Week of January 29

Who Leads You on Your Life Journey?

Read: Exodus 12-13; Psalm 21; Acts 1

“And the Lord went before them by day in a pillar of cloud to lead them along the way, and by night in a pillar of fire to give them light, that they might travel by day and by night. The pillar of cloud by day and the pillar of fire by night did not depart from before the people.”
Exodus 13:21-22, ESV.

“John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now.”
Acts 1:5, ESV


“Nothing whatever, whether great or small, can happen to a believer, without God’s ordering and permission. There is no such thing as ‘chance,’ ‘luck’ or ‘accident’ in the Christian’s journey through this world. All is arranged and appointed by God. And all things are “working together” for the believer’s good” (J.C. Ryle). God’s purposeful movement of His people is evident in our Bible readings today.

The Meaning of the Text

Trusting God’s command
Charles Swindoll adds another important facet to how God guides us when he says, “We must cease striving and trust God to provide what He thinks is best and in whatever time He chooses to make it available. But this kind of trusting doesn’t come naturally. It’s a spiritual crisis of the will in which we must choose to exercise faith.” Israel had lived in Egypt for 430 years, the equivalent of 14-15 generations, and they were instructed to leave on what may be termed a moment’s notice! Have you ever lived happily in a home or city throughout your lifetime but have received a transfer notice on the job that required you to uproot your family and move to a new state, or even a different country? 

It is hard to imagine that the initial family group of 70 people had grown to over 600,000 men, which means that over 1 million people likely made their way from a settled existence to a promised future based simply upon trust in the Lord. God watched over Israel that night in Egypt (12:27) and they were to watch for Him by keeping the feast perpetually (12:17).
Developing a Scripture-wide awareness of God’s leadership
We all will notice the parallels today between the events in Exodus and Acts. The Passover lamb has been sacrificed and the children of Israel are delivered from Egypt by God’s mighty hand (Exodus 12-13). The Passover Lamb, Jesus Christ, has been sacrificed and God’s people are delivered into a new Canaan, His kingdom (cf. John 1:29, 36; 1 Peter 1:18-21; cf. Isaiah 53:10; Romans 8:3; Hebrews 10). Jesus is the perfect and ultimate sacrifice for sin and, as our Risen Savior, He guides us each day (cf. Exodus 13:21; cf. pillar of cloud and fire).

The pillar of cloud was large enough to cover Israel and protect God’s people from the heat of the day and the pillar of fire also provided light at night and a barrier against a potential enemy (Psalm 105:39, NAC). The Bible says that the cloud went ahead of the people to lead them (13:21). It represented God’s leadership through unfamiliar territory (EBC). 

The cloud and the fire were visible symbols of God’s presence in the midst of His people. In other passages the “angel of God” is equated with the pillars (see Exodus 14:19; 23:20-23). This angel was assigned the task of bringing the children of Israel into Canaan (23:20-23). This is a good word, but this is also the 21st century. How are we to apply this? It’s coming, but we need to look at another passage.
Jesus, the glory of God in human flesh
Jesus Christ is the shekinah glory and God. He is our pillar, and He leads us by day and night. It should come as no surprise to us that He gave the disciples instructions on what they were to do until the Holy Spirit arrived at Pentecost. “Wait for it,” as TikTok videos often state. They were to anticipate the coming fire of the Spirit that would go before them and lead them in their mission (Acts 1:4-5; 2:3; Luke 3:16; Mark 1:8; Matthew 3:11; John 1:23; NAC). The Holy Spirit would be the acting, purifying, and judging presence of God in the world (cf. Luke 3:16). When Jesus speaks of fire, then, He refers to the blessing of the Spirit for believers and to judgment for unbelievers (Luke 3:17; cf. wheat and chaff). I know. You want to know the point! I will provide an application in a moment but first let me illustrate the passage.

The Message for Our Lives

We have some close friends that have made a life choice to take the “wandering road” to their destinations. I’m a straight shot, hit the Interstate and get there, sort of fellow. In contrast, they enjoy the back roads. They smile a lot while I stress way too much. They have incredible pictures of sunrises and sunsets, birds and flowers, and places and people. I have blurry photos taken from the window of a car moving along at highway speeds. I’ve also noticed that they always seem to get to wherever they are going. 

God’s children always get to the place that He is leading them. It falls to us to follow the Cloud, our Savior, whenever and wherever He leads. Watchman Nee once said, “The Christian experience, from start to finish, is a journey of faith” (italics mine). The quote provides inspiration but our reality is often quite different.

We too often do God’s planning and directing for Him, then throw in a prayer requesting Him to guide us. It sounds crass, but we plan and plot, then throw up a petition for God to do “that pillar thing.” Notice, however, that there was a much more direct route to Canaan, but the apparent meandering was by God’s design (Exodus 13:17). God doesn’t meander, does He? Delays and side roads very often are for our benefit; not to burden us. The long and winding road leads to the place that God has prepared.

For Thought and Action

1. Reflect upon a recent arrival at the end result of a decision that you made. Did you arrive too soon? Too late? Perhaps you arrived at the wrong time because you had planned and purposed with a wrong heart. Yield your heart to the Lord.

Secondly, were you ill-equipped to handle the challenges that you faced upon your arrival? Perhaps you have been inattentive to the path of preparation that God has laid before you. He will use every experience in life to outfit us for His purposes. Praise Him for His plan!

2. For Families: If your older teens have difficulty waiting to receive something, or for an event to arrive, or if they sense that they are “treading water,” and aimlessly wandering without a purpose, this passage is a good one to share with them.

Take your highway map and have them locate where you are today. Now ask them to choose any destination on that map. Next, ask them to trace the different roads they could take to get them to that place. There are often half a dozen or more ways to travel from one site to another. This is the way our journeys with God seem sometimes. He often takes us on a “back roads route” so that He can teach us some things on the way, so that we will be equipped to deal with what we will face when we arrive. As Christ-followers, “Trusting Travel” is a good phrase to use through life.

May your paths be straight,
Larry C. Ashlock