People Who Say Such Things: Cloud by Day, Fire by Night


March 30, 2020

Exodus 13:19-22 (NIV)

19 Moses took the bones of Joseph with him because Joseph had made the Israelites swear an oath. He had said, “God will surely come to your aid, and then you must carry my bones up with you from this place.”

20 After leaving Sukkoth they camped at Etham on the edge of the desert. 21 By day the Lord went ahead of them in a pillar of cloud to guide them on their way and by night in a pillar of fire to give them light, so that they could travel by day or night. 22 Neither the pillar of cloud by day nor the pillar of fire by night left its place in front of the people.


Cloud by day. Fire by night.

Overnight the Israelites moved from the complete and total predictability of slavery to the complete and total unpredictability of freedom. They were not following a strategic plan. They had no initiatives, objectives, or goals. They could only follow God. Every single aspect of their predictable lives was gone. What would they do? They would follow God. Where would they go? They would follow God.

21 By day the Lord went ahead of them in a pillar of cloud to guide them on their way and by night in a pillar of fire to give them light, so that they could travel by day or night.

We all crave the rhythms, routines, and schedules of a predictable life. It is not a bad thing, but it can lead to the slow onset of spiritual sleep. Our spirits were made for the movement of faith. We were made to hear and be responsive to the voice of God. Something in us wants to domesticate our faith and turn it into a predictable set of routines, to keep it in a comfortable comfort zone, something that enhances our lives but doesn’t actually control us. It can be a long way from . . . 

Cloud by day. Fire by night. 

O.K., I know I’m stepping on toes there. So what gives? How do we live in an every day world and follow a pillar of cloud by day and a pillar of fire by night? First, it’s not easy. Second, it takes life-support dependence on Word and Spirit. Third, it requires others in close fellowship. Fourth, it means loosening your grip on yourself and your agenda and your aspirations and dreams. Fifth, it means abandoning yourself to Jesus Christ. Sixth, it means struggling mightily at times (i.e. see Jacob). Seventh it takes years. Eighth, it means the fulfillment of all your deepest hopes and longings, only, differently than you ever imagined. Ninth, once you get on this road you won’t turn back and you wouldn’t trade it for anything the world has to offer. 

Cloud by day. Fire by night. 

Jesus shows us what it looks like. “Very truly I tell you, the Son can do nothing by himself; he can do only what he sees his Father doing, because whatever the Father does the Son also does.” (John 5:19)

We are talking about the abiding life. Less, “Help me Jesus,” and more, “Have me Jesus.” We are talking about the narrow way that few find. My hero and mentor, Maxie Dunnam, says it this way, “Most people prefer the hell of a predictable situation rather than risk the joy of an unpredictable one,” and then he says it again. 

Cloud by day. Fire by night. 

I like how Oswald Chambers puts it. 

“Many of us are faithful to our ideas about Jesus Christ, but how many of us are faithful to Jesus Himself? Faith, however, is not intellectual understanding; faith is a deliberate commitment to the Person of Jesus Christ, even when I can’t see the way ahead.”

Cloud by day. Fire by night. 

People who say such things . . . 


Father, I want to be a person who says such things. I confess I am comfortable with my fairly predictable life. Now that all of that is out of the window, I find myself much more open to the joyful unpredictability of following you—cloud by day and fire by night. Release me from my insatiable need to control everything. Come Holy Spirit, and train me to be such a person of faith. I pray in Jesus name, Amen. 


Cloud by day. Fire by night. How does that strike you today? It’s one thing to follow clear directions; quite another to follow someone who clearly knows where they are going. 

For the Awakening,
J.D. Walt

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