Aug 15 2011 - E100.20a – Exodus 13:17-22, A people led by God
It is vital that the Children of Israel understand who has brought them out of captivity in Egypt and who is leading them to the Promised Land. It is not Moses, it is the Lord himself. This is made clear to the Israelites through a visible symbol of the Lord's presence; a pillar of fire and smoke which never left its place at the head of the party of travellers. By day it looked like rising smoke, or a pillar of cloud. By night it appeared as a pillar of fire which lit up the way ahead of them.
By this means the Lord led them in the way they were to go; not leading them by the most direct coastal route, which would heve taken them through hostile Philistine territory, but taking them towards the Red Sea. This route will also provide the context for God to demonstrate his power in saving his people and destroying the Egyptians.
Today's passage also tells us that the Israelites took with them the bones of Joseph to be buried eventually in the Promised Land. In this they fulfilled his dying wish; a wish which the writer of the letter to the Hebrews includes as a wonderful example of faith (Hebrews 11:22). Joseph believed that God would fulfil the promises he had made to Abraham and to his father, Jacob, and he believed that though he would die, he also would share in the blessings to come.
We are also called to be a pilgrim people; a people led by God towards the inheritance he has promised us. His presence with us may not be visible in a pillar of fire and smoke, but it is none-the-less real. He leads us by his word and by his Spirit. His word sheds light upon our path and directs our steps. His Spirit calls us on, reminds us that Jesus is with us, and shows us his glory. He calls us to follow him in every step of this present life and to be confident that, even though we may die, we shall share in the blessings to come.
Lord God, I often wish that you would lead me visibly as you did the Israelites. Help me to trust the promises of your word and to know that you are with me by your Spirit. Make plain to me the path that I should tread and help me to follow faithfully in the footsteps of my Saviour.