Summary: The Israelites walk into the desert - directed by God. God knows the way, God shows the way, God holds the day. Focus on graduation.
Exodus 13:17-22 New Revised Standard Version (NRSV)
17 When Pharaoh let the people go, God did not lead them by way of the land of the Philistines, although that was nearer; for God thought, “If the people face war, they may change their minds and return to Egypt.” 18 So God led the people by the roundabout way of the wilderness toward the Red Sea.[a] The Israelites went up out of the land of Egypt prepared for battle. 19 And Moses took with him the bones of Joseph who had required a solemn oath of the Israelites, saying, “God will surely take notice of you, and then you must carry my bones with you from here.” 20 They set out from Succoth, and camped at Etham, on the edge of the wilderness. 21 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, so that they might travel by day and by night. 22 Neither the pillar of cloud by day nor the pillar of fire by night left its place in front of the people.
We have been following the story of the Israelites since the birth of Moses. Here they are, Free at last. They are walking into the wilderness. Our theme thought for today is this, when we walk into the future,
God knows the way. God Shows the way. God Holds the Day.
As we approach the end of the school year and Graduation, I couldn’t help but remember the moments when I graduated. First there was High School, then much later, College and my Master’s Program. What I remember at those moments was the feeling of freedom, much like the Israelites must have felt. I was no longer bound to studies and school, I was free.
I distinctly remember that feeling about 12 years ago when I went to the post office to drop off my very last paper in the mail. I walked out with a light heart. Graduation would be later, but that last task being over, my heart sang with joy. I did it!
There was a Hallmark store in the shopping center, and I stopped there as I walked home. There on the shelf was a delicate dancing figure that spoke to what I felt. It exuberated joy!. I couldn’t help but buy it.
As all of us know, those moments of feeling our freedom are fast and fleeting.
Our graduates in the next few days will discover that while there is life and freedom after school, the feeling of freedom is short lived. For some there will be college and post graduate school. For others, there is the new challenge of finding a job and taking on those responsibilities. Some may know where they are headed, others are simply trying to figure it out.
The truth is, an ending of one thing is always a beginning of another.
And so we find our Israelites today. They are leaving Egypt and beginning a new relationship with God. We read that God directed them the long way around so that they would be safe from the Philistines. We read that God appeared as a cloud during the day and a pillar of fire at night.
There comes a day in every believer’s life when the same thing happens. They accept Jesus as their personal savior. They turn their back on sin, and head out into the wilderness of the future. They joy they feel may be as intense as the joy felt by a graduate.
And as they begin their journey, things are clear and their path is certain. God’s voice and direction surround them, keeping them from danger and leading them into a new world of freedom.
God knows the way.
We spoke at the beginning of this series about the fact that God has a plan. Here in this passage we see this in a different way.
The Israelites don’t know where they are going, but they don’t have to. God knows the way.
Psalm 139 speaks it so well. Verse 16 tells us that: “In your book were written all the days that were formed for me, when none of them as yet existed.”
Scientists will tell you something important. Time did not exist before the universe was created. God created time, and God exists outside of time. That is a scary and confusing thought when you think about it.
But it is also a comforting thought, again when you think about it. There is nothing that will happen to us that God doesn’t already know.
My personal journey from High School to Pulpit Ministry was about 35 years, almost as long as the Israelites spent in the wildness.