I saw something interesting in my Bible study that I want to share with our readers. It is a Hebrew word translated “pillar,” meaning “to stand up.” It is a pole that supports a tent, probably a carryover from the tabernacle. It may appear as a memorial such as a stone, or a pile of stones used to honor someone. Absalom set up a pillar so everyone would remember him. Jacob erected a pillar over Rachel’s grave. Let us consider the symbolic usage of “pillar,” particularly the pillar of cloud and fire God provided for Israel’s wilderness wanderings. A study of the tabernacle and its furniture reveals the person and work of the Lord Jesus Christ. The pillar of stone and fire was not furniture, but a kind of GPS! Lord, show us what function these pillars play in the grand scheme of Scripture, and what message do they reveal about You!
- The Account of the Pillar of Cloud and Fire. Exodus 13:21NLB takes us back to Israel’s exodus from their captors in Egypt: God guided them by a pillar of cloud during the daytime and by a pillar of fire at night so they could travel by day or night. Note that it was the Lord, sometimes called the Angel of God, that guided Israel to freedom. The means He used was one single pillar with the ability to adopt to either day or night. This divine compass not only led God’s people forward but moved behind them to protect them from the pursuing Egyptians.
Jehovah brought His people through the Red Sea miraculously and drowned the pursuing Egyptian army. He continued to lead them through the wilderness wanderings, to Elim, and eventually to Mt. Sinai where the Law was given and instructions for the tabernacle. When the tabernacle was erected, the cloud covered it and it became the signal to make or break camp in Israel (Exodus 40:36-37). The cloud and pillar stood over the tent of meeting for fifty days and remained with Israel throughout their wilderness wanderings.
- The Activity of the Pillar of Cloud and Fire. It was meaningful and helpful to Israel. It meant that Jehovah was with them because He dwelt above the mercy seat of the ark of the covenant between the cherubim to tell Israel what they could do and not do (Exodus 25:22). He was their guide. When the pillar moved, they moved, and when it rested, they rested (Numbers 9:15-23). God did not always guide them into “easy” situations such as the Red Sea and the wilderness. But He was their protection and shelter from the Egyptians and from the Red Sea. Psalms 105:39 and 121:6 hint that the pillar was like an umbrella to Israel. It kept out the burning rays of the sun off the people. According to Isaiah 4:5-6 God will restore it in the coming kingdom age.
The pillar of cloud and fire is a picture of Christ’s incarnation. God was in Christ, restoring the world to himself, not counting our sins against us, but blotting them out. This is the wonderful message he has given us to tell others. Note that this was not just any cloud, but a pillar of a cloud, a symbol of might and strength. Here was something no weather prophet could explain. It also is typical of the Word of God. Romans 13:11warns us that the night is far spent, Satan’s hosts seek to encamp around us. But God’s Word is a lamp unto our feet and a light unto our pathway (Psalm 119:105).
- The Application of the Pillar of Cloud and Fire. Jesus is our Unseen Pillar of Cloud and fire from where we are now to where we are going how to get there. That means following Jesus every step of the way. How will we find and follow God’s leading today without the pillar of cloud and fire?A. God is our Commander. Israel’s experience from Egypt to Canaan was only “at His command.” Read it in Exodus 13 and 14. God told Joshua to remember his command that they were to be strong and brave and not be afraid because the Lord would be with them wherever they traveled (Joshua 1:9).
B. Be faithful. Remember, the pillar of cloud and fire never departed on its own. Beloved, we can hope firmly to the hope that we have confessed. We can trust a faithful God to do what he promised. It is required in stewards that one is faithful. If we are faithless, God remains faithful, for he cannot disown himself.
C. God protects us. We don’t need the god of the mountains because Jehovah made the mountains and the heavens too! He won’t let us stumble, slip, or fall. He always watches and never sleeps. He cares for us as our defender! He protects us day and night. He keeps us from all evil and preserves our lives. His eye is upon us and guards us as we come and go (Psalm 121). If we try to do things our way, we end up in the path of destruction. Instead pray for protection and listen to God when He re-directs, warns, and guides us.
God uses ordinary people. In this instance, it was a reluctant Moses whom God chose in the pillar of fire from a burning bush. The world is full of ordinary people, even Billy Graham and Mother Teresa. The difference between them and us is that they were content to be ordinary so God could do His extraordinary work through them. If you cannot compare yourself to these two spiritual giants, God understands. The only thing He has called you to do is to get out of His way so that He can work through you. Your ordinary self can do anything God wants you to do if you will let Him. Amen? Start today!