I rely on GPS navigation when I’m in a city I don’t know, but–just being honest–even when I’m in a city that I do know, I’m not the best navigator in the world. I’m a landmark navigator. I’ve gotten better at knowing roads, but my default method of getting from point A to point B is to memorize the location of the fast food joints on the corners of the intersections.
It’s not easy to navigate a road you’ve never driven on. Even if you “drive” it digitally on Google Maps, that still can’t prepare you for the potholes that mysteriously appear when you least expect them. And nothing can help you get ready for the long, tedious, barren trek between Hays, Kansas, and Colorado Springs, Colorado. And that’s not even the longest, most tedious, most barren trek in the United States. Anyone ever been to Big Bend National Park in Texas? Talk about emptiness!
Maybe you know where you’re going, but you aren’t sure how you’re going to get there. It’s said that a journey of a thousand miles begins with the first step, and that’s true. But it’s not the first step that’s hard. It’s the second and the third and the fortieth and the 500th, not knowing what you’ll find after you take that step.
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. And the Lord did not remove the pillar of cloud or pillar of fire from its place in front of the people.
When the Children of Israel left Egypt under Moses’ guidance (after Pharaoh let them go), they were walking through unknown territory. It was a land nobody knew on a journey that nobody had ever taken before, and God–in His grace–gave them a way to navigate the unfamiliar terrain. He basically walked in front of them with a pillar-shaped cloud during the day. At night time, the cloud would catch fire and provide them with light during the evening hours. And if God wanted them to move during the night, the pillar of fire would move.
That’s how they got around. The pillar would move, so they would move. When the pillar didn’t move, neither did they. Can you imagine? Walking around in the desert wilderness following a giant cloud? Stopping when the cloud stopped? Moving when it moved?
I think that trumps GPS, honestly. I just don’t trust technology all the time. But a towering pillar of cloud or fire? Heck, yeah. I could follow that just fine, once I got over the idea that it was God Himself moving around in front of me.
What stood out to me about this passage, though, is the fact that God knew where He wanted the Children of Israel to go. He knew where He was leading them, and they were content to follow (for the most part). God only took them as far as they needed to go for one day. He didn’t call down in a mighty voice that the next day they would cross a scary wooden bridge. He didn’t tell them that in two weeks they would have to climb a mountain. He didn’t enlighten them that in one month they would have to swim across a piranha-infested lake.
Yes, I made that up. But you get the idea.
The Children of Israel didn’t need to know what was going to happen in a week. They didn’t need to know what was going to happen months and months. All they needed to know was where they needed to go for that day. One day at a time, one step at a time. That’s how God led them. Do we think He operates any differently today?
I’m a planner. I like to know what’s coming so I can prepare–mentally, physically, emotionally. But I don’t need to know. What I need to do is trust God. If He moves, I should move. When He stops, I should stop. That’s what I have to remember. I need to let Him guide me the way He guided Israel when they left Egypt.
Maybe their situation wasn’t ideal, but think about it. They knew where they needed to go that day, and God provided for them. Seriously, what more do you need? Maybe it’s nice to know where you’re going to end up, but do you really want to know? If you’d have told me ten years ago what I would have to go through to get to this point in my life, I would have been terrified. Instead, God gave me the opportunities I needed when I needed them so that I could face my current struggles with the experience I’d gained earlier in life.
God doesn’t waste time–His or yours. Just trust Him enough to follow Him, and you’ll see.