Nehemiah 9:19 – Because of your great compassion, you did not abandon them in the desert. By day the pillar of cloud did not cease to guide them on their path, nor the pillar of fire by night to shine on the way they were to take. (NIV)
I was visiting my brother and his wife in the Northwoods of Wisconsin, USA. Los Angeles, California, where I live, has been in the grip of drought for five years, so you can imagine my measureless delight in the seemingly endless lakes, channels, and rivers overseen by stately trees.
Several times, we went out on the lake in Dan's boat. I noticed two rows of pylons extending out of the water. Dan was careful to stay between those rows as we travelled. The lake was so wide and the marked path was so narrow that I wondered why he stayed in that restricted space.
"Between the pylons is the only place where the water is deep enough to navigate," he explained. "Closer to the shore, the boat would get stuck in the mud."
The analogy to the Christian life was too obvious to miss. Some people look at life as a big, calm lake, imagining that the whole expanse of water is theirs to explore without limitation, neither knowing nor caring what lies under the surface. They ignore the guidance provided for them, believing themselves to be free. God? He's just a spoilsport Who wants to keep us from having fun.
Christians must be wiser than that. God knows the lake better than we do. He knows where the glassy surface hides dangers and where we are likely to run aground.
First and foremost among the "pylons" that God gives us to guide us is His Word, which is like the pillar of fire that led the Israelites in the wilderness. The psalmist called God's Word "a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path" (Psalm 119:105 KJV). If we study it diligently, it will permeate our lives to such an extent that we will not even want to stray from its beautiful precepts.
But sometimes, we can't see the way. Our vision is limited by grief, frustration, or hopelessness. Even then, He is with us. He will send a "pillar of cloud", a friend, a circumstance, the thought of a Bible verse, or the memory of a song to bring us back to the centre — Himself.
Boating on the lake gave me a great sense of freedom. But without guidance, that freedom would quickly have ended, stuck in the mud. We must keep our spiritual eyes open so that we do not miss His path for us.
Prayer: Father in heaven, we thank You for the sure and certain guidance that You gave to Israel and that You give to us. Forgive us, we pray, for thinking that we know best and straying. Protect us from crippling doubt in times of trouble. Keep our eyes, minds, and hearts focused on the One Who is the Way, Jesus Christ our Lord, in Whose name we pray. Amen.
Listen to this devotional
Listen while you read: "Immortal, Invisible, God Only Wise" (Lyrics)