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Archive for March 21st, 2019


Exodus 23:20-33: Reward of Fidelity

Thursday, March 21, 2019

The Pillar of Fire

Some time ago we reflected on the effects of idolatry in our lives; today we look at the reward for maintaining authenticity through tribulation.  As human beings, with our many fears and anxieties, we succumb quickly to the turmoil of life . . . and fidelity to self and others is too often given over quickly so that we might take up convenience, comfort and ease.  God is always faithful to us; he never forgets to think about us, he never forgets his promises.  We, on the other hand, too often find it difficult to stand by God when challenged by the pressures and influences of modern living.

Just over two years ago we looked at chapters 20 to 24 of Exodus to reflect on the two-way relationship we have with God as represented by the Covenant agreement mediated through Moses and represented in a very visual way by the Ten Commandments.  Today we can zero in on 23:20-33 and spend some time with the image of the angel of the Lord who goes before us, to guard us on our way and to bring us to our destination, a place prepared for us by God in the New Jerusalem.

We need not doubt that there is a dwelling place for us and a purpose for us beyond this life.  John records what Jesus tells us in Chapter 14 of his Good News:  Do not let your hearts be troubled.  You have faith in God; have faith in me.  In my father’s house there are many dwelling places.  If there were not, would I have told you that I am going to prepare a place for you?  The apostles knew – and we know today – that this man Jesus who has always acted in compassion will not lie to us for the sake of easing fear.  He speaks truth to us because he can do other thing – he cannot lie.  This we know and hold through faith, we believe through hope, and we act in through love.

The Pillar of Smoke

This Exodus story today reminds us of another of God’s promises: not only does Jesus go before us to prepare our place, but God sends his messenger to accompany us, to bring us safely to that home.  The voice of God tells us how important it is for us to look for this angel as we wander through the desert and cross through seas and rivers: Be attentive to him and heed his voice.  Do not rebel against him . . . my authority rests in him.  The tough part, of course, is to discern the angel in the smoke and haze of living, to hear the voice of God and his messengers through the cacophony of life; however, today’s reading indicates that we need not have a physical explanation of why we believe.  We need only muster our faith.  The reward of this fidelity to our belief is the guidance and protection we so keenly seek.

I have noticed something about life and perhaps you have, too.  I cannot miss the fact that the more often and the more deeply I trust the God who goes before me as a column of smoke in the day and as a column of fire by night (Exodus 13:20-22), the more confidence I feel, the less fear I experience, and the easier it becomes to do what God asks of us in today’s reading: Be attentive to the voice.  Do not rebel against it.  My children, grandchildren and friends know that when I feel frightened, I step into that column – which seems a foolish thing to do when we notice how it roils and churns.  And yet there is something mystical in this pulsing smoke and intense fire – it empowers more than it overcomes; it gives life rather than consumes it.

Be attentive to the voice.  Do not rebel against it.  What is the reward we receive for this kind of fidelity?  To live within this column of smoke and fire and never be consumed.  To know the touch of God within and without.  To shed fear, to love well, and to walk humbly with our God.

Be attentive to the voice.  Do not rebel against it. 


A re-post from March 21, 2012.

For more on The Desert Tabernacle click on one of the images above or go to: http://thedeserttabernacle.blogspot.com/2010/06/numbers-915-23-pillar-of-smoke-and.html

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