The epic journey of the nation of Israel through the desert
The raw ancient element of fire that offers comfort, protection and provision. Firepit is a journey to uncover the fire stories of the Bible and personally connect with the God behind them.
Sometimes we get lost trying to navigate our way through life, it’s part of the human condition and a symptom of our separation or dislocation from God as creator and father. Knowing God as creator means we get to understand where we have come from but knowing him as father means we understand who we belong to and that gives us the road map for the future. This is Firelight.
As we make our way along the road of life, we come across junctions and crossroads. That’s often the time when we pause and look for fresh direction. Like me, you’ve probably met individuals in those moments who offer advice but often it comes with their own agenda. And so the fog of confusion gets thicker and we wonder where on earth we are and which way to turn.
A few years ago, someone I knew was on the London Underground sitting opposite a guy who was actually lost. After a few stops with his frustration it became clear that he was on the London Underground with a map of the Paris Metro. When we try to live in God’s world without God we get lost. People give advice but God gives guidance and there’s a big difference, isn’t there?
There’s a verse in the Old Testament of the Bible that has meant a huge amount to me over the years and even more now. It came from the mouth of the old Jewish patriarchal prophet, Jeremiah. This is how a modern translation of the Bible puts it ‘Stand at the crossroads and look around. Ask for directions to the old road, the tried and true road. Then take it’
Let me tell you an epic fire story from the Bible that portrays the desert wanderings of an entire nation throughout two entire generations 1,500 years before Jesus. God led them through a wilderness of their own making.
A journey that should have taken a week and a half but ended up taking 40 years. Isn’t it amazing how we kind of know what we should do but somehow end up doing something else. Israel had been led out of the fires of slavery in Egypt by a most unlikely hero called Moses who had encountered God in the flames of a burning bush. It was a solitary and personal encounter that proved to be the gamechanger for Moses.
Every one of us can encounter God like that. Not in a mystical moment but in the fire of our struggles and difficulties. A religious experience isn’t going to cut it unfortunately. Religion will merely give you a load of rules that you’ll struggle to live up to. That’s why guilt and religion are always found in the same place. What we need to do is humbly return to God as father and receive the internal strength that he provides.
Now we come across a different kind of fire, not a small scale personal one for Moses but a public one for the entire people of Israel. Here’s how the Bible describes it.
The Lord went ahead of them and guided them during the day with a pillar of cloud, and he provided light at night with a pillar of fire. The Lord did not remove the pillar of cloud or pillar of fire from its place in front of the people. (Exodus 13:20-22 extracts NLT)
And then looking back on that time a 1,000 or so years later
In your great mercy you did not abandon them to die in the wilderness. The pillar of cloud still led them forward by day, and the pillar of fire showed them the way through the night. (Nehemiah 9:19 NLT)
A pillar of fire that lit up the night sky and led them to a place they would get to call home. A fire they could depend on, a sign of God’s unfailing commitment to bring them through the flames. A dependable fire that showed up every night for four decades, big enough and tall enough for two million people to see at the same time. Awesome.
It’s very interesting that the fire came at night at the time when we’re often most vulnerable, the time when our fears can overwhelm us. A fire that brought warmth, security and direction, God knows us very well. A bit further on in the Bible we find the Book of Psalms, a series of prayers from the heart of King David, a man who was burned by his mistakes. Here’s just two of them.
God alone is my refuge, my place of safety. He is my God, and I trust him. Do not be afraid of the terrors of the night or dread the disease that stalks the darkness (Psalm 91 extracts NLT)
I can never get away from your presence! If I go up to heaven, you are there. If I go down to the grave, you are there. If I ride the wings of the morning, if I dwell by the farthest oceans, even there your hand will guide me, and your strength will support me. (Psalm 139:7-10 NLT)
If we have accepted the free offer of forgiveness and new life through Jesus Christ, God’s son, then we have an inheritance from God and very good reason for tremendous confidence as we face the future in this life and beyond. Whatever comes our way through the fires of trial and suffering and whatever self-made disasters we bring upon ourselves, we are en route to our eternal home in Heaven.
Be confident today that your failure can never cause you to slip out of God’s grip, he will always hold onto you and always be your guide. God has never had a problem with our failure, only our pride that prevents us recognising that we need saving.
Once we have personally accepted Jesus as our personal saviour and received his forgiveness we are eternally secure. Following God means being ready to follow the fire of his presence wherever it leads.
In a wilderness there’s only the horizon and that’s not enough when you’re lost, we need guidance and direction. The road won’t always be easy but God has promised never to leave us. That promise has held me since I was 20 and first turned the control of my life over to him.
Maybe God has spoken to you in these last few minutes as I’ve recounted the remarkable story of the Firelight. Israel needed divine guidance all those centuries ago and we absolutely need it today. Why don’t you ask God to be your guide today. This prayer will help you do that.
Father God, I realise that I have followed my own path for a moment, a season or a lifetime. I understand that you have always loved me and wanted me to follow your plan. Be my guide from this moment on and lead me through the wilderness to the place you want me to be. Amen