Following Closely Wandering in the Wilderness
One of the things that struck me most forcefully in my reading of these passages in Exodus 13-17 is the number of times the People of Israel grumbled. No bread; No meat; No water; Hopeless leadership; God has forgotten us; The old days were better; Yak, Yak, Yak…..
Another amazing thing is that God didn’t wipe them off the face of the earth! He could have done; in his shoes I might have done. But He didn’t.
Very few of them reached the Promised Land – even Moses was only allowed to look over the border and get a glimpse of it. But under Joshua’s leadership the nation marched into the land and claimed it.
It’s a powerful picture of the people of God in all ages, going forward through hard times, grumbling – yes, but ultimately trusting.
Does it mirror the church of today?
I’ll leave you to reflect on that from your own experience!
v 21 The Lord went ahead of them. He guided them during the day with a pillar of cloud, and he provided light at night with a pillar of fire. This allowed them to travel by day or by night.
Following God closely carries the notion of being on the move. It is not a hobby to be taken up whenever convenient; and it certainly doesn’t allow us to be wilful and say, ‘Hold on, wait a minute, …. OK next year.’ Do you remember the story of Jesus in Matthew 8, when several people were challenged to follow Him but found reasons to delay? The key phrase there was ‘First let me …’ (Matthew 8:21) Jesus’ reply was emphatic ‘Follow me now. ‘ The man concerned had a kind of willingness, but what he wanted to do had priority.
So clear was God about the Israelites following Him as a priority that He provided guidance by day and night – the pillar of cloud, and the pillar of fire were permanent reminders to follow Him in the now, and not delay. We will find in tomorrow’s reading the story of Israel when the fire by night got them on the move in the darkness.
Following God in this way is not always straightforward, or along an easy path. There will be times when He will guide in an inexplicable fashion; His now might involve changing job or home, or taking on an unexpected responsibility. Or it might involve standing still when everything seems to shout at us to move away and start again. It might even mean walking in a life-darkness for a while, but God will always give sufficient guidance for you to put one foot forward in faith.