191. Led by the Spirit.
Updated: Apr 9, 2022
What a spectacular sight it would have been for the Israelites to behold a glowing pillar of cloud and fire, going ahead of them, leading them through a fearsome desert that they have never traversed before. The guidance was unmistakable for the visible 'Presence' of God was so real. And when they reached Horeb, they got to see the glory of God descend on Mount Sinai and heard for themselves God speak to them. 'When the people saw the thunder and lightning and heard the trumpet and saw the mountain in smoke, they trembled with fear ... And said to Moses, "Speak to us yourselves and we will listen. But do not have God speak to us or we will die." Moses said to the people, "Do not be afraid. God has come to test you so that the fear of God will be with you to keep you from sinning." ( Exodus 20:18-20) But Moses was wrong, since the fear of God didn't stop them from sinning! Before long, they broke most of the commandments by worshipping another god and made an idol; the very thing they were commanded not to make, and took the name of the Lord in vain by declaring a festival unto the Lord and then indulged in revelry ( Hebrew: tsachaq means "to play", which is also used to mean fornication) - Exodus 32:4-6,25. Didn't they hear the law (Torah) for themselves, when God dictated the laws by which they were to live? In fact, the law (Torah) was intended to restrain the people from sinning but instead they sinned all the more! This is what Paul said had happened after the giving of the law. 'Sin, seizing the opportunity afforded by the commandment produced in me every kind of sinful desire. For apart from the law, sin is dead. Once I was alive apart from the law, but when the commandment came, sin sprang to life and I died ... For sin, seizing the opportunity afforded by the commandment, deceived me and through the commandment, put me to death.' (Romans 7:8-11) Inspite of being 'led by the Spirit', they did not 'live according to the Spirit but according to the sinful nature ' (Romans 8:1) and therefore were condemned to die in the desert. They tried to live by the 'letter of the law' but missed the 'spirit of the law' (meaning to obey the literal interpretation of the words or "letter" of the law, but not necessarily the intent of the law.) What has happened to them can happen to us if we do not live by the Spirit. 'For I do not want you to be ignorant of the fact that our forefathers were all under the cloud and they all passed through the sea. They were all baptized into Moses in the cloud and the sea. They all ate the same spiritual food and drank the same spiritual drink ... Nevertheless, God was not pleased with most of them; their bodies were scattered over the desert ... These things happened to them as examples and were written down as warnings for us, on whom the fulfillment of the ages has come.' ( 1 Corinthians 10:1-11) If we think that the sacraments of baptism and communion will save us, then we are in for a surprise! If indeed, rituals could save, then none of them would have perished in the desert! What matters therefore, is to be 'led by the Spirit' and 'live by the Spirit'. These phrases do not mean the same. To be 'led by the Spirit' means the to go the way the Spirit leads but to 'live by the Spirit' means to be driven by his power. While travelling we need to know the direction to our destination as well as have the means to get there. When 'led by the Spirit', we just have to follow cue ( meaning to follow the lead of another) and be in 'step with the Spirit'. The Spirit alone knows the way through this 'wilderness' and will guide us through, until we reach the 'promised land'. Amen.