When my wife and I got married we went on our honeymoon to Arizona. We flew into Phoenix and drove north through the Arizona desert to the Grand Canyon. It was a very nice trip, but that is not the point of this post. I was thinking about that trip through the desert recently, then turned my thoughts to the ancient Israelite’s journey through the desert after leaving Egypt – not sure about the connection there. I was thinking about the way God showed up for them in the desert by providing the pillar of cloud by day and the pillar of fire by night. I would think it would have been an intensely reassuring experience. Here is the passage from the book of Exodus that describes this.
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. Neither the pillar of cloud by day nor the pillar of fire by night left its place in front of the people.
Can you imagine getting up every morning, stepping outside your tent and seeing the enormous pillar of cloud dominating the horizon? Then as the sun starts to set, the cloud begins to glow red and orange and soon becomes a pillar of fire, giving you the light you need to live effectively in the midst of darkness. You go to sleep knowing that your great God is there, present, watching over you and your family. They experienced this wonder every day of every year for forty years! Each day they would know that their God was with them, protecting, providing and piloting them into His promise for them – without fail, without wavering. The only thing they had to do was follow – simply get up and go with their God wherever He was going. Just follow and trust Him.
Today we don’t have a literal pillar of cloud or fire we can see out our window, but we have something better – we have very specific promises that Jesus made to us to be with us, to guide us, to give us the Holy Spirit as a permanent, personal Divine presence. Here is what Jesus said,
“And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Helper, to be with you forever, even the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him. You know him, for he dwells with you and will be in you…he will teach you all things…he will guide you into all the truth”
Jesus also said about Himself, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.”
The pillar of cloud and fire – the presence of God in my life. Think about this. Jesus is promising us that we can be assured that we will never be alone, that His Spirit will be present in our lives, teaching and guiding us, every day of every year for all of our years! He is telling us that we don’t need to be stumbling around and falling in the darkness of the world around us. This is my assurance that Christ Himself is piloting my life through the desert of this world – His Holy Spirit. I only need to be willing to follow, to get up and go where He goes.
Listen. LISTEN! This is too important to miss. When the darkness of this world threatens to engulf us, when we lay down at night wondering, worrying, stressing, fearful of what will happen tomorrow, stop and say to Him, “Jesus, you promised… YOU PROMISED!” Then look, look for His answer. Look to see where He is going, what He is doing. Listen to the whispering of the Holy Spirit in your heart. I don’t know what that will look like in your life. I don’t know specifically how He will show up, but I do know that the pillar of cloud and fire – God’s presence – is right there in your heart and, yes, you can see it. It looks just like Jesus.