There's one more truth we need to consider about the God who lead in smoke and fire. Particularly, in smoke. And that is this:
Guided by smoke, it's hard to ever really know where you're going.
This is one of the things that frustrates us most about God, I think. He's willing to give us promises like Canaan - dreams of lands flowing with milk and honey, grand ideas about what the future is going to look like. One day. And then He stands in front of us in obscuring smoke so no matter how hard we strain our eyes, we can never quite see the Promised Land.
All we can see is smoke.
And what's behind that smoke? It could be nearly anything. It could be the land of the Nephilim - people so tall we cower in their mere presence. These are the people who will come against us, who we will be afraid to stand up to, who will seem to block our progress toward the promised things.
It could be the mountains. Obstacles we'll have to overcome. Things we'll have to climb. Despite what the Bible says about faith, no one has ever moved a mountain. Not a real one, anyway. So when we come upon the mountains, we have to either scale them or go around; there is no other way. Masked in smoke, so often, we don't know we've come upon one until we're halfway up. Then we look around and wonder how we got here.
It could be just wilderness. Just flat, vacant land that feels like nothingness. It's emptiness. It's never-ending. It stretches before us in this vast expanse until we lose all hope of the Promise at all. There is no future ahead, just more of today. Just more of the same.
It would be nice to know when these troubles are coming. When seemingly-large people are going to stand in our way, when there are going to be mountains to climb, when vast expanses will stretch before us, taunting in their emptiness. It would be nice to know because these are the things that dim our hopes of Canaan. These are the things that make us wonder if we heard right. Is there a Promise at all?
But no. We rarely see the obstacles. There's far too much smoke.
This is where faith comes in.
The challenge, and the invitation, of God is this: can you keep putting one foot in front of the other with nothing but a Promise? Will you? Are you willing to keep walking toward what you cannot see, knowing only that all that you do see is...God?
That's the beauty of this. It doesn't matter where Canaan lay. It doesn't matter what may stand in the way. Yes, the smoke bothers us. It obscures our line of sight. But never forget this: you can still see the smoke. You can still see God. He's right there, leading the way. Can you...will you...take one more faithful step toward Him? That's all He's asking for.
And for what it's worth, yes. There is a Canaan.