In this story we're going to be looking at when the Israelites followed the pillar of cloud and smoke through the wilderness. A literal sign and direction as to where they were meant to be heading, to stop and stay or to go.
Many of us are looking for a literal sign, that gives us clear direction as to where God wants our life to go. And for some of us that goes so far has where we should travel, how we should travel, when we should travel?
We're going to be unpacking that a little bit, but first I want to talk about a time I really wrestled with a decision.
One of the many scenarios, when I think a lot of us are looking for a sign from God, is when we are recent graduates from college. When I graduated, I was trying to decide where I should go next. I had two job offers on the table from different Christian organizations: one a church in Iowa and one a school in New Jersey. I could have gone to either of them or I could have gone and traveled the world for a year. That was my first inclination. And it has always been my inclination, but God had some other things in store.
For instance, right about the time that I was supposed to be making this decision, I started dating again. Not just anyone. Someone I had dated in college. Over the past 4 years we had matured drastically! God had work some incredible life skills into both of us. That man who's now my husband!
Now, there could have been other individuals that I would have met, had I gone to New Jersey, but by moving to Iowa our long distance relationship was only three hours apart instead of 24 plus. It made it a little bit more realistic to invest in the relationship that God had given me at that point in time.
Do I believe that in every scenario - we need to give up our dreams or ambitions for others? Certainly not. My boyfriend, now husband, wasn't asking that of me. He would have supported me in any decision, but I knew that raveling the world, being on different time schedules, would make it hard to invest in that relationship. Really hard.
So I was sitting there pondering which is the best way to go and really struggling because I wasn't super thrilled about any choice. I had pros and cons for every choice, so I was looking for a sign.
I remember one night where I flipped coins trying to decide between places and then one of my professors asked me, "Did you flip the coin multiple times? If it lands a heads or tails once that's a great, but if it repeatedly lands on a certain head or tail then it's actually evidence that the spirit is directing you in a certain direction." So I tried again and what do you know it was 50-50 every single time.
What I think God was saying is that there was no right or wrong answer. That He would use me no matter where I was going. But maybe I'm getting ahead of myself, so let's jump to Numbers 9:15-23 and take a look at this story.
But before we do that I do want to recap for you just a little bit about what's been going on in the story.
This Israelites have been freed from Egypt, they crossed the Red Sea, and now they are wandering in the wilderness. Recently, the Lord instructed them to build the tabernacle, or in other words a large tent, with incredibly specific dimensions, colors, fabrics, and materials that would be a dwelling place for the Lord (similar to a church). And the tabernacle was one of the many things that they would transport with them from destination to destination, just like the Ark of the Covenant.
Now, how they knew when to go, where to go, all of it; when the Lord appeared to them He appeared to them by a pillar of cloud by day and a pillar of fire by night. Sometimes the pillar would rest over the tabernacle for days on end, so the people would camp out there for very extended periods of time. It could be for days, weeks, months, or even years! But when it moved, they moved. And that required a lot of trust.
Sometimes when we're so desperate for a sign from God we might look at this story and think "Oh, how easy their life must have been!" Maybe. But I think it also required a lot of trust. They knew that their end destination was the Promised Land, but if they took any time to talk with the locals, if they looked at any map, there was clearly a much more direct way to get there.
But the Lord had promised it to them at the right time. And when He first led them there, they doubted the Lord. They didn't believe that they could win it from the giants, so the Lord forced them to wander for 40 years until the oldest generation had passed away. They would never get to see the Promised Land.
So they camped when the Lord stopped. They moved when the Lord moved. In the fact, that there was a pillar of fire meant sometimes that meant walking through the night. But the whole time that they walked and wandered their feet never swelled up and the Lord always provided what they needed.
As I stopped to look at the story I thought what a simple life they have how does this even applied to us as travelers today we aren't wandering the world with pillars of fire and smoke guiding us everywhere. And so many people are desperately looking for signs but yet, they don't think that they have the there the kind of sign that they're hoping. They flip a coin and it lands 50-50 and the Lord is letting them make their own decision, to use the free will given them to let them choose any path.
So I took a little bit deeper dive on this and.
This pillar was God manifesting himself for the people. (There's a fancy word for that theophanies, when the Lord manifests for us.) We see this happen time and time again, especially back in Genesis, where they heard Jesus walking in the garden, when he appeared to Abraham and told them that he would have a son, etc. There's many examples of this.
What does this actually look like today?
This question brought my intention to another Bible passage, this one being in John 14:15 - 30. This is where Jesus promises the Holy Spirit. Right after telling the people that he is the way the truth and the life.
He tells the disciples that right now you have him he's here on earth and he's with them, but when he leaves he will ask the Father to send a Helper (the Holy Spirit.) And it will even come with a Spirit of Truth, one the world cannot receive, but believers can receive. He promises that we will not be orphans on this earth, but we will be children of God.
Then in verse 21, he tells us that those who keep commands and love Him, will be loved by the Father and Jesus will love them and manifest to them.
Now manifestation it's a weird word, and honestly I've seen our culture use it super poorly. Lately, there's been this trend: I will manifest things in my life because it's what I think about. And while there's some truth in there, because God gives us free will and what we think on is what scripture will become our words and our actions. But many people are treating it as a prosperity gospel: "I'm going to manifest a certain kind of income. " "I'm going to manifest certain things in my life." And the god that they're worshipping is themselves!
Yes, God wants us to catch our sinful thoughts and think about things that are worshipful of Him, and to be honest with Him when we need a pay raise - when we need anything in our life! However, when we think that this manifestation in our life comes from ourselves, that is not what the Bible talks about! Scripture talks about God being present and manifesting for us - because we love Him and follow his commands.
So then this made me wonder, what does it actually look like for God to manifest in our lives, which led me to two different Bible verses. The first being in 1 Corinthians 3 :16-17.
Do you not know that you are God's temple and that God's Spirit dwells in you? If anyone destroys God's temple, God will destroy him. For God's temple is holy, and you are that temple. (ESV)
Because you are a temple, because your place of dwelling place of the Lord - the Holy Spirit is inside of you! Because you love God and follow HIs commands, His spirit dwells within you! You are the dwelling place.
Which the fact that the lord is dwelling in you it means I need to backtrack a little bit back to Numbers 9.
During this time, the pagans believed that gods dwelled in certain territories. Therefore God, the Heavenly Father , God the Creator of the Universe - it made sense with their logic to understand that God lived inside of the tabernacle, or temple, or tent that went with them. Only certain priests were allowed to go inside the tabernacle because that was very close and intimate relationship with the Lord. People feared that they would die if they looked upon God's face, which Scripture says is what happens...
Fast forward to when Jesus is walking on this earth. He says that he will destroy the temple and rebuild it in three days. The people are thinking of the physical temple, where they go to worship. "How will you destroy it and rebuild in 3 days? It's taken years to build!" But Jesus was talking about himself. That he would be the sacrifice that would die and rise again in 3 days. And he's upon the cross...
The Lord had always instructed (to protect the people) that we're the actual altar was so to be hidden from the congregation with a 6 foot tick curtain (approximately). Picture you congregation and the altar at the front. There was a thick curtain there protecting God from seeing your sins as you worshiped. It was a big representation.
When Jesus died, there was an earthquake and that curtain was torn in two. Thereby signifying to the people that God is no longer just in this temple. He is everywhere on this earth!
So when Jesus says here that he will manifest and he will send his Holy Spirit - that means that you can be a temple. That wherever you go God goes with you. (I mean God is literally everywhere.) But when you go out and talk and interact with people you are a temple. You are a place where you get to shine God's light, where the Holy Spirit is speaking through you, where he is pointing you in a direction - just like a pillar of cloud pillar of fire, what to say what to do. When we're in close relationship with god we get to rely on that. But this isn't the only verse that talks about what it looks like for Christ to manifest to us.
The other Bible verse is in Ephesians 2:22 which says
In him you also are being built together into a dwelling place for God by the Spirit. (ESV)
This means that you being a dwelling place for the Spirit is not just you on your own. It also means that you are not stagnant it means of the Holy Spirit is constantly working on you, as He is working on all other believers. Together, you're building a temple, a place for the Lord to gather. You make that tabernacle, the church. This is where church is not a building - it is people.
God dwelling in us is not just this stagnant thing, it changes us constantly. And if you are looking for a sign - if you're looking for direction - God may give you the exact same answer he gave me which is He'll use you in any scenario. But He can also be guiding you on how to best serve Him in whatever scenario you're in, because He is dwelling inside of you and that's super exciting! You don't have to follow the tabernacle around, so that you feel like you can stay close to God because He's already with you.
This changes how we travel.
Because we know that when we go worship with Christians around the world we're participating in God's church, we're participating in His holy temple around the world.
This changes how we travel, because we know that how we live, in all scenarios, is a reflection of our faith and our relationship with God. We don't want to taint His temple. We don't want to take travel and turn it into this thing that just because no one's watching - I can do whatever. The Spirit within us is watching, and as such, we live and love in respect to God.
I find this very exciting. We go from looking for signs and having to trust and stick super close to something physical to knowing He's within us, and that He manifests Himself for us because we're HIs temple.
Would you pray with me?
Lord, we thank you for manifesting yourself among us. For being our guide and our leader. For showing us love, and mercy, and compassion, what that looks like. Lord ,I want to lift up these Christian travelers, and I ask that you help them to see Your direction today, tomorrow, and in all of their adventures. Lord, please help us to shine your light wherever we go. In your name we pray, Amen.
Well Christian travelers I do have one other point in question but before I get to that I want to once again put your to our website www.christiantravelers.net - there you'll find other faith and travel resources. If you are a ministry leader, one of the big things we want to share with you right now is that we have a ministry kit that comes with all the activity supplies, devotions, and things you need to plan a group trip. Participants will come homing knowing that they are a dwelling place for the Lord and that they can rest in God's presence. Additionally, if you're solo traveler and you're looking for resources to help you travel with God in mind - we do have awesome travel devotionals and we're working on planning our next group trip! It's an opportunity for you to gather with this holy temple from around the world as you explore God's creation.
But my final thought and question is this: Have you been acting as a temple of the lord? Have you been acting as a temple of the Lord?
This is a great joy and great responsibility. Living in a way that honors the Lord in everything you do. Knowing that He is giving you a Spirit of Truth. Something that the world will reject but as Christians, we are to accept. Sometimes that Spirit of Truth stings. It hurts because we want to love everyone how the world says we're supposed to.
Christ loved in radical ways. He showed compassion on people that others neglected. He didn't fit any uniform box and the Pharisees did not like that. He is a great example of what being a temple for the Lord looks like.
As you travel, as you journey to the grocery store, on vacation, around the world. How are you going to be a temple for the Lord?
Thank you so much for listening to this podcast.
Until next time, safe travels & God Bless!