21The Lord went in front of them in a pillar of cloud by day, to lead them along the way, and in a pillar of fire by night, to give them light, so that they might travel by day and by night. 22Neither the pillar of cloud by day nor the pillar of fire by night left its place in front of the people.
28Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, let us give thanks, by which we offer to God an acceptable worship with reverence and awe; 29for indeed our God is a consuming fire.
Reading Scripture to Know:
- What is happening/being said? (Observation)
- Why is this happening/being said? (Interpretation)
- What does the rest of Scripture say about it? (Evaluation)
- What does it mean? (Understanding)
- What does it mean for us? (Application)
Reading Scripture to Grow:
- What words or phrases stand out to you? Why?
- Where do you hear the voice of God in this Scripture?
- How do you see the character of God reflected in this Scripture?
- How does this Scripture reveal God?
- How does this Scripture expose humanity and its need for God?
- How does this Scripture speak to what is happening in your life?
- How does this Scripture speak to what is happening in our world?
- What might God want to communicate to you (us) this week through this Scripture?
Scripture Reads Me:
- This passage makes me feel…
- This passage makes me think about…
- This passage reminds me of…
- This passage teaches me that God is…
- This passages teaches me that I am…
- This passage challenges me to…
Reflection: The Lord went in front of them in a pillar of cloud by day, to lead them along the way, and in a pillar of fire by night, to give them light.
It would be nice to have God physically in front of us, leading us throughout the days and nights of faith. No shining light of our own success would be able to blind us of God’s presence; the cloud of God would be their to humbly direct us back to his love. No impenetrable darkness would cover us and shroud us from truth; God’s brilliance would lift our eyes to his glory.
The Israelites had this experience as they wandered through the wilderness on their way to the Promised Land. And yet, they still found it hard to follow faithfully! Perhaps the reality is that no matter what form God takes in our lives, we have to want to follow to do so faithfully. It reminds me of Jesus’s parable of The Rich Man and Lazarus. The rich man who received condemnation for his act of ignoring the poor man, Lazarus, begged Abraham to send Lazarus back from the dead to warn the rich man’s family and to inspire them to mend their greedy, self-centered ways. But Abraham replied to him, “If they do not listen to Moses and the prophets, neither will they be convinced even if someone rises from the dead” (Luke 16:31).
God might not be in front of us right now in a pillar of cloud or a pillar of fire, but God is with us. We can choose to see God or ignore God. If we look for God, if we are intentionally aware that God is with us, then we will find our promised land. If we ignore God, or if we are ambivalent or apathetic about God’s presence, then we might find ourselves wandering aimlessly. God is there – it is our job to look for God expecting to see.
How might you see God today? What distractions might you need to clear away in order to see the pillar of cloud or pillar of fire? How might faith play a role in your ability to see God? May your eyes be opened and flooded with the brilliant light of God’s loving presence with you.
Prayer Focus: The Lord went in front of them…so that they might travel by day and by night.
Perhaps you feel as though you are traveling in darkness right now. Your future might not be clear or you might feel confused or uncertain. Ask God for the light of discernment as you pray this week. Pray for a greater capacity to trust. However, you might also feel as if everything in clear in your life. Pray a prayer of thanksgiving for clarity if this is your lot. Trust God to continue to guide you and lead you. Whether you find yourself in day or night, walking confidently in the noonday sun or stumbling around in the midnight of a new moon, know that God is present and attentive to your needs as you travel.
Meditation Focus: For indeed our God is a consuming fire.
Begin by stilling yourself, finding a comfortable place and posture for reflection. Breathe in deeply through your nose, taking in the presence of God’s Spirit and letting the Spirit fill your mind. Breathe out deeply through your mouth, releasing all of the confusion or preoccupations of the mind. As you continue to breathe deeply, pray silently to God: “God and Creator of my mind center my thoughts upon you.”
Look at the four photographs above. Where do you see God in these images? Is God the small but powerful flame of a candle dismissing the darkness? Is God the mighty fireball overcoming the night with overwhelming glory? Perhaps God is the refiner’s fire, purifying and testing. Maybe God is the raging bonfire, ready to consume all that is within its path.
Imagine yourself in one of these scenarios – slowly awakening to a sliver of light that allows you to see ever more clearly where you were once shrouded in darkness; overcome by heat and fury, yet warmed and enlightened; being dipped within the magma of the firepot, all of your impurities dripping off of you and flowing outward to disappear in the liquid fire; or being overcome by the flames as they overtake your path, feeling their force within the depths of your soul. Smell the sweet aroma of smoke and fragrance as they combine in the air, dancing with peaceful flickers of illumination. See the flash in the night sky as your pupils narrow from the sudden flare. Feel the release of all that is impure as it melts off of your heart and mind. Hear the crackling of the flames as they engulf you, leaving behind the charred and fertile soil of re-creation.
Know that you are in the presence of God. What do you notice about God? What do you realize about yourself? How do you feel? What is God communicating to you? God is a fire, lighting your darkness, warming and guiding you, refining your soul, and consuming all that stands in the way.
Journaling Focus: Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, let us give thanks, by which we offer to God an acceptable worship with reverence and awe.
What an interesting statement to precede the author’s claim that God is a consuming fire! The fire of God is preparing us for “a kingdom that cannot be shaken” through allowing us to live a life of “acceptable worship with reverence and awe.” It seems from this that the fire of God is here to consume all things within us and around us that do not reflect that kingdom. The kingdom of God is unshakable and will survive the consuming presence of the fire of God. The kingdom of God is pure, and will only be made purer by God’s blazing presence. So what is it inside of you that needs to be consumed to allow you to live a life of “acceptable worship with reverence and awe?” What in our world needs to be consumed in order that our world might reflect this “kingdom that cannot be shaken?” Think and reflect on these thoughts as you journal this week. Conclude your journal writing with a written prayer to our consuming-fire-God.
Turn out all the electric lights in a room and light a candle. Sit in its soft glow in silence and in a spirit of meditation. What message does this one little light shining in the darkness communicate to you? Notice how your eyes slowly adjust and your pupils expand to take in more and more light. How much more clearly do you see after five minutes than when you first lighted the candle? Consider the candle to be a symbol of God’s presence with you. How is God filling you with light?
Breath Prayer: Father, burn within us.