“Live and in person” Advent devotion for December 4, 2020. Read Exodus 13:17-22 and Psalm 23.
“In two miles, keep right and take exit 122, Main Street…” By now most of us are used to the little voice coming from the map app on our smart phones, telling us exactly how to get to our destination. Over a span of forty years, God’s people would get used to the Lord going before them as a pillar of cloud during the day or fire by night. They never had to wonder which fork to take, if they had missed a turn or an exit, or whether it was time to take a break and set up camp. God took care of all that for them, live and in person, as cloud or fire.
This pre-incarnate appearance of Christ took them through some unlikely places on routes they never would have chosen on their own. Instead of taking them the quickest way through Philistine country, God led them to the Red Sea where they would see another demonstration of His power. He would take them to Sinai, where Moses would receive the tablets of the law. He would lead them through a dessert where they would be completely dependent on Him for their food and water. The would take them through the unfriendly neighborhoods of enemy nations. It wasn’t the easiest, quickest or scenic route. But they would survive and they would arrive at their destination, the promised land.
Much later, Jesus would call Himself the Good Shepherd. He was indeed the One who would guide people to pasture, water, safety and a forever home with Him. Jesus invited many but never forced anyone to follow Him. He still doesn’t. So why do we?
When speaking of being the Shepherd, Jesus said that His sheep recognize His voice and they follow Him. They won’t follow a stranger. They follow the One who has always cared for them, protected them and provided for them.
Our Lord led His disciples to places they probably never would have gone one their own. Desolate places where people were hungry. Sad places where people were mourning. Frightening places where the demon-possessed lived. Dangerous places where some picked up stones to kill Jesus. Awesome places where He met with legends like Moses and Elijah. In each place, He revealed another dimension about Himself. In each place, they would learn to trust Him more
Jesus is still our Good Shepherd, He still leads us with His voice, and He still leads us to places we would never choose on our own. His Word leads us to the least with whom we share our food, drink, clothes and homes. His Word leads us to those we have hurt with an apology. His Word leads us to forgive those who have hurt us, for we have received much forgiveness from Him. His Word leads us to the food and drink of the altar, when we might have chosen to stay in bed.
In each place, we learn more about Him. And we too, trust His voice to lead us.
Lord, thank You for Your voice and words that lead me in new directions, to new places, and always closer to You. Amen