Discerning God's Will: A Bible Study for Asbury's Worship
(November 7 & 8)
by Rev. Lee Johnson
november 7, 2020
The Book of Numbers captures the details of Moses and the Israelites in their journey from Egypt to the Promised Land. Without a map, Moses relies on the guidance of a God-like GPS, literally. The GPS takes the form of a tabernacle, believed by the Israelites to be the home of God. The tabernacle leads the way. Imagine being selected to carry it forth? What an honor. The details of Numbers says a cloud covers the home, meaning there is a mystery to God’s dwelling place. Whenever the cloud lifted to move forward, Moses and company followed. Whenever it settled down, there the Israelites would camp. Wouldn’t it be nice if discerning the movement of God, and God’s direction for our lives, was that easy: follow the cloud, go where it goes. Yet, discerning God’s will is challenging. Rarely is it “clear as a cloud.” Still, faithful living says our decisions, even daily decisions, are to be directed by God’s will, God’s intentions for us. Can you recall a life event when a decision you made was informed by the will of God? If so, how did you go about discerning God’s intention for you? Was there a cloud?
God was forever working to get Moses’ attention. Remember the Burning Bush? Or, the 10 laws written into stone and handed to Moses? And, now here, in the details of Numbers, a cloud. Through it, God works to catch the attention of Moses. For his part, Moses pays attention, using the details to discern God’s will for him, and those he led. Do you suppose God still uses details to seek our attention so we can be guided by God’s intentions? Still, what details? And, just where do you find them? And, how do you know it’s God who is trying to grab your attention? Like I said, this process is rarely as “clear as a cloud.” Growing up, my father encouraged me to pay attention to the details of my day. “It’s in the details,” he would say. Honestly, I never fully grasped what he meant. But, in retrospect, I can see the details of a cloud-like God moving in my life, leading the way, even if I didn’t know it was the cloud! Have you experienced God’s movement in your life? If so, did you sense it at the time?
In her book, Strengthening the Soul, Ruth Haley Barton suggests “Christian Community” has some cloud-like potential, meaning it’s in the details of community that God works to reveal God’s self and so guide God's people in the process of discernment. In other words, discerning God’s will is not accomplished by yourself. It happens in the details of conversation and relationship with others. Community becomes the place where scripture, silence, listening, and prayer become the faith tools used in the details of discernment. Such discernment, she says, “is grounded in the belief that God is good.” This good God calls us to love others. Discerning God’s will, then, is to ask, “What is God’s love calling me to do?” The answer to that question is best revealed in the details of community. What difference might it make to inform your decisions around the question: What is God’s love calling me to do? Do you have a faith community with whom you might share your response?
Asbury's Weekend Worship: https://www.visitasbury.org/worship/
Beginning Saturday, November 7 at 5:00 pm
Oh God, by whom we are guided in judgment, and who raises up for us light in the darkness:
Grant us, in all our doubts and uncertainties, the grace to ask what you would have us to do;
that your spirit of wisdom may save us from all false choices,
and in your straight path we may not stumble; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.