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Exodus 13:17-22, The Pillars of Cloud and Fire

A God of the Missed Opportunities

Narrative Lectionary Daily Devotions written by Kace Leetch from Clergy Stuff.

The Israelites were in a precarious place on their journey to freedom. God knew that if they were faced with another oppressive regime too soon, they might retreat back to the tormentors they knew instead of facing oppressors they could not yet predict. God led them safely, and God's presence by cloud and fire were with them day and night. God did not let them wander into more danger than they were prepared to handle.

Sometimes I marvel at the opportunities I never took -- the ones where I later learned that they would have been devastating if I had taken them. I think of one job I was offered but declined. Three years later, the leader of the organization left abruptly and in an ugly way, taking half the people with him, decimating the organization and tearing apart lifelong relationships. I am grateful not to have been stuck in the middle of such a devastating journey. I wonder about all the flights I never took, the relationships I did not pursue, and the cities I never lived in. Did God know that those might have been very poor decisions for me? Did God steer me clear of them?

It's easy to focus on the things that have happened in my life that I regret. But sometimes it's also comforting to consider all the things that did not happen to me or the people I love because God kept us safe from them. It makes me grateful to know that God works in ways I will never even know, but I do know God's got my back. Thanks, God!

Narrative Lectionary Text: Exodus 13:17-22

When Pharaoh let the people go, God did not lead them by way of the land of the Philistines, although that was nearer; for God thought, “If the people face war, they may change their minds and return to Egypt.” So God led the people by the round about way of the wilderness toward the Red Sea. The Israelites went up out of the land of Egypt prepared for battle. And Moses took with him the bones of Joseph who had required a solemn oath of the Israelites, saying, “God will surely take notice of you, and then you must carry my bones with you from here.” They set out from Succoth, and camped at Etham, on the edge of the wilderness. The Lord went in front of them in a pillar of cloud by day, to lead them along the way, and in a pillar of fire by night, to give them light, so that they might travel by day and by night. Neither the pillar of cloud by day nor the pillar of fire by night left its place in front of the people.

Earlier Event: October 4
Exodus 12:29-42, Death of the Firstborn
Later Event: October 6
Exodus 14:1-25, Crossing the Red Sea