Exodus 13:21 By day the Lord went ahead of them in a pillar of cloud to guide them on their way and by night in a pillar of fire to give them light, so that they could travel by day or night.
Sometimes God’s provision is pretty obvious, and that can be nice indeed. This image of the pillar of cloud and the pillar of fire is one of the more famous in the whole Bible, perhaps because it is so easy to understand. Since the Holy Spirit was poured out we understand that God isn’t limited to physical locations, but the people at this point couldn’t grasp that. By being “in” the pillars of cloud and fire, God assured them of His presence, and that was what they needed fully as much as they needed guidance. In terms of guidance, it’s important to note verses 17 and 18, which specify that God didn’t lead them the short way, and why. We often don’t recognize the why of God’s leading until much later, if at all, but we need to trust that He has His reasons, and they are good. He knows what we need better than we do, and following Him will indeed take us the best way, whether short or long. Sometimes we would like to have something as obvious to follow as a visible pillar, but our faith grows more when we learn to follow His invisible guidance.
Sometimes I have real assurance of God’s guidance, and sometimes I feel just as blind as the next guy. There have been times when His guidance seemed as obvious as the pillars in this story, and times when the way ahead was a total mystery. Frankly, those aren’t much fun. I am often called on to give guidance to others. That can be scary! Humility is the first requirement, along with faith that God is greater than my weaknesses, so He can use even me. (2 Corinthians 12:9) It’s not hard to remember that my own ultimate destination is settled, but I am committed to getting as many people as possible to share that destination, and that’s where it really gets difficult. Just yesterday I attended the funeral of someone with whom I have shared the Gospel for the past 35 years, and he never received it as applying to him. Japanese see religion as integral to culture, and they have no grasp of a transcendent God who is also intensely personal. On top of that, Buddhism has no real concept of salvation. The ultimate good is “nothingness.” It’s no wonder they have trouble grasping that Jesus is the Way, (John 14:6) because they don’t know where they’re headed in the first place. I have demonstrated definitively that I can’t open their eyes by my own wisdom and strength, but God has used me from time to time to accomplish that miracle, so I must never give up. I am to strive always to lift up Jesus (John 12:32) and let Him do the drawing, the guiding, so that as many as will may be saved.
Father, I ended the day yesterday in a state of real emotional exhaustion, but You know that. Thank You that I can release my burdens to You. (Matthew 11:28-30) Help me trust You enough really to do so, to stop trying to carry them myself. Help me be humble enough to recognize Your guidance in every detail, so that I may follow You without wavering. Thank You. Praise God!