I’d love to grab some manna with Moses. I’d love to pick his humble brain about the weight of leadership, to glean from the rich truths God taught him during those long middle years as he waited in Midian. But, most of all, I’d love to ask him about his experiences of God’s guidance.
As someone who spends many hours processing the mysteries and profundities of God’s will with young adults, and as someone who continues to wonder what I will be “when I grow up,” God’s guidance remains on the forefront of my heart and mind.
Guidance Before Christ’s Coming
Moses knew God’s guidance up close and personal. Really personal. Like, burning-bush-in-your-face and pillar-of-fire-ahead-of-you close.
There wasn’t much doubt how God was leading Moses. He spoke to him after arresting his attention with a strangely burning bush. God sent him to Egypt, with step-by-step instructions, to be an instrument of rescue for God’s enslaved people (Ex. 3–4). God’s calling may not have been easy, but it was pretty clear.
After the miraculous Red Sea crossing, God continued to move ahead of his people in a miraculous and clear way:
And the LORD went before them by day in a pillar of cloud to lead them, and by night a pillar of fire to give them light, that they might travel by day and by night. The pillar of cloud by day and the pillar of fire by night did not depart from before the people. (Ex. 13:21–22)
When wandering to the next encampment by day in the scorching desert sun, God provided a directing cloud to shade and to steer. In the frigid temperatures of dark desert nights, God provided a fire to warm and direct their wandering. Israel’s extremity became God’s opportunity to care for them.
Guidance Since Christ’s Coming
Of course, the cloud and fire were never meant to be permanent. God’s means of guidance to his people before Christ was always provisional and temporary; from before the beginning he knew his ultimate and lasting plan. And on the other side of Christ’s life, death, and resurrection, we have even more sure guidance.
During the feast of Pentecost, Christ’s disciples experienced something that probably reminded them of Moses and the wilderness generation: wind and fire.
And suddenly there came from heaven a sound like a mighty rushing wind, and it filled the entire house where they were sitting. And divided tongues as of fire appeared to them and rested on each one of them. (Acts 2:2–3)
The disciples—and all God’s people who come after them—have been given something far better than writing in the clouds or pillars of smoke and fire. In fact, we don’t have a something at all; we have a someone called the Holy Spirit. Rather than directing our steps from outside, he has chosen to live within us.
While Moses had been led by God through pillars of cloud and fire, we on the other side of Christ’s incarnation have something even better: the indwelling Spirit to guide us.
Guidance for Today
I regularly sit down with college seniors or recent graduates to talk about the will of God and to help them discern next steps. Eventually these conversations lead to a similar sticking point. In earnestness, the friend will say, “I just wish God would write it in the sky or give me a map,” or “If only I could have this conversation with Jesus himself.”
I love getting to share with them the exciting and freeing news that we don’t have to wonder what our destination is. It may feel like we’re wandering aimlessly in the wilderness, but God’s crystal-clear will is that we be conformed to the image of his Son. As Paul wrote to the church in Thessalonica, “This is the will of God: your sanctification” (1 Thess. 4:3).
The destination is clear.
While this does not directly answer the burning questions of which job to take, which person to marry, or which church to attend, it does lift the veil of confusion that stems from a wrong view of God’s will. The revealed will of God is clearly displayed in his Word illumined by his Spirit.
With God’s indwelling Spirit to illumine his Word, we can wisely process the decisions of our lives. We also rely on the wisdom of others—particularly in our church—who also have the Spirit and know his Word. In this way, making decisions can become a sweet process, rather than a frustrating headache, that draws us closer to the Father’s heart.
Now that I think about it, perhaps Moses is looking forward to hearing from you and me. Maybe in heaven our spiritual forefathers and foremothers, who experienced God’s guidance before Christ’s coming, will want to hear stories of his faithfulness in guiding us by his Spirit. All the way home.