Monday, February 25, 2013

The Good Word: God Goes Before Us

Reading God’s Story plan: current
Lent for Everyone plan: current

The past couple of weeks, the readings have been mostly in Exodus, Leviticus, and Numbers. For the Lent plan, the readings come from Matthew and the Psalms.

The Lent reading plan has been interesting. It has given me new insights into reading Matthew and the Psalms, new understandings into the life of Jesus and how it relates to the present day, how it relates to my life. I have been enjoying it so far.

As I read Exodus 32 (NKJV), I had a thought and wrote a note on it. I titled it “A God to go before us”:

In the exodus from Egypt, God had guided them in a pillar of cloud by day and a pillar of fire by night. They have gotten used to God going before them. [my notes]

Exodus 13: 21 and 22 tells of the pillars of cloud and fire:

And the Lord went before them by day in a pillar of cloud to lead the way, and by night in a pillar of fire to give them light, so as to go by day and night. He did not take away the pillar of cloud by day or the pillar of fire by night from before the people. [NKJV]

In chapter 14, God opens the Red Sea so that the Israelites may cross on dry land. In chapter 16, we read about God providing manna for them to eat, each having enough to satisfy. In chapter 17, God brings forth water for them to drink, from a rock, and victory over the Amalekites.

Then Moses is called up to Mount Sinai for a conference with God. God gives the 10 commandments, the consecration ritual for Aaron and the priests, and the plans for the tabernacle. God is preparing Moses for the further leading of the Israelites but the Israelites down below get restless. God’s cloud hasn’t moved in days; they haven’t seen or heard from Moses in as many days.

So in chapter 32, we read about how the Israelites call for the making of the Golden Calf. Note what they say in the first verse:

Now when the people saw that Moses delayed coming down from the mountain, the people gathered together to Aaron, and said to him, “Come, make us gods that shall go before us; for as for this Moses, the man who brought us up out of the land of Egypt, we do not know what has become of him.” [NKJV, emphasis mine]

I imagine that they might have still been concerned about anyone else from Egypt coming after them again, or perhaps concerned about having to fight another group like the Amalekites, who knows? The Bible tells us that Moses was on the mountain 40 days and 40 nights, over a month. A lot can happen in a month. The Bible doesn’t say, but I deduce that the Israelites were still receiving manna to eat and water to drink; God was still providing their needs while he talked with Moses.

Yet the people were anxious for whatever reason. And so they called for the making of gods, maybe thinking that more gods are better than one. And they wanted these gods to go before them, as God had done for them previously.

I ought not to fault the Israelites; for how many times have I been anxious and wanting God to do for me what he had done a previous time? In these passages, the points that come to me are the following:

1) God will do what he does in his own timing. I need to be patiently waiting for the green light to go, and be prepared to go when the green light comes. While I patiently wait, I need to be waiting on him and not on anyone or anything else.

2) God will work in whatever way he deems good and right. Just because he did something before doesn’t mean that he’ll repeat the same method. For instance, just because he sent encouragement through someone sending much needed money before, he might send much needed money through a new job opportunity, or by any number of means. He could speak directly to me for instruction, and next time he might have someone send me a word through a handwritten note.

So 2b) is probably to not limit God and what he can do. As God said to Sarah, “Is anything too hard for the Lord?” [Genesis 18:14, NKJV] God can not only provide “manna” and water, not only fight for us against “Amalekites,” not only go before us, but he can do so much more.

3) God goes before us. Whatever he has promised is ours with confidence, no matter if we can’t understand why or cannot see how. God goes before us to clear the path. We need to make sure that we are following him. We need to keep in relationship with him so that we are following him. He will go before us to clear the way of distractions, clear the way of barriers, clear the way of people who try to block us. We need to ask him to continue to clear the way and then trust him to do so.

4) Get rid of any golden calves. Is there a golden calf in my heart where only the Holy Spirit ought to be? Is there a golden calf in my life that I substitute for God? I need to rid my heart and my life of any golden calves.

Thank you for reading,

Disclaimer: I am a Christian layperson. I may or may not be extrapolating from the Bible accurately, though my aim is to be accurate or at least to not misconstrue God’s word, yet this is a reflection of where my faith journey is at the moment. I hope that further journeying will bring greater insight.

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