Pillar of Cloud, Pillar of Fire

Exodus 13:21-22(niv) - “By day the LORD 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 left its place in front of the people.”

God had spoken through Moses and through seven plagues, Pharoah relented, and the Israelites left Egypt by way of the Red Sea. They had been living in Egypt for generations – since the time of Joseph – long enough for the new king to not know about Joseph and his contributions (Exodus 1:8). As they were given their freedom from slavery, they went into the wilderness. This was a place they hadn’t been before. It was a totally new experience for them and probably very scary. In Exodus 14, we’re told that the Israelites, already in the wilderness, began to ask Moses why he had brought them to the desert to die!

Last night, something new started at Mt. Bethel.  We have formed a Core Leadership Team, comprised of 13 men and women - some in official leadership positions, others not, some "experienced" and some young, some long-time members, others not yet members.  It's beautiful to see them all gathered together and talking about the future of their church.  As I listened to wisdom and desire from each teammate, I felt as if I was reliving Pentecost - the Spirit was moving and was at work!

In the next few months, this new thing that has begun will gradually unfold in the congregation and the community.  The whole church will work to discern its priorities and God's vision for the future.  The next several months, and perhaps years, will be for us like it was for the Israelites entering the wilderness.  In some regards, I really hope it is (though I could do without people asking me why I've taken them out to the desert to die!).  We will find ourselves venturing out into uncharted territory.  It will be scary at times, and it will certainly be stressful for everyone.  BUT it will be exciting!  We will go places we never could have imagined as we go down paths we didn't know existed.  God will be with us and we will have one task that surpasses all others: to follow that pillar of cloud by day and pillar of fire by night.

I think it's interesting that even though the journey was scary, stressful, and hard, God chose to lead people in this form.  Think about it: what do you need when you travel in the desert?  The coolness of shade in the day and warmth and light at night.  This means that even if the Israelites resisted, and they certainly did, they were dependent on following God for their own survival.  Hmmmmm....  Anybody else making any connections here?

I'm thrilled about the promise that's waiting at the end of the journey.  The hope, the spiritual prosperity, and the satisfaction that wait are great motivation for me.  If something is going to happen at Mt. Bethel, it began last night.  Stay tuned as it all unfolds.