Would you rather walk in the dark with God or be in the "light?"

I read the following verses several weeks back and they have been haunting me ever since:

Isaiah 50:10-11
Who among you fears the Lord
and obeys his servant?
That person may walk in the dark
and have no light.
Then let him trust in the Lord
and yet depend on his God.
11 But instead, some of you want to light your own fires
and make your own light.
So, go, walk in the light of your fires,
and trust your own light to guide you.
But this is what you will receive from me:
You will lie down in a place of pain.

After reading these verses, I have been asking myself, "Would I rather walk in "light" or trust in the Lord to lead me in darkness?"  

My reading of these verses intersected with God taking me back through the book of Judges and giving me a different perspective as I read through two familiar stories there: the stories of Gideon and the story of Jephthah.
One of the featured Sunday School  talking points of Gideon are about his fleeces; how he asked God for a sign and how God answered.  But as I re-read the story from beginning to end other aspects of the story began to stand out to me.  It was the LORD who first came to Gideon. He found Gideon, showed Himself clearly to Gideon and promised to be with Gideon. Before the fleeces, Gideon even stepped out in a small step of faith and was successful in his task. But after all these things Gideon asked for the fleeces. Not once but actually three times Gideon asked for more signs. As I read this I began to ask myself, "Why did Gideon need these fleeces? Hadn't God started this whole thing off and shown Gideon that He would be with Gideon throughout the process?"  I then came to the end of his story and noticed a part that is often left out of  Sunday School lessons.

Judges 8:26-27
They said, "We will gladly give you what you want." So they spread out a coat, and everyone threw down an earring from what he had taken.26 The gold earrings weighed about forty-three pounds. This did not count the decorations, necklaces, and purple robes worn by the kings of Midian, nor the chains from the camels' necks.27 Gideon used the gold to make a holy vest, which he put in his hometown of Ophrah. But all the Israelites were unfaithful to God and worshiped it, so it became a trap for Gideon and his family.

Yikes! Gideon, the one who fought to set the people of Israel free from worshipping false gods in the end creates an idol himself, which Israel begins to worship... 

The next day, I read the story of Jephthah (Judges 11) a Bible story I often like to skip.  As Jephthah is starting out to battle and on his way he makes a promise to sacrifice to the Lord the first thing that comes out of the door if the LORD gives him success in battle. At the end of the story, we find out that it is his daughter who comes out.  However, as I read the story again, something jumped out at me:

Judges 11:29
29 Then the Spirit of the Lord entered Jephthah.

This phrase occurs BEFORE Jephthah makes his promise that results in tragedy. The LORD had already planned and was going to give Jephthah victory BEFORE Jephthah made his foolish promise.

It was as I walked away from these two stories that I ran into the verse from Isaiah 50 and processing it has kind of taken my breath away.  Here are some of the thoughts I've been processing: I've had seasons where I've modeled myself after Gideon and Jephthah. I remember Sunday School lessons about the fleeces and I thought, "that is what I need to do to know the LORD is with me."  Then I've taken miniscule steps of faith because I'm always throwing out a fleece before me and turning around tapping my foot at God, asking Him to prove that He is coming along with me.  Other times, I am like Jephthah, I want God to give me something so I try and think up some great sacrifice I can give so that God will give me success. But the focus of both of these methods have been on ME and what I can do to get the LORD to move. What I've never noticed before as I've read these stories is their beginnings and endings: the Lord started the stories, they had success but in the end it wasn't very beautiful. Gideon, put his trust in an idol of his own making and not in the LORD. Jephthah's daughter was sacrificed "to the LORD" because of a promise that was never needed in the first place.  Something fell apart along the way.

As I looked back, I saw where self-reliance began to get in the way of what the Lord was doing.  I could also understand why Gideon and Jephthah wanted to help the process.  When a great adventure starts, there is fear that God is going to leave us in a lurch and we want to make sure He's coming along.  So we ask for "proofs" He's coming, other times we try to harness God in by offering some great "sacrifice" so He'll want to stick around.

But then the LORD opened my eyes to the way He leads!  There is an element of "darkness" to it, but look at where it comes from:

Psalm 36:7:
God, your love is so precious!
You protect people in the shadow of your wings.

When you are close to God, you're not going to be able to see what is happening around you, you won't be able to control every little event, BUT what you will be is safe

I've walked away from these reflections a little wide-eyed: "God, you are really inviting me to trust your character FIRST without proof  of the next step?  You are saying that you go with me without me needing to come up with "a sacrifice" for success.  Your character, your goodness and your faithfulness are big enough to go before me?"  Perhaps this seems obvious, but when I take it into the reality of my everyday life, it gets a little freaky - and then I see the gap between what I think in my mind and how I act with my heart.

We are soon approaching Pentecost and will be reflecting on the gift of the Holy Spirit, our Counselor.  There is promise, after promise, after promise that God is our Good Shepherd, who has promised to walk before us leading the way, that He is never going to leave us or forsake us, that His faithfulness is new every morning...  God is the author of our story, He loves us and has given us everything we need for life and godliness. I want to stop chasing after the need for "signs and proofs" that God is going to be faithful to His promises and instead hunker in close to His heart, in the shadow of His wing and trust Him and His leading and guidance, even in the dark. 

In Christ,

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