Monday, October 23, 2023

Follow The Leader

This last summer we had the opportunity to take a trip through the desert where there were no roads.  We drove a four-wheel drive vehicle through sand, up rocky hills, and on the side of cliffs with sheer drop offs on either side.  Sometimes it was a joy, and at other times it was a nail-biting experience either due to the extremely rough terrain or because of the drop off only a few inches away from our tires.  In addition to this, the temperature was over 110 degrees, which made us thankful for the water we brought along.

Being our first time in this type of vehicle in a place where there were no roads, we elected to take the guided tour rather than go on our own.  The guide drove on ahead of us and communicated to us via walkie talkie, making us aware of safety issues that would avoid rolling the vehicle, falling off a cliff, or damaging the vehicle on the rocks.  As long as we followed the leader and listened to her instructions, we did just fine.  It was a fun trip filled with beautiful scenes of the desert, which included the Colorado River that ran through the area.

After that two-and-a-half-hour bumpy, hot, and dusty trip in the desert, we found out that we needed the rest that came afterward.  After our return, we relaxed with a cold drink in an air-conditioned room.  I didn't realize how tense all my muscles had been out on that trail in the desert until after we returned and were able to relax.    

I am reminded of Israel's trip through the desert.  They also had hazards along the way.  The most important thing was for them to trust their leader and listen to his instructions.  God went on ahead of them in the cloud and led them safely through each hazard, whether it was lack of water, food, or even facing a hostile enemy.  In the desert with all its dangers, the people needed to learn to follow their leader to make it to the promised land.

One of the Psalms commemorates these events with these words, "13 He divided the sea and let them pass through it, and made the waters stand like a heap. 14 In the daytime he led them with a cloud, and all the night with a fiery light. 15 He split rocks in the wilderness and gave them drink abundantly as from the deep. 16 He made streams come out of the rock and caused waters to flow down like rivers" (Ps 78:13-16).  As long as the people continued to follow God who went on ahead of them, God continued to provide for them.  However, what should have been a much shorter trip wound up taking forty years due to the rebellion of the first generation of Israelites.  The Psalm goes on to say, "17 Yet they sinned still more against him, rebelling against the Most High in the desert (Ps 78:17).


This is a reminder of how important it is to follow our Lord as he leads us in the spiritual wilderness.  This spiritual wilderness is full of hazards that include those who hate, tempt, manipulate, lie, or use us.  It is also full of the temptation to trust more in money, power, and self rather than God.  The question for myself is, "Do I respond according to the flesh, or according to the spirit in these things?  What is God's will according to his word?  Do I have the faith and courage to do according to his will instead of according to the flesh?"

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