Friday, July 17, 2009

Even in Our Wandering

He guided them with the cloud by day and with light from the fire all night (Psalm 78:14).

It seems crazy, but it happens all the time.

We pray for guidance. We ask God to show us the way, to lead us in his truth, to direct our steps according to his will. And then we decline to accept it. Thanks, but no thanks.

Sometimes this is a failure of discernment. We simply get it wrong. We choose a way that seems blessed, marked with all the characteristics of divine approval. But having set out on that way our certainty begins to evaporate. Questions take root in the mind, eventually growing like kudzu. Maybe God had something else in mind for us?

But sometimes we are hindered by a lack of will. We sense God’s leading. What we sense is confirmed by others that we trust. But it’s a hard way. We had rather move in a different direction. So we refuse the guidance given to us. We’re good at spiritualizing such choices, sparing ourselves the discomfort of outright disobedience.


That’s what God’s people did at a place called Kadesh Barnea. God had delivered the Israelites from slavery in Egypt and promised to take them to a good land. Poised on the threshold of the land God had promised, a twelve member scouting party was sent out to explore the terrain. When they returned, ten of the spies gave a report that discouraged and frightened the people. “We cannot take the land.” Only two chose to believe what God had promised. The majority won – and 40 years of wandering followed (Numbers 13:26-33).

God had made a promise and then guided them to that promised place. They refused to enter. That promise was placed on hold until a generation passed away. Until then, Israel’s story would be a story of wandering, learning to trust, learning to worship, learning to obey.

And even in their wandering, God would guide them. Psalm 78:14 reminds us of the story. A cloud guided them by day, a pillar of fire by night.


God is faithful in guiding us. God is far more faithful in guiding than we are in following. That means that the guidance you chose to ignore yesterday will never keep you from finding the guidance you seek today. You do not need to live your life looking back, wondering “what if” and “if only.”

So much of modern life is characterized by wandering. Some wander from job to job, never making the connection between daily work and divine purpose. Some wander from marriage to marriage, convinced that the next person will be the one they’ve sought all along. Others wander through a wasteland of credit cards and debt, intent on buying joy and peace. And some even wander from church to church, never quite satisfied that what they’ve found is “spiritual” enough.

In all our wandering, God still manages to guide us. The harsh elements of our modern deserts are blunted by the daytime cloud and the nighttime fire. God still guides us, even in our wandering.

What kinds of deserts have you wandered through? How did God lead you?

“Guide me, O thou great Jehovah, pilgrim through this barren land. I am weak, but thou art mighty; hold me with thy powerful hand. Bread of Heaven, Bread of Heaven, feed me till I want no more; feed me till I want no more” (Guide Me, O Thou Great Jehovah, The Hymnbook, 339).

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