Whatever branch of the family faith tree we reside in, most of us hear that we need to follow God. It’s portrayed as a key point of obedience and something of value to God. As such it can be easy for us to skip over the truth: it’s vital to us.
God asks us to follow Him as a means of protection and provision, but from Eden onward we have been plagued with wandering off on our own paths. We’ve looked at his admonition to follow as restrictive, holding us back from good things we don’t want to miss. Isn’t that the same lie the serpent whispered to Eve in Eden?
All these years later, we still believe that might be true far more often than we want to admit or even realize sometimes. It’s that nature we inherited when Adam and Eve first decided to go their own way wondering if God was withholding something good from them.
Following Him has always been about love and less about limits. Limits were a means of expressing his love so we would not be harmed and discover his goodness.
Ever since Eden God has been trying to get that key point across to us and it is one of the things we hear Jesus say in the New Testament, “Follow me.”
It can be easy to suggest we aren’t sure where He wants us to go. We don’t have a neon sign lighting the way nor a voice like Charlton Heston in the movie, The Ten Commandments. We also don’t have what led the way for the Israelites after they left Egypt and built the tabernacle − a cloud that lifted above the tabernacle when it was time to move and fire that burned in the cloud when it moved by night.
So many thousands of years later, do we still need a cloud? Did we learn nothing from that story we read in the Old Testament in Exodus?
We see a clear picture of how often the story makes clear that it is never a good idea to follow your own path if God is there to lead. Over and over again the story of God written in the Bible shows us our role with Him is that of a follower if we choose Him as ours. His path demonstrated that He was a good leader full of reward and blessing if we followed.
The Old Testament is filled with visible symbols that point to an invisible God, but when He came to earth as Jesus He “showed us a better way” and He wanted to indwell our hearts rather than light a fire in a cloud above. He desired an intimate relationship with us that got broken in Eden.
The earthly ministry of Jesus gave us a living picture of God so we would be clear on the truth and when He ascended into heaven after his resurrection, his plan was not to leave us without help. He exhorted the disciples to look for and wait for the Holy Spirit who would make Jesus manifest in our hearts and whose leading and nudges would show us how and where to follow.
That requires us to listen. The Holy Spirit’s voice isn’t loud and demanding, but quiet. He gives us prompts to encourage us on the path we are to take, the words we are to say. To hear Him means to come close and invite Him to be close − it’s the only way we can hear Him.
How do we know it is Him you might ask? I think the best answer is to come to know God’s story well by reading the Bible regularly and without jumping passages or portions. That way when we sense that nudge we can compare that to what we already know of Him in the Bible. If it sounds like, looks like, etc. Him, then we grow in confidence. That can help us come to grips with this God, this Jesus, and know we should not be caught off-guard by the surprising way He may take us.
Isaiah illuminates that truth in Isaiah 55:8-9 (NIV):
“For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,” declares the Lord. “As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.”
Following God is sure to be an adventure and on the journey we will come to know Him better and He will help us to discover things about ourselves we will be sure to miss without Him. It will never be boring.
Do we really need a cloud (or want one)?