“Whether you turn to the right or the left, your ears will hear a voice behind you, saying, ‘This is the way, walk in it'”
Last night, my husband asked me to consider and pray about something that would be a huge faith step for me. I told him I had already prayed about it. It was all written out in my prayer journal and I had already told God that I would obey once He provided financially. To which my husband very gently reminded me that I had just written these words that very day: “As I’ve meditated on obedience, I’ve realized that healing, deliverance, blessing, and provision come as we obey—not before we obey.”
Oh, yeah, I remember writing that.
Then I told God that obeying is fine, but this step of obedience didn’t really make sense to me because it doesn’t quite fit my plan and doesn’t fully work out on paper.
To which God once again reminded me of the Israelites and their journey out of Egypt.
The Israelites had a plan when they left Egypt. They marched out of captivity in battle formation because they expected God to take them via the quickest route between The Land of Goshen in Egypt to Canaan. Along that route, lived the battle-ready Philistines. So, the Israelites envisioned a few quick fights, about a month-long hike and voila—Promised Land!
Yet, Scripture says:
When Pharaoh let the people go, God did not lead them on the road through the Philistine country, though that was shorter. For God said, “If they face war, they might change their minds and return to Egypt.” So God led the people around by the desert road toward the Red Sea. The Israelites went up out of Egypt ready for battle. (Exodus 13:17-18, NIV).
Not only did God take them the long way around, He took them to Horeb where they received the 10 Commandments and Horeb is about as far from the Promised Land as you could get. Taking this route surely didn’t make sense to the Israelietes, but God did this for their blessing and benefit. He knew that if they faced war, they would quickly give up and head back to slavery. What looked like a total failure of God’s GPS system ultimately determined the success of their journey.
The people never questioned God’s strange directions, though, because they had visible evidence of His plan. They were guided day and night by pillars of cloud and fire, showing them exactly where to travel and when to move.
Now, at first I was feeling a little bit short-changed in this whole deal. They get massive, unmistakable, highly miraculous pillars of cloud and fire and I get a still small voice to direct my steps. How is this fair?
In her book One in a Million, Priscilla Shirer puts it this way:
Wouldn’t it be nice for God to come down and linger over the person we are to marry or the building where our new job awaits? Wouldn’t it be great to know for sure this house was the one we should put an offer on because God’s cloud hung just over the roof line?
Yes, that would be great! I’ll take one order of miraculous and totally unmistakable evidence of God’s will with lots of specific details please!
While the Israelites had pillars of cloud and fire to guide them, the disciples had Jesus in human flesh to teach and direct them. Yet, even Jesus told His disciples, “It is for your good that I am going away. Unless I go away, the Counselor will not come to you; but if I go, I will send Him to you” (John 16:7, NIV). Francis Chan writes in Forgotten God: “When the disciples heard that two thousand years ago, I’m sure it was hard for them to grasp. How could it be better to trade a human Jesus–a man they could talk and eat and laugh with–for a Spirit they couldn’t physically see? Thousands of years later, I think most of us would also choose a physical Jesus over an invisible Spirit.” Jesus is so clear, though, that it is for our good that we are given the indwelling and ever-present Holy Spirit to guide us.
So, we really haven’t been short-changed at all. We have the Holy Spirit with us always, a constant Guide, Advocate, Comfort and Counselor. Jesus promised we would receive “another advocate to help you and be with you forever— the Spirit of truth . . . you know him, for he lives with you and will be in you (John 14:16-17, NIV). I know His voice because I have spent time in God’s Word and time in God’s presence through prayer. I’ve heard His voice before and walked with Him in obedience. I double check to make sure what I am hearing lines up with Scripture and ask: Is it consistent with God’s character and with what He has been teaching me and can it be confirmed by others in my life?
Then, when He calls me to obey, even when I don’t understand all the details or how it will all work out, I must, as the hymn says, “trust and obey, for there’s no other way, to be happy in Jesus than to trust and obey.”
Heather King is a wife, mom, Bible Study teacher, writer for www.myfrienddebbie.com and worship leader. Most importantly, she is a Christ follower with a desire to help others apply the Bible to everyday life with all its mess, noise, and busyness. To read more devotionals by Heather King, click here.
Copyright © 2011 Heather King