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In The Clouds And In The Fire


Happy New Year!

It’s been way too long since my fingers have touched these computer keys.  Everything good and delicious and wonderful about the Christmas season happened and these quiet moments of reflection, learning and writing were forced to wait in the corner until life returned to “normal”.

“Normal”, of course, being a very relative term. 🙂

Forgive me, as I clear the dust from the keys, the cobwebs from my brain and the rust from my phalanges.

It’s good to be back. Sigh.

For the first time in weeks, I am nestled in a blanket in a quiet house.  A fire is burning in my fireplace.  The sky outside is gray with clouds that leak much needed rain.

A perfect combination of opposites that rest well with my soul this morning.

Unexpectedly, this duo of cloud and fire has spurred other thoughts.

It reminds me of a story.

Both fire and clouds led people through the wilderness a long time ago.

Moses was asked by God to take the Israelites out of a life of slavery in Egypt and into a life of freedom.

God’s presence was continual and showed up visually in both a cloud and a fire.

gray cloudsfire

Exodus 3:21-22 – 

By day theLord 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.

God’s presence was in both the cloud and the fire.  A visual to bring them comfort on their journey.  A reminder that He was with them.  Guidance by day and light by night so that nothing would prevent them from moving forward, toward that land of “milk and honey”.

I don’t know how long the Israelites thought it would take to reach the Promised Land, but they couldn’t have known they would be 40 years older when they got there.

Poor Moses.  Called to lead impatient, complaining people who seemed to forget that they were now free from slavery.  All they could see was that they weren’t where they wanted to be yet.

They were forgetting the blessing of the presence of God in the cloud and the fire.

But what I discovered this morning was something I never really put together before.

God prepared Moses’ heart for this difficult journey in a similar way to the Israelites’ experience long before they left Egypt.

God came directly to Moses and spoke to him personally through fire.

Before Moses went and rescued the Israelites, God called to him in a burning bush.

Exodus 3:1-4 – 

Now Moses was tending the flock of Jethro his father-in-law, the priest of Midian, and he led the flock to the far side of the wilderness and came to Horeb, the mountain of God. There the angel of the Lord appeared to him in flames of fire from within a bush. Moses saw that though the bush was on fire it did not burn up. So Moses thought, “I will go over and see this strange sight—why the bush does not burn up.”

 When the Lord saw that he had gone over to look, God called to him from within the bush, “Moses! Moses!”

And Moses said, “Here I am.”

God then gave him the surreal news that he was going to go from “leading sheep” to the far side of the wilderness, to leading PEOPLE across the wilderness.

God spoke in the fire.  God was WITH Moses when He called him.

When Moses questioned, “Who am I to do something like this?”, God’s response was “I will be with you.”  Plain and simple.

Just follow me.  Listen to me.  I will show you.  I will lead you.  Look up.

Because of Moses’ encounter with God in that burning bush, he could lead by example, recognizing God’s presence with them in the pillar of fire in the sky.

God began His preparation of Moses while he was still a shepherd in the  same wilderness that would take His leadership skills to a whole new level.

Along the way with these cranky Israelites, Moses must have become incredibly frustrated.  Disenchanted with his role.  Discouraged by the progress.

God knew and understood.

God would meet with Moses to give him insight, wisdom, guidance and encouragement for the next part of the seemingly unending trek.

Deep into the journey with the Israelites we’re told again of God’s personal and intimate presence with Moses.

This time, God’s presence is in the cloud.

Exodus 33:7-11 – 

Now Moses used to take a tent and pitch it outside the camp some distance away, calling it the “tent of meeting.” Anyone inquiring of the Lord would go to the tent of meeting outside the camp. And whenever Moses went out to the tent, all the people rose and stood at the entrances to their tents, watching Moses until he entered the tent. As Moses went into the tent, the pillar of cloud would come down and stay at the entrance, while the Lord spoke with Moses… The Lord would speak to Moses face to face, as one speaks to a friend. Then Moses would return to the camp…

God spoke in the cloud.  God was WITH Moses when he met Him at the tent.

Moses was no doubt fatigued, once again feeling less than competent in his ability to lead these difficult people through a difficult time.

Moses asks another question:  “Who will go with me?”

And again, God’s response is consistent:  I will be with you.”  Plain and simple.

Just follow me.  Listen to me.  I will show you.  I will lead you.  Look up.

Fire and a cloud.  

In the dark and in the light, God’s presence could be seen.  His voice could be heard.

God was with the people.  He was with the individual.

I feel like God did the very same thing for me today.

I had no idea what He would speak to me as I sat down with my cup of coffee and my computer this morning.

Just like all those centuries ago, God used fire and clouds to speak to me.  To remind me of His presence as I go into this New Year.

As I’m catching glimpses of what He is asking of me in the coming year, I find myself using Moses’ words, “Who am I to do this?” and “Who will go with me?”

God’s answer remains the same for both questions.  “I will be with you.” Plain and simple.

Just follow me.  Listen to me.  I will show you.  I will lead you.  Look up.

 – What is God calling you to this year?  Is He calling you to something more?  Something that seems beyond your capabilities but aligning with your God-given gifts and abilities?

Moses went from leading sheep to leading people.

He was willing even though he didn’t feel worthy of the calling.  Because He heard God’s voice and recognized His presence.  He trusted Him at His word when He said, “I will be with you.”

He looked up. He listened.  He followed.

Even when he didn’t know all of the details of the journey ahead.

 – What “cloud” or “fire” is God using to speak to your heart and draw you further, deeper? The voice of another person?  An unrelenting thought?  A change in circumstance?  A restless yearning?

 – Can you trust His simple words, “I will be with you” to move forward in a specific area of your life?

 – If you are already on the journey, are you fatigued, discouraged, in need of the awareness of God’s presence on the journey?

God has more in mind for each of us this year.  He promises His unending presence and lead in the direction He’s asking us to go.  Whether we are just starting out or well into the wilderness journey.

Will we look up, listen and follow?

 

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