Devotional Thoughts for Today
“God’s Guidance Today”
Exodus 23:20-21 (NIV)
“See, I am sending an angel ahead of you to guard you along the way and to bring you to the place I have prepared. 21 Pay attention to him and listen to what he says. Do not rebel against him; he will not forgive your rebellion, since my Name is in him.
In every season and iteration of doing life with God, in biblical times and today, the people of God are given God’s guidance for life’s journey. For the Israelites after the exodus, a visible manifestation of God’s presence was given. A pillar of smoke by night and fire by day guided their journey through the wilderness. God promised, in the verses above, to send a heavenly messenger ahead of them for the purposes of both guidance and protection. All the people had to do was pay attention to God’s messenger, listen and obey.
It almost seems silly that God would command them to listen and not rebel against the angel. After all, they are in the wilderness with no clue how to get to the place they are going. God brought them out of the place they left and God alone could lead them to wherever they are headed. Furthermore, God is promising both guidance and protection. Why on earth would they rebel against that!? Well, we know how the story goes. The journey through the wilderness was long and hard and the hearts of the people were far from formed in righteousness. And, thus, rebellion was swift and sure.
I often wish we had physical manifestations of God’s presence today. A clear, audible voice to say do this or that and a visible manifestation of Godself guiding and protecting us every day. But even with those things in place, we too would rebel. And although we are without smoke and fire, God has not left us alone—we have the Holy Spirit. The Spirit is our help, who comes alongside us to guide our steps and guard our way. God’s Spirit within us forms our heart so that we are able to not rebel and so are positioned to experience the fullness of God’s promises, the abundant afforded in Christ. But sometimes, at least for me, it’s hard to know when the Spirit is speaking and how God is calling me to obey.
I’ve picked up a few tools over the years that have been helpful:
(1) Time in God’s word (Scripture), time with God’s people (fellowship), and time in God’s presence (prayer): God has revealed Godself in Scripture, God’s presence resides in God’s people, and God has promised to meet us in prayer.
(2) Contemplative practices and Sabbath rest: In contemplation, the heart and mind are able to slow down and become aware of oneself, one’s surrounds, and God’s presence (which is always near). Likewise, rhythms that honor Sabbath leave margin for us to sense God’s movements.
Regardless of your preferred practice, we must each find ways to sense the movement and hear the voice of God’s Spirit.
But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you everything, and remind you of all that I have said to you. (John 14:26)
Prayer: Dear Lord, guide me toward Your path, toward Your will, toward Your Son. Thank You for the Word and the Spirit through which I’m guided by You daily. Amen.
Bible Reading for Today: 2 Corinthians 2
Lunch Break Study
Read Psalm 139:1-12 (NIV): You have searched me, Lord, and you know me. 2 You know when I sit and when I rise; you perceive my thoughts from afar. 3 You discern my going out and my lying down; you are familiar with all my ways. 4 Before a word is on my tongue you, Lord, know it completely. 5 You hem me in behind and before, and you lay your hand upon me. 6 Such knowledge is too wonderful for me, too lofty for me to attain. 7 Where can I go from your Spirit? Where can I flee from your presence? 8 If I go up to the heavens, you are there; if I make my bed in the depths, you are there. 9 If I rise on the wings of the dawn, if I settle on the far side of the sea, 10 even there your hand will guide me, your right hand will hold me fast. 11 If I say, “Surely the darkness will hide me and the light become night around me,” 12 even the darkness will not be dark to you; the night will shine like the day, for darkness is as light to you.
Question to Consider
- In the first few verses, what is the psalmist (David) emphasizing about God? Why is this such mind-blowing truth?
- How does David respond to God’s intimate knowledge of and constant nearness to him?
- How does God’s intimate knowledge of you make you feel? Does it encourage you or make you feel “hemmed in”? How does knowing God is always near make you feel? Fearful or safe? Why might you feel this way?
- David is focusing on God’s intimate knowledge of him. God knows the intricacies of his heart and all the facts of his life. God knows his daily movements and is aware of his mundane activities and even his travel plans. Even when David thinks he’s far from God, God is so near as to know David’s thoughts. God knows his words and everything about him. Because theology teaches us that God is all-knowing, the awesomeness of these statements may be lost upon us. God is infinite and has no reason or need to be so actively mindful of you or me. God chooses this. Just imagine what it would take for you to exist in the kind of relationship with another person that was so intimate that you could make these statements about them.
- Not positively… David feels trapped or hemmed in by God. Even if he wanted to escape, he feels like he couldn’t. That’s a fearsome thought. This is of course David’s initial response. Later in the Psalm he is thankful for God’s presence and invites God to “search and know” him.
- Personal reflection.
Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship. 2 Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will. (Romans 12:1-2)
Two questions, informed by Romans 12:1-2, have come in clutch for me as I seek to discern the leading of the Spirit in my life. The first is, “God, what do you want me to do for you?” or, to put it a different way, “How can I offer myself to You in worship in this specific situation?” The second is, “What do I want to do for and with God?” or, “In light of my resources (time, talent, treasure) and the sort of person God has formed in me, how can I intentionally and strategically orient and direct the whole of my life toward the end of maximum Kingdom impact?” The first question is a micro kind of question and has been helpful in all the little decisions that come my way on any given day. The second approaches Spiritual guidance on a more macro level and has help me keep the end goal in mind.
What kinds of questions help you discern God’s guidance in your life? Spend time reflecting on Romans 12:1-2. What would it look like for you to offer yourself (your time, talent, and treasures) in worship to God in your present context? In light of your personality, gifts, resources, passions and experiences, what might strategic Kingdom building look like in your life long term?