At the Feast of Booths the people would gather around the temple treasury celebrating how the Lord guided (carried) Israel out of slavery in Egypt, through the Wilderness and into the Promised Land. Part of this celebration included 4 enormous 86-foot tall pillars with a massive fire on top, representing the “pillars of fire” (Exodus 13) that led God’s People. It was here, at this time, that Jesus proclaimed “I am the light of the world!” (John 8:12). He was not just being artistic and interesting. He was boldly proclaiming that HE was the same Lord that led the people out of Slavery and into Life. He was proclaiming His Divinity in a personal, practical and purposeful way. It was a shocking and world-altering proclamation!
What does that have to do with us?
Our whole lives are filled with Wilderness experiences. This side of heaven we have been brought from slavery to sin by the life, death and resurrection of Jesus…but we haven’t fully made it to the ultimate promised land yet. In this “in between time” Jesus, the pillar of fire, the Light, is the one going before us. Should be easy-peasy, right. Clearly not. We all get so easily distracted by other lights in this world, inviting us to follow them down other paths.
One of the strangest fish has to be the Angler Fish. This little guy lives super deep in the ocean where there is essentially NO light. In the Lord’s mind-boggling creativity this fish has a little lantern coming out of his forehead, dangling in front of his mouth. So when little fish see it, they are drawn to it like a moth to a flame…and into the awaiting mouth of the Angler.
In this dark world I look for lights…What do I do? Where do I go?
In this dark world I am ashamed of my own darkness…Why did I do that? Why did I say that?
When this happens, I have “light options” in front of me, one leading to life and the others leading to death.
I can turn to basic intuition (which the Lord certainly uses). But sometimes the Lord has a stranger faith-path.
When confronted with my own darkness, I can turn to religion and promise to do better and/or rationalize my behavior.
Or I can enter into the fire as the fire enters into me. There is not a magical prayer or secret combination of scripture passages. It is quite simply (yet often elusively) abiding with Jesus. He has entered the darkest of darknesses on the cross (even as it was dark over all the land from noon until 3 while he hung there) which means that he has also personally entered our personal darkness and our personal wilderness. His still, small voice speaks to us through the Spirit, His Word and His People to guide us, prod us, heal us and carry us home.
He is still the pillar of fire. And in the end…
22 And I saw no temple in the city, for its temple is the Lord God the Almighty and the Lamb. 23 And the city has no need of sun or moon to shine on it, for the glory of God gives it light, and its lamp is the Lamb. 24 By its light will the nations walk, and the kings of the earth will bring their glory into it, 25 and its gates will never be shut by day—and there will be no night there.