21 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. 22 The pillar of cloud by day and the pillar of fire by night did not depart from before the people. Exodus 13:21-22
In February 2020, I was sitting in the Atlanta airport, preparing to fly to South Asia to spend a week with some potential mission partners. I had never been to this particular country before. I was flying by myself. I had no idea what to expect. And on top of all this, we were just beginning to hear disquieting reports about a new virus coming out of China.
I was in the terminal, listening to my Bible Recap podcast. I heard Tara-Leigh say,
A cloud can shield you from the blistering desert sun and provide water at times, and a fire at night can light your way or keep you warm or drive away coyotes.The Bible Recap book, p. 84
I had always thought about the guidance provided by the fire and the cloud. I had never considered the practical provision of these beacons.
And I thought, how kind of God! How practical He is, to not only guide the Israelites, but to provide for them. Could He have provided anything more useful for a bunch of people walking through the desert? Shade and rain in the day, heat and protection at night.
Because of these verses, I was able to step into this unknown situation with confidence. It was an incredible week of working alongside these missionaries, seeing firsthand how guided by the Spirit they are in their daily work.
By the time I left South Asia, the signs of the impending pandemic were even more ominous. Special lines at customs and immigration for anyone who had traveled to or from China. Longer waiting times. Fear and anxiety in the air. I realized later that had my trip been just a week later, there was a high probability I would have been locked down in this particular country for four to six weeks.
Again, God’s practical provision. His abundant kindness. His perfect timing. And yet, how often I want to do things my own way, without His guidance, and therefore without his protection and provision.
Later in Exodus (the last verses, in fact) we learn that “throughout all their journeys, whenever the cloud was taken up from the tabernacle, the people of Israel would set out. But if the cloud was not taken up, then they did not set out till the day that it was taken up.” (Exodus 40:36-37).
Heavenly Father, teach us to stay under the cloud and behind the fire. Because it is when we get out from under the cloud that we get out in front of God, and we no longer benefit from Your practical provision. Provide for us, and guide us in the way we should go today. Amen.