Daily Devotional

“The pillar of cloud by day and the pillar of fire by night did not depart from before the people.” - Exodus 13:22 (ESV)

When I was younger – and in much better shape – I used to go on solo backpacking trips in the Sierra mountains.  I would scour the map for a remote lake nestled in a forest and get away for a few days of solitude and prayer.

One year I remember lying in my tent reading through the Book of Exodus.  The warm glow of the sun cast a purple hue through the walls of my tent and I could hear the leaves dancing in the wind outside.  As I lay there in the wilderness, I read about God leading the Israelites through a different wilderness thousands of years earlier.  Coming out of Egypt and passing through the Red Sea, the Israelites were rejoicing.  But they were out in the middle of nowhere, trying to survive in the harsh desert, hungry, afraid, and uncertain about where to go or what to do next.  Except for the fact that God was leading them in a radiant cloud of shekinah glory by day and a blazing pillar of fire by night.
As I read about God’s presence leading the Israelites through wilderness, I sighed: “God, I wish I had that.”  But I sensed the Lord correcting me: “You have something better.”

Several years ago, it was trendy to play a game called “Would You Rather?”  People would ask each other ridiculous questions like, “Would you rather go without shampoo for the rest of your life or toothpaste for the rest of your life?” Or “Would you rather have to speak in rhyme for the rest of your life or speak in riddles for the rest of your life?”
Let me ask you a more serious “Would You Rather” question.  Would you rather have Jesus standing in front of you or living inside of you?  Be honest.

I think most of us would choose option 1.  But in my tent, God showed me that it’s far better to have God dwell inside of us than beside us.
That’s exactly what Jesus told the disciples: “I tell you the truth: it is to your advantage that I go away, for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you. But if I go, I will send him to you” (John 16:7).

Believe it or not, when God led the Israelites through the wilderness in a pillar of fire, they took it for granted.  They grumbled and complained and threatened to go back to Egypt.  They questioned God at every turn.  Even as Moses stood in the furnace of God’s fiery presence on Mount Sinai, the people partied at the foot of the mountain and fashioned a golden calf to worship.

No, it’s much better to become a living temple in which the presence of God abides forever.  When God comes to dwell in us, the Spirit raises us from death to life.  He breaks the chains of sin and circumcises our hearts.  He transforms us from the inside out and impels us rather than compels us.  He’s still a consuming fire, but now his fire cleanses and purifies.  His shekinah glory still leads us, but now it never goes away, and it shines through us, not merely to us.
As you go about your business today, ask yourself if you really believe this.  Ask yourself: “Would I rather have Jesus standing in front of me or living inside of me?”
English Standard Version (ESV) The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. ESV® Text Edition: 2016. Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.
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