We’ve just been on holiday with some friends on a canal boat in the middle of England. I’ve had river holidays before, when I was young, but this was a first time on a ‘narrow boat’, as they are called, for all of us. It took a bit of getting used to the width of the canal, the relative narrowness of the boat and the length of the vessel (44 feet – about 13 metres). It’s steered from a steering oar, or tiller, at the stern, and the person steering has to make sure that the boat’s pointing in the right direction a long time before actually getting to the place one’s aiming for.
Several times we were approaching a sudden bend in the canal, or a blind bend under a low and narrow bridge, without being able to see what was coming in the opposite direction. It was at these times that we, who were steering, were very grateful to the ‘crew’, who were sitting in the foremost part of the boat, looking at the amazing scenery and wild life, which we were slowly passing. When they saw a restriction in visibility coming up, one of these wonderful ladies would appear over the cabin roof with a smile and a thumbs up, indicating it was safe to continue. We were very thankful for them being ahead of us in these situations.
I was reminded of God’s promises to go ahead of us, seen in the Bible, particularly in the Exodus from Egypt, where God literally went ahead, in a pillar of fire and of cloud (Exodus 13). But God also promised to send His angel ahead to clear the way for the Israelites, as our text from Exodus 23 shows us: ‘My angel will go ahead of you and bring you into the land of the Amorites, Hittites, Perizzites, Canaanites, Hivites and Jebusites, and I will wipe them out’.
There was to be no fear of the unknown ahead, because the angel of God was there. When Israel tried to ignore God’s warnings, they ended up in disaster, but, when they responded to Him, what was round the next bend wasn’t a problem.
We’ve learned to trust our wives through many years of marriage, and when they said it was OK to proceed along the canal, we did so without fear. But as believers, we’re still on a journey with God. So even when He says it’s OK to go ahead because He’s made the way clear, there’s often doubt or fear in us, and we hesitate, because we can’t actually see the future with our human senses.
It’s a matter of trust and faith, learning to accept what God says in situations where we can’t see ahead. After all someone once said that faith is spelt R.I.S.K.
We didn’t run into anyone on our journey, although a few times we had slight conflicts with the bank or a lock wall! Our ‘ahead party’ was reliable and helpful, as we accepted their word. Let’s try to be more trusting of God as He goes ahead of us today.
Prayer: Lord, we confess that we’re not always as trusting of You as we should be. We easily fear the unknown of the future, rather than believing that You do go ahead of us to prepare the way. Help us to take You at Your word more readily, to trust You with the unseen things of life, and proceed, knowing we have a good lookout, who can see the things that we can’t. Amen.
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