Why Standing Stones?

Why Standing Stones?

In ancient Israel, people stood stones on their end to commemorate a powerful move of God in their lives. It was a memorial to something God spoke or revealed or did. Often these standing stones became reference points in their lives. Today, we can find reference points in the written Word of God. Any scripture or sermon can speak something powerful into our lives, or reveal something of the nature of God. In this blog I offer, what can become a reference point for Christians, taken from God's ancient word and applied to today's world.

Tuesday, October 4, 2016

The Presence of God

You know, I love being a Christian, really.  I’ve been at this about 25 years, now.  I’ve come to know God.  I know what He does in my life.  I’ve felt His protection.  I’ve felt His guidance.  I understand what my life would be like if I had never met Jesus.  Today, I want to look at a moment of history, (The Bible is a history book.), and I want to examine how God works in our lives.

This is the deliverance of Israel from Egypt and their journey through the desert to the Promised Land.

Exodus 13:21-22 (NKJV)
13:21 And the Lord went before them by day in a pillar of cloud to lead the way, and by night in a pillar of fire to give them light, so as to go by day and night. 22 He did not take away the pillar of cloud by day or the pillar of fire by night from before the people.

The Presence of God in our Lives

Israel had suffered under the bondage of slavery in Egypt for many years.  They had gone there in victory, but over the years ended up as slaves to oppressive taskmasters.  God heard their groaning and reached into their lives to bring them out to a “land flowing with milk and honey”:  A land of Promise – A land full of God’s grace.

This is a historical event.  This actually happened in history, but it is also a metaphor for what God has done in our lives.  It’s a story about Israel’s deliverance from slavery and bondage, but it’s also a picture of our deliverance from sin.

God saw the suffering of sin in our lives.  He heard the groaning from Satan’s oppression and He sent a deliverer – Jesus – to deliver us from bondage.  Moses is a type of Jesus.  That means he’s an Old Testament picture of Jesus.  He brought God’s chosen people out of bondage.  We are chosen.  Jesus said, “You did not choose me, but I chose you…” (John 15:16).  He brought us out of the bondage of sin.

What’s important about the deliverance of Israel is that God didn’t just deliver them and leave them on their own.  His presence was noticeable in their lives.  It could be seen; it could be felt.  It was a pillar of cloud by day and a pillar of fire by night and our text tells us that God stayed with them.  He didn’t abandon them:

“He didn’t take away the pillar of cloud by day, or the pillar of fire by night from the people.”

God was present in their lives to guide them and protect them – And He will be in our lives, as well.

Hebrews 13:5b-6 (NKJV)
13:5  …For He Himself has said, "I will never leave you nor forsake you." 6 So we may boldly say: "The Lord is my helper; I will not fear. What can man do to me?"

The Lord is my helper, I will not fear. 
God guided them on the journey.
        God protected them from Pharaoh’s army.
        God provided Manna in the desert.
        God gave them water in the desert.
        God fought alongside them to win the Promised Land.
God was there for Israel throughout their journey.  You are no less chosen than Israel as God’s people.

John 1:12 (NKJV)
1:12 But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, to those who believe in His name:

You have been given the right to be the children of God.  So, God has chosen you, as well.  Like a parent chooses an adopted child.  God will also guide, protect, provide, and fight alongside you. 

Israel could look up and see the pillar of cloud.  They could look up and see the pillar of fire.  They could see that God was with them, “There’s God; He’s still here – still leading us.  He’s still present in our lives.”  These days we live by faith.  There is no actual pillar of cloud.  We can’t look up and see a pillar of fire by night, but we can see the evidence of God’s presence working in our lives, at least we should be able to.  Can you see God moving there? 

Is there something you can point to and say, “If I didn’t have God, I wouldn’t have this or that in my life?”  Maybe your marriage would be a mess.  Maybe you wouldn’t have the job that you have.  Maybe you wouldn’t have the opportunities that you have now.  Those things are the pillars of God in your life.  They’re the visible evidence of the presence of God in your life.  You should be able to see those things that God is doing and say, “There’s God – God is still there – He’s still guiding me.”

Do you know what, though?  Israel, even though there was a tangible presence of God, there:  Even though they could look up and see evidence of God’s presence, they still for got that He was there.  They were always complaining:
At the Red Sea – You brought us out here to die!  At the bitter water – You brought us out here to die!  When they got hungry – You brought us out here to die!

“Hey look God is here but…”

They had it easy – There was God, cloud, and fire.  It’s harder for us, because we don’t have that; we can’t see that.  Even though God moved powerfully in our lives, we forget about the mercy and blessing of God.

Let’s face it, things go wrong in our lives; we get sick; we get laid off.  There are tragedies in our lives and we forget about God’s presence and what He’s done for us, but God is still there for us.

He Guides and Protects Us!

God Guides

Exodus 40:36-38 (NKJV)
40:36 Whenever the cloud was taken up from above the tabernacle, the children of Israel would go onward in all their journeys. 37 But if the cloud was not taken up, then they did not journey till the day that it was taken up. 38 For the cloud of the Lord was above the tabernacle by day, and fire was over it by night, in the sight of all the house of Israel, throughout all their journeys.

So, God gave direction and guidance to Israel.  When God moved, they moved.  If God didn’t move, neither did they.  God orchestrated their movement to the Promised Land.  He brought them out of the bondage and then guided them to that land of promise.  They moved as God did.

We’ve been delivered.  God brought us out of the Egypt of sin.  The problem is that we don’t always wait for God to move before we move.  We try to anticipate God, “God will want this, maybe not now but in the future.”  Or we think for God, “I will make this happen.”  Or God says sat and we go anyway.  Instead of waiting for direction from God we run off without thought or prayer as to God’s plan, and we can actually end up at cross-purposes with God; working against Him instead of allowing Him to work with us.  Look at what the Bible says about waiting on God’s plan:

Isaiah 40:31 (NKJV)
40:31 But those who wait on the Lord Shall renew their strength; They shall mount up with wings like eagles, They shall run and not be weary, They shall walk and not faint.

I’ve said this at least a million times:  God has a plan for your life.  He knows how to bring it to pass, but the biggest impediment to God moving in our lives is thatwe can’t wait on God’s timing.  We want I tall on our timing.  We need to let God direct.

Psalms 37:23-24 (NKJV)
37:23 The steps of a good man are ordered by the Lord, And He delights in his way. 24 Though he fall, he shall not be utterly cast down; For the Lord upholds him with His hand.

There may be struggle and turmoil or even failure, but the scripture tells us that even in the midst of that God will be there.

God Protects

Exodus 14:19-20 (NKJV)
14:19 And the Angel of God, who went before the camp of Israel, moved and went behind them; and the pillar of cloud went from before them and stood behind them. 20 So it came between the camp of the Egyptians and the camp of Israel. Thus it was a cloud and darkness to the one, and it gave light by night to the other, so that the one did not come near the other all that night.

This is a moment of great danger for Israel.  They’re trapped – The Red Sea is in front of them and the Egyptian army is bearing down on them.  They’re frightened, they’re crying out and God does something powerful, here.  God moves His position from in front of them to behind in order to protect them.  God takes a position in order to trouble Egypt

Not only is God a leader, but God is also a protector.  He’s there for Israel – He fights for Israel.  He keeps Israel’s enemies from destroying them.  Have you experienced that in your life?  Has God ever stuck up for you?  This is one of David’s prayers:  That God would deliver him and protect him from his enemies.

Psalms 26:1-3 (NKJV)
26:1 A Psalm of David. Vindicate me, O Lord, For I have walked in my integrity. I have also trusted in the Lord; I shall not slip. 2 Examine me, O Lord, and prove me; Try my mind and my heart. 3 For Your lovingkindness is before my eyes, And I have walked in Your truth.

That’s been my prayer before!  When enemies have tried to destroy me:  When my character and integrity has been assaulted.  I’ve cried out that prayer, “Vindicate me God!”  God has fought for me.  God has helped me.  God has troubled my enemies.  He took time out from guiding m to protect me, like he did for Israel at the Red Sea.

God is faithful above all things.  We need God’s presence in our lives.  We need Hi guidance to bring us to where we need to be. – The Kingdom of God – The land of Promise.  We also need His protection to fight for us against the enemy of our salvation.  That’s who Pharaoh is in all of this: The enemy of Israel’s deliverance.  Satan plays the role of Pharaoh in our lives and God will STAND for us.

The Faithfulness of God

Nehemiah 9:19 (NKJV)
9:19 Yet in Your manifold mercies You did not forsake them in the wilderness. The pillar of the cloud did not depart from them by day, To lead them on the road; Nor the pillar of fire by night, To show them light, And the way they should go.

God was there for them for the entire journey.  He didn’t forsake them in the wilderness.  This is a hard thing for us, because we always think:

God’s mad at me!
God’s abandoned me!
Where’s God in all of this?

The Bible tells us that God is there:  That God will always be there.  We can trust God for His guidance and protection. 

I don’t know where I’d be if I didn’t have God’s presence in my life.  I can’t see a pillar of cloud or a pillar of fire, but I can see the miracles God has done.  The life and testimony that I have is visible evidence of the presence of God in my life.  There’s evidence of God’s presence in your life too.  I wonder if you can see it.  If you can see it, when are you going to trust Him?

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