Pekudei
For the week of March 8, 2003 / 4 Adar II 5763
Torah: Shemot / Exodus 38:21 - 40:38
Haftarah: 1 Melachim / 1 Kings 7:51 - 8:21
Replaced by: 1 Melachim / 1 Kings 7:40-50

Divine Guidance

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 house of Israel during all their travels (Shemot / Exodus 40:36,37).

God provided special guidance to the people of Israel during their years in the wilderness. Much of the time a supernatural cloud would linger in one place, signifying that the nation was to stay put. At other times, without any warning, it would move, guiding them to their next location.

For forty years this is how the people knew where to go and where to stay. Their travels were not determined by the strategies of their leaders or anyone's nomadic instincts. They also were not controlled by the seasons or their circumstances. God himself was their guide.

Throughout the Scriptures we read of God's supernatural guidance. Through various means he has communicated his directions to his people. Major transitions, military strategies, relational connections, and so on have been initiated and overseen by God.

We could discuss whether or not God guides people today as he did in Bible times, for there may be some reading this who have a faith in God, yet don't believe that he involves himself in human affairs in the same way as he did long ago. For others the issue of God's guidance may be very foreign, simply because they are not even sure that there is a God. While both these issues are certainly relevant, I want to deal with another aspect.

Is divine guidance really necessary? The Bible might be full of some really intriguing stories of human encounters with the divine, but so what? Most of us believe that we can figure out life on our own. Even those who profess a belief in God actually strongly focus on the human natural sphere of life. Spiritual experiences may enhance our lives, but are they truly relevant day to day?

I would like to suggest that our focus, dependency, and satisfaction with the natural things, as well as disregard and skepticism about our need of divine guidance is the result of the past one hundred and fifty years or so of Western thought that has secularized our minds. By secularized I mean that life is understood solely from a natural perspective. God and things supernatural, even when they are accepted as real in some way, are irrelevant to the most important areas of life.

The result of this way of thinking has led to the rejection of God from education, business, relationships, morality, politics, and almost every area of our existence except for what some people call religion (and even thenů).

The Bible doesn't accept this viewpoint. On the contrary, most of the Bible is about the very day to day issues that I just listed.

We need to understand that we exist because of God and his decision to create us and create us with a mission. To keep in step with this mission we need his direct guidance. Therefore his guidance is absolutely essential. Just like the people of Israel in the wilderness, we don't really know where to go next without it. We need to understand that most of us neglect God's guidance, not because it is not available to us, but rather because we have been trained to ignore it.

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