. The turbulence and difficulty of the situation flooded in and I had trouble getting my bearings. When I made good on what God had told me to do, the peace was restored, but it wasn’t the same. This was a drastic example of the damage that can be done when we know conclusively what God’s will is (I was riding in the eye of a most impressive storm due to God’s guidance) and we seek out or give heed to human wisdom (no peace there … none at all).
Moses’ request wouldn’t, to my recollection, cause any problems while Israel was in the wilderness. But Midian, Moses’ BiL’s people, show up once Israel is in the Promised Land and harass Israel — even becoming one of the groups that the judges womp on.
It’s possible for believers to get God’s will wrong. But when we know; absolutely know what God’s will is, then we are fools to seek out or even listen to human counsel. Particularly the counsel of those who are not fellow believers.