Reviewing and renewing Biblical faith through story and study

Friday, March 14, 2014

28 Stories - Study 27: Pillars of Presence

Fundamental: God the Holy Spirit

Bible Story 

Moses stood next to Joshua, looking into the Promised Land from their mountain-top vantage point. They had been through a lot together in the past 40 years. Now it was time to hand the leadership of this people -— God’s people -— to the man who God had chosen to lead them into their next phase of reality.
“Why can’t you come with us,” Joshua said, trying to understand the reason Moses had been given from the Lord.
“I’ve already told you, Joshua.” Moses turned and placed his age-spotted hands on the younger man’s shoulders. “I have run the race set before me. God has called you to lead the people into the land of promise. My steps end on this mountain.”
“How will I do it,” Joshua paused to regain his composure, “without you?”
Moses’ face smiled with wisdom, “God is always with us, Joshua, always has been, always will be.”
“You have always been with us,” Joshua said. “God speaks to you. All that we have done, all that we have become is because of your conversations with God. Without you...” a look of terror filled his eyes, “without you, we have no one to tell us God’s words!”
“I am not the only mouthpiece for the Lord!” Moses said. “I am barely worthy of such an honor. Another will be chosen, just as you have been chosen to lead.”
“How am I to lead?” Joshua asked. “How will I know which way to go, when to attack and when to run?”
“God will go with you,” Moses answered. “You have seen Him lead us through this barren desert. The Lord went ahead of us. He guided us during the day with a pillar of cloud, and He provided light at night with a pillar of fire. This allowed us to travel by day or by night. He will remain with the people when I am gone!”
“I remember the first time we saw the pillar of God’s presence,” Joshua said smiling at the memory.
“What is it that you remember?” Moses prodded.
“We were trapped between the Red Sea and the approaching armies of Egypt.”
“That seems like a lifetime ago,” Moses interjected.
“Yes,” Joshua continued, “and then a massive cloud appeared and blocked the view. We couldn’t see them, they couldn’t see us.”
“And then God opened the waters,” Moses closed his eyes visualizing the story he had told a thousand times to the children who were born afterward.
Joshua continued, “The cloud became fire on our side, providing light and cloud on the Egyptian side blocking their view of us. As the cloud moved along behind us, revealing the path we had taken, Pharaoh’s men rushed madly into the open sea corridor.”
Moses couldn’t help interrupting, “But just before dawn the Lord looked down on the Egyptian army from the pillar of fire and cloud, and he threw their forces into total confusion.”
“That’s right,” Joshua said, rubbing his hands together. “Their axles bent, wheels came off, horses went crazy. And then the water closed over them.”
Silence overtook the two men as, lost in the memory of God’s leading in the past, they peered across the Jordan into the land God promised as their future.
“That same God,” Moses said seriously, “will be your guard and your guide in the new land. Just as he came to speak to me in the Sanctuary, so he will come to speak to you.”
“I am unworthy,” Joshua said.
“None are worthy but God himself,” Moses said.
“I remember the cloud hovering at the door of the sanctuary as God spoke to you,” Joshua said.
“So many conversations,” Moses remembered. “So much joy.”
“Your face would glow for days after each encounter!” Joshua said. “It was as if God lived within you.”
“I believe He does,” Moses said. “And within you. It is God’s desire to have His Spirit live within each of us. Just as the cloud of His presence would hover above the Sanctuary  -— as a pillar of cloud by day and fire by night -— so God’s Holy Spirit wishes to hover above and within each of us.”
Joshua considered this thought for sometime before responding. “If that were the case, then we would know when to move and when to stand still.”
“How so?” Moses asked.
“The pillar that hovered above the Sanctuary in the heart of our camp stayed put when we were to stay in one place and it moved away from the Sanctuary when we were to follow it.”
“Keep going,” Moses invited.
“Well,” Joshua was getting excited, “If God’s Spirit lives within our heart, then we should be able to feel when it moves. If we are required to stay still, we should feel a sense of wellbeing in our resting. And if we are to move, we should do so because we feel the Spirit moving, thus tugging us along after it!”
“Sounds like you’ve got a plan,” Moses said. “Just make sure your relationship with God stays strong.”
“Do you think we could loose the connection?” Joshua wondered aloud.
“God has chosen us,” Moses said. “But He also allows us the freedom to choose Him.”
“Will the pillars of God’s presence always guide us, as they have these past forty years?” Joshua asked.
“I don’t know,” Moses said. “But what I do know is that God will always be with His people and He will always send His Spirit to lead them into His will.”
The silence returned and lingered as the two men peered longingly into the Promised Land, both lost in their pondering of God’s leading -— past, present and future.

My Reflection

What do you think Moses would have been thinking as he stared into the Promised Land?

What about Joshua, what might he have been thinking?

Imagine being God. Do you think the transitions from one leader to the next are difficult for God? Do you think He grows attached? Does He get excited about the relationship with the new leader? What might that be like?

My Story

Would you like a pillar of fire or cloud to lead you? Can you imagine a time when it would be a blessing? What about a time when it would be frustrating?

Have you had a time when you felt God leading in your life  — a time when the pillar of presence moved or stayed you —  and you followed that leading? Tell that story.


My Assurance

God has been present and leading His people since the beginning of time in the form of the Holy Spirit. How do these verses give you assurance that the same God who lead Moses through the desert will lead you in your life?

Genesis 1:1-2 ~ In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. The earth was formless and empty, and darkness covered the deep waters. And the Spirit of God was hovering over the surface of the waters.

2 Peter 1:20-21 ~ Above all, you must realize that no prophecy in Scripture ever came from the prophet’s own understanding, or from human initiative. No, those prophets were moved by the Holy Spirit, and they spoke from God.

John 14:16-18 ~ And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate, who will never leave you. He is the Holy Spirit, who leads into all truth. The world cannot receive him, because it isn’t looking for him and doesn’t recognize him. But you know him, because he lives with you now and later will be in you. No, I will not abandon you as orphans—I will come to you.

John 14:26 ~ But when the Father sends the Advocate as my representative—that is, the Holy Spirit—he will teach you everything and will remind you of everything I have told you.

My Commitment

When Jesus declared His mission on Earth he was very specific. Before returning to Heaven, he handed that mission on to His followers. What is that mission? How are we to fulfill it? By what power?

Luke 4:14-21 ~ Then Jesus returned to Galilee, filled with the Holy Spirit’s power. Reports about him spread quickly through the whole region. He taught regularly in their synagogues and was praised by everyone. When he came to the village of Nazareth, his boyhood home, he went as usual to the synagogue on the Sabbath and stood up to read the Scriptures. The scroll of Isaiah the prophet was handed to him. He unrolled the scroll and found the place where this was written: “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, for he has anointed me to bring Good News to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim that captives will be released, that the blind will see, that the oppressed will be set free, and that the time of the Lord’s favor has come.”
He rolled up the scroll, handed it back to the attendant, and sat down. All eyes in the synagogue looked at him intently. Then he began to speak to them. “The Scripture you’ve just heard has been fulfilled this very day!”

Acts 1:8 ~ But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you. And you will be my witnesses, telling people about me everywhere—in Jerusalem, throughout Judea, in Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”

My Outlook

The same Holy Spirit which was present and active at Jesus’ birth and baptism is now active in our lives. What do these verses tell us about the impact the Holy Spirit should have on this world through us? What effect would a people “like Jesus” filled with the Holy Spirit have on planet Earth?

Luke 1:35 ~ The angel replied, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the baby to be born will be holy, and he will be called the Son of God.”

Acts 10:38 ~ And you know that God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and with power. Then Jesus went around doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the devil, for God was with him.

2 Corinthians 3:18 ~ So all of us who have had that veil removed can see and reflect the glory of the Lord. And the Lord—who is the Spirit—makes us more and more like him as we are changed into his glorious image.

John 16:7-9, 13 ~ It is best for you that I go away, because if I don’t, the Advocate won’t come. If I do go away, then I will send him to you. And when he comes, he will convict the world of its sin, and of God’s righteousness, and of the coming judgment. The world’s sin is that it refuses to believe in me. ... “When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all truth. He will not speak on his own but will tell you what he has heard. He will tell you about the future.

My Response

The following statement is the 5th of the 28 fundamental beliefs of the Seventh-day Adventist Church. Review the doctrine and then write a personal response. What difference does this make to your life?

God the Holy Spirit

God the eternal Spirit was active with the Father and the Son in Creation, incarnation, and redemption. He inspired the writers of Scripture. He filled Christ’s life with power. He draws and convicts human beings; and those who respond He renews and transforms into the image of God. Sent by the Father and the Son to be always with His children, He extends spiritual gifts to the church, empowers it to bear witness to Christ, and in harmony with the Scriptures leads it into all truth.

Bible Story

The story of the Holy Spirit in the form of a pillar of cloud and fire is found in Exodus 13 and 14, Numbers 9, 12 and 14, Deuteronomy 1 and 31.

Further Reading

John 15:26-27