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.
God led Israel in the wilderness in the most visibly apparent way. After the tabernacle was completed, God's presence filled the sanctuary, manifesting God's glory by a cloud hovering over the tent by day, and a fire by night. When God desired Israel to move to another encampment, the cloud over the tabernacle lifted. And Israel obediently packed tents, possessions, and family and made the move. They very literally followed the Lord.
It seems from the text that they were not given advance warning. The cloud lifted and they journeyed on, not knowing to where they would go, but confident that God was leading them. It was really quite an arrangement of faith. They still trusted God (albeit He miraculously and visibly displayed His presence) for what they did not know, which was WHERE they would go. And that is the picture of faith that I am reflecting upon today.
Israel did not have it "better" with their cloud and fire visibility of God. They still had to keep the Law and offer animal sacrifice for sin, even if the trade off was emprically verifiable irrefutable evidence of God. I'll still take New Testament faith! Here's why: Jesus is historical. That's a type of visibility. He really lived in human history, just like for Israel an actual cloud and fire hovered over the tent of meeting. I cannot comprehend Him with eyes or ears or hands, but His evidence in history is as irrefutable as the existence of Abraham Lincoln.
And Jesus leads by His Word. It is as accessible to me as a cloud that I could see. Its direction is powerfully clear, so clear in fact that I am kept in line by what I understand of it every day, even if some parts take a little more effort for me to comprehend. What I do know and understand will keep me busy my entire life! And since Christ leads me so powerfully and knowably, I would say tangibly through my bible I hold in my hands, I will trust what He shows me there; I will do what He says because He has freed me from the Law and forgiven all my sin.