My thoughts (Christen Peters):
I have to admit, I tend to not like ambiguous images of God. I want something that at least touches some point of reference in my world. I like God as a parent or a mother hen. I like the warm fuzzy I get from those images. I can even like rocks and fortresses and shields. After all, they are all protective images. I never got that feeling from the pillar of cloud/pillar of fire image of God. Here’s God traipsing these poor people around the wilderness for forty years. I’m not good with directions, but I’m thinking maybe forty years is a little extreme even for me.
But wait. Is it possible that there was more purpose to this walkabout than just getting out of Egypt?
The shortest distance between any two points is a straight line. The straight line in this case, though, would have been a death sentence to the Israelites. The straight line would have left no way of stopping the pursuit of the Egyptians and would have led the Israelites directly into Philistine territory. This ragtag bunch of former slaves was in no condition to fight a war with any army — much less the Philistines. God’s meandering path protectively keeps them from being pressed into a war they couldn’t possibly win.
There’s more to this, though, than just physical protection. It is during this time that the Israelites are tested and taught. They rebel, and are humbled. Through it all, God is there. God is always made manifest to them — a cloud of protection during the day, and a fire to light their way through the darkness of night.
Many times in my own life, I have cursed the broken road that I seemed to be following. I’m seeing it a little differently today. God truly has been with me the whole time, guiding the direction I must follow. I can’t claim that I’ve ever seen a pillar of light (department store grand openings aside). I can, though, look at my life and see God’s daily touch leading me from wars I’m not ready to fight, allowing me to be tempered by the fires of my own stoking, and providing me with protective, parental love at its absolute best.
Question for the day: Is my broken road just aimless wandering, or can I see God’s guidance and protection?
We encourage you to include a time of prayer with this reading. If you need a place to start, consider the guidelines on the How to Pray page.