The Upper Room devotional reflection for Friday, November 20, 2020 comes to us from Debra Pierce of Massachusetts
Exodus 13:17-22 17 When Pharaoh let the people go, God did not lead them on the road through the Philistine country, though that was shorter. For God said, “If they face war, they might change their minds and return to Egypt.” 18 So God led the people around by the desert road toward the Red Sea. The Israelites went up out of Egypt ready for battle. 19 Moses took the bones of Joseph with him because Joseph had made the Israelites swear an oath. He had said, “God will surely come to your aid, 20jjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjand then you must carry my bones up with you from this place.” 20 After leaving Sukkoth they camped at Etham on the edge of the desert. 21 By day the LORD went ahead of them in a pillar of cloud to guide them on their way and by night in a pillar of fire to give them light, so that they could travel by day or night. 22 Neither the pillar of cloud by day nor the pillar of fire by night left its place in front of the people.
Exodus 13:21 (NIV) The Lord went ahead of them … by night in a pillar of fire to give them light.
Backyard bonfires are one of my favorite childhood memories. Recently, my neighbor had one in her yard. The air smelled like smoke from burning wood, and the dark summer sky glowed orange as flames crackled and popped. With the brilliant blaze emanating from my neighbor’s yard, I reminisced about family gatherings and marshmallows roasted over a smoldering fire. I remember my father stoking the flames as a pillar of fire illuminated the sky.
Beyond my childhood memories, the bonfire brought to mind God’s guiding the Israelites at night in the desert. God became a “pillar of fire to give them light” that kept “its place in front of the people” (Exodus 13:21-22). The Israelites received God’s guidance by following a pillar of fire.
We receive God’s guidance by practicing spiritual disciplines. After my husband had a heart attack, I was lost in a “desert” of fear and anxiety. I received God’s benevolent guidance through prayer, memorizing scripture, and writing in my journal. These practices led me to God’s calming peace so I could cope with my husband’s illness. God’s word promises that “the Lord will guide you always” (Isaiah 58:11). Whatever challenge we’re facing, when we ask God to send light and truth to guide us (see Psalm 43:3), God’s guiding light will shine on us.
Prayer Focus: Someone Recovering from a Heart Attack.
Prayer: Faithful God, thank you for your guidance as we traverse life’s unfamiliar paths. Amen.
Thought for the Day: What spiritual disciplines help me to follow God’s light?
— Debra Pierce
Debra Pierce reminds us that the Israelites followed God in the form of a Pillar of Fire. For her, spiritual disciplines, including prayer, memorizing scripture, and journaling provide similar guidance from God as the Pillar of Fire provided for the Israelites.
What practices bring you God’s guiding light?