I was at a crossroads a few years ago in the months before my divorce was final. I had a choice to stay here in Georgia or move to be closer to my family up North. Month upon agonizing month I struggled with the weight of it, and the only thing I really knew to do was to listen to this Third Day song as I ran on the treadmill–at least on a treadmill, there is an illusion of going somewhere…
But I know I’m not the only one who has been in a barren place: as the Israelites moved from place to place in the desert, they had a visible sign of the Lord’s guidance:
Exodus 13:21-22 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 by night. Neither the pillar of cloud by day nor the pillar of fire by night left its place in front of the people.
And we know that the very presence of the Lord dwelt in their place of worship later on in Exodus:
Exodus 40:34-38 Then the cloud covered the tent of meeting, and the glory of the Lord filled the tabernacle. Moses could not enter the tent of meeting because the cloud had settled on it, and the glory of the Lord filled the tabernacle.
In all the travels of the Israelites, whenever the cloud lifted from above the tabernacle, they would set out; but if the cloud did not lift, they did not set out—until the day it lifted. So the cloud of the Lord was over the tabernacle by day, and fire was in the cloud by night, in the sight of all the Israelites during all their travels.
I am reminded of all this as our study in I Kings moves along to chapter eight. Solomon dedicates the temple, this structure that took seven years to build. It required more gold, precious wood, manpower and skill than we could possibly imagine. God was pleased with this massive undertaking and it’s completion. When the ark was finally brought to the temple and set in the Most Holy Place, we see:
I Kings 8:10 When the priests withdrew from the Holy Place, the cloud filled the temple of the Lord. And the priests could not perform their service because of the cloud, for the glory of the Lord filled the temple.
There it goes, every time I read or write that very verse, my hearts swells with emotion, God was so pleased that nothing else could fill that Most Holy Place. What are we trying to fit into our most holy place–self-glory, recognition, worry, fear? We have to let the Lord fill that space. Him and Him alone. The priests and kings and people of the land can look on in wonder and we will know that we have something far greater alive within us. How amazing is that? Maybe then the way will seem a little clearer?
Maybe you’re thinking: wouldn’t it be kind-of nice to still have that pillar of cloud here today? When His presence hovered over a certain church, a life-mate or even the right car to purchase? Wait a minute, he does, because according to Romans 8:9-10, “You, however, are controlled not by the sinful nature but by the Spirit, if the Spirit of God lives in you.” and Romans 5:5b: “…because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us.” Do you realize the power in these two verses? Especially, the first? The very spirit of God abides, lives, moves, takes charge in us.
So, no, we do not have a pillar of cloud or of fire, but we have the presence of our Almighty God LIVING in us.
Which begs the question: how are we showing that fiery presence to those around us?