The Cloud

 •  35 min. read  •  grade level: 8
" Then a cloud covered the tent of the congregation, and the glory of the Lord filled the tabernacle.
" And Moses was not able to enter into the tent of the congregation, because the cloud abode thereon, and the glory of the Lord filled the tabernacle.
" And when the cloud was taken up from over the tabernacle, the children of Israel went onward in all their journeys: " But if the cloud were not taken up, then they journeyed not till the day that it was taken up.
THE first mention of the Cloud occurs in Ex. 13:20-2220And they took their journey from Succoth, and encamped in Etham, in the edge of the wilderness. 21And the Lord went before them by day in a pillar of a cloud, to lead them the way; and by night in a pillar of fire, to give them light; to go by day and night: 22He took not away the pillar of the cloud by day, nor the pillar of fire by night, from before the people. (Exodus 13:20‑22). " And they took their journey from Succoth, and encamped in Etham, in the edge of the wilderness. And the Lord went before them by day in a pillar of a cloud, to lead them the way; and by night in a pillar of fire, to give them light; to go by day and night: He took not away the pillar of the cloud by day, nor the pillar of fire by night, from before the people."
The Israelites had fairly left Egypt, having journeyed from Succoth, (booths,) and encamped in the edge of the wilderness. The Lord now manifested His presence as their Leader, going before them by day, in the pillar of a cloud, and by night, in the pillar of fire. The first guidance of this cloud was indeed a strange one: for, instead of leading them far away into the wilderness out of the reach of their enemies, it turned down by the west coast of the Red Sea, and led them into a defile, where they were shut in by the sea, in their front, and mountains on each side, so that Pharoah said, " they are entangled in the land." They seemed to offer him an easy prey; and he pursued them with all his host.
The cloud having thus brought them into a place of difficulty, next varied its position. " And the angel of God, which went before the camp of Israel, removed and went behind them; and the pillar of the cloud went from before their face, and stood behind them. And it came between the camp of the Egyptians and the camp of Israel; and it was a cloud and darkness to them, but it gave light by night to these: so that the one came not near the other all the night." Ex. 14:19,2019And the angel of God, which went before the camp of Israel, removed and went behind them; and the pillar of the cloud went from before their face, and stood behind them: 20And it came between the camp of the Egyptians and the camp of Israel; and it was a cloud and darkness to them, but it gave light by night to these: so that the one came not near the other all the night. (Exodus 14:19‑20). The cloud became their defense, protecting them from the approach of the enemy. It also lighted up a path between walls of deep and dark waters, opened for them through the sea, by the almighty power of God.
Pharaoh urged on by the blinding power of Satan, pursued them into the sea. " And it came to pass, that in the morning watch the Lord looked unto the host of the Egyptians through the pillar of fire and of the cloud, and troubled the host of the Egyptians, and took off their chariot wheels, that they drave them heavily: so that the Egyptians said, Let us flee from the face of Israel; for the Lord fighteth for them against the Egyptians." ver. 24, 25.
Thus was that mighty host of Egypt taken in its own craftiness. The swift chariots of their strength became the hindrance to their escape; and when the morning dawned, and Moses at the command of God, stretched forth his hand over the sea, the sea returned to its strength, and overwhelmed in its mighty waters all the host of Pharaoh: " There remained not so much as one of them."
The next record of the cloud is in Ex. 16 Jo. The whole congregation murmured because they saw no provision of bread to supply their need. They had become accustomed to the presence of the cloud after a month's journeyings. That which at first doubtless astonished and comforted them, (the manifested presence of God going before them,) had become an ordinary thing, and they turned their murmurings against Moses and Aaron, declaring that they had brought them into the wilderness, to kill the whole assembly with hunger.
The Lord answers these bitter complaints of unbelief by a promise of fullness of bread. " And Moses and Aaron said unto the children of Israel, At even then ye shall know that the Lord bath brought you out of the land of Egypt. And in the morning then ye shall see the glory of the Lord," (ver. 6, 7.)
The quails were to cover the camp in the evening, and the manna was to witness to the glory of the Lord in the morning. In confirmation of this, Moses spake unto Aaron, " Say unto all the congregation of the children of Israel, Come near before the Lord: for he bath heard your murmurings. And it came to pass, as Aaron spake unto the whole congregation of the children of Israel, that they looked towards the wilderness, and, behold, the glory of the Lord appeared in the cloud," (ver. 9:10.)
Here were two remarkable displays of the glory of Jehovah. A manifestation of that glory in the morning, in the vast provision of bread from heaven, strewed upon " the face of the wilderness." A display also of His glory in the bright shining cloud, appearing before them in the same wilderness. Two very significant types to us. First, the gift of the bread of life; a resurrection gift: to communicate life eternal, and then to sustain it. Jesus, " the true bread from heaven," our wilderness food. Secondly, the constant companionship of God with us through our wilderness journey, notwithstanding the murmurings of our unbelieving hearts.
After the fearful sin of the golden calf " Moses took the tent, and pitched it without the camp, afar off from the camp, and called it the tent of the congregation, and it came to pass that every one which sought the Lord went out unto the tent of the congregation which was without the camp. And it came to pass when Moses went into the tent, that all the people rose up and stood every man at his tent door, and looked after Moses until he was gone into the tent. And it came to pass, as Moses entered into the tent, the cloudy pillar descended, and stood at the tent door, and talked with Moses. And all the people saw the cloudy pillar stand at the tent door: and all the people rose up and worshipped, every man in his tent door." Ex. 33:7-107And Moses took the tabernacle, and pitched it without the camp, afar off from the camp, and called it the Tabernacle of the congregation. And it came to pass, that every one which sought the Lord went out unto the tabernacle of the congregation, which was without the camp. 8And it came to pass, when Moses went out unto the tabernacle, that all the people rose up, and stood every man at his tent door, and looked after Moses, until he was gone into the tabernacle. 9And it came to pass, as Moses entered into the tabernacle, the cloudy pillar descended, and stood at the door of the tabernacle, and the Lord talked with Moses. 10And all the people saw the cloudy pillar stand at the tabernacle door: and all the people rose up and worshipped, every man in his tent door. (Exodus 33:7‑10).
It will be observed that throughout this passage the word " tabernacle " does not occur in the original. In fact the tabernacle had not yet been constructed.
Moses took a tent (probably that in which he was accustomed to assemble the elders of the people for their instruction) and pitched it afar off without the camp, giving it the name subsequently used for the tabernacle, that is, " the tent of the congregation." God sanctioned this act of His servant by descending to the tent door in the pillar of the cloud, and thence talking with Moses.
The camp had become a leprous unclean place by reason of the worship of the golden calf, and every one that sought the Lord, had to go out afar off from it.
Israel's dwelling place in the wilderness had become very much what the professing church is now. Moses had gone up into the mount, and the people having lost sight of the man to whom they had attributed their deliverance out of Egypt, were in dismay because they saw no leader who could go before them through the wilderness. Their eyes were blinded by unbelief, so that they saw not the pillar of the cloud, and they remembered not the mighty power of Jehovah, who had wrought their deliverance. The flesh can only trust in man, " and make flesh its arm." It cannot confide in the living God.
Aaron, actuated it may be by fear, yielded to their request, and made a molten calf of gold, and fashioned it with a graving tool, and they said "These be thy gods O Israel which brought thee up out of the land of Egypt. And Aaron built an altar before it, and made proclamation, and said, Tomorrow is a feast to Jehovah."
How could nominal Christianity exist if it were not sustained by an ordered worldly priesthood, with a worldly sanctuary and ceremonials? It bears the name of Christ, just as the worship of the golden calf bore the name of Jehovah, but it is the flesh's substitute for faith. It addresses the senses, or deals with the imagination, but heart and conscience are neglected.
It is remarkable in this history that the people called themselves by the one name of Israel, just as the mass of unbelievers claim to be Christians.
" And they rose up early on the morrow, and offered burnt offerings, and brought peace offerings; and the people sat down to eat and to drink, and rose up to play."
The Spirit of God quotes the latter part of this verse in 1 Cor. x. 7, as an exhortation to us, " neither be ye idolators as were some of them; as it is written, the people sat down to eat and drink, and rose up to play."
We are not so much warned against the grossness of idolatry as displayed in the worship of a golden calf, and as it may still be seen in the Popery and Puseyism around us. It requires but little spiritual sensitiveness to recoil from such barefaced abominations. But, we are exhorted not to follow the worldly practices which inseparably accompany all false religion; viz., sitting down to eat and drink, and rising up to play.
When the people of Israel mixed the name of their true God with an idol, they settled down in the wilderness, turning it into a very Egypt, or Sodom; making it a place of revelry and amusement. And so, in proportion as the Church of God ceases to walk by faith, and to trust in the unseen presence of an absent Lord, and to wait for His return; she will settle down at ease in the world; she will make that, which should be a desert, a place of rest and enjoyment; and she will " begin to eat and drink with the drunken," saying in her heart, " my Lord delayeth His coming."
" Dearly beloved, I beseech you as strangers and pilgrims abstain from fleshly lusts, which war against the soul." 1 Peter 2: 11. Little children, keep yourselves from idols." 1 John 5:2121Little children, keep yourselves from idols. Amen. (1 John 5:21).
Moses, who had been up with the Lord during this scene of profanation, discerned at once the polluted state of the camp; and pitched the tent for a meeting place with God afar off; and all the true worshippers resorted thither, where the Lord manifested His presence in the pillar of the cloud.
Thus early in Israel's history, the place of little esteem in the eyes of men, became that of true fellowship with God.
Subsequently the death of the Lord Jesus outside the gate of Jerusalem, proclaimed the same truth in a still more emphatic way; and the apostle exhorts us to " go forth unto Jesus, without the camp, bearing his reproach, for here have we no continuing city, but we seek one to come." The Cross of Christ has put an end to all religion of mere form and ceremony. Even that which was originally handed down from God by Moses, has become a system of weak and beggarly' elements, classed by the apostle Paul with idolatry, (Gal. 4; 8-10) and true-hearted believers separating themselves from the religions of the day, have to follow their Lord, bearing His reproach; seeking a city that is to come, daily realizing that they are strangers here; and instead of conforming to the world and its respectable religious ceremonies, they are to " assemble themselves together, exhorting one another, and so much the more as they see the day approaching."
Moses, after having conversed with God face to face, turned again into the Camp. He was able to re-enter the place of profanation without contracting defilement, because he had the power and presence of God with him. " But his servant Joshua, a young man, departed not out of the tabernacle." (tent.)
This is an important hint to those who are young in faith, not to venture into worldly scenes, or into mixed religious associations, lest they become ensnared, and be not able to stand. Like Joshua they should abide in the presence of the Lord, even though it involve separation from much that is attractive and enticing.
Moses in his pleading with God son this occasion makes three requests, of all importance. Three petitions which it will be well for us to have constantly in our hearts.
" Show me now thy way;" " If thy presence go not with me, carry us not up hence;" and, " I beseech thee show me thy glory."
God's way is in the sanctuary, (Psa. 77:1313Thy way, O God, is in the sanctuary: who is so great a God as our God? (Psalm 77:13)) there the blood of the Lamb speaks in a voice of peace and reconciliation. There the holiness of God is made known by His judgment upon sin, in the cross of His beloved Son. God's way is a way of holiness and righteousness; and if we would pursue His path, we must avoid all ways into which we cannot carry the remembrance of the cross. We must shun all companionships from which the name of Jesus is excluded. A way, without the power to testify to the precious blood of Christ, cannot be God's way.
If we know His way, we are then sure of His presence. He will go with us. And what is life worth, if God be not with us? Where can the soul find rest? How can peace of mind be preserved, but by abiding in the secret place of the Most High-and how can we prosper, or triumph, or bear fruit, unless we are habitually in the presence of God? Moses knew that if God went with them they would be truly a separated people from all the people upon the face of the earth. The way and presence of God will ever preserve us from contacts with the world around us.
Emboldened by God's ready response to his requests, Moses made a third petition, " I beseech thee show me thy glory." "And the Lord said, I will make all my goodness pass before thee." So the Lord provided for Moses a place by Him that he might stand upon the rock, and be put in a cleft of the rock, and be covered with His hand.
Accordingly Moses went up into Mount Sinai in the morning, and then the Lord descended in the cloud and stood with him and passed by before him, and proclaimed " Jehovah, Jehovah God, merciful and gracious, long-suffering, and abundant in goodness and truth, keeping mercy for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, and that will by no means clear the guilty; visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children, and upon the children's children, unto the third, and to the fourth generation."
Thus from this cloud of glory the Lord made all His goodness pass before Moses and proclaimed His name. The name by which He was to be known throughout all the hosts of Israel, and which He would make manifest in all His dealings with them. Blessed as this revelation of God was, yet it only gave a distant view of His glory. It remained for " the only begotten of the Father " to declare His name fully. The blessed Lord in the very act of revealing God in all the height and depth of His boundless love, and wisdom and grace, through His death, provided at the same time a way of approach to God; whereby with confidence we may draw near, and know His unveiled glory, and abide in His holy presence without fear.
When the Tabernacle was set up as described in Ex. 40, then the cloud covered the tent of the congregation, and the glory of the Lord filled the Tabernacle. This is repeated twice, verses 34, 35. It is interesting to observe that the two names are here given " the tent of the congregation," and " the tabernacle." The former designating this building as the tent of assembly for the people, Israel; the latter as the dwelling place of God.
A striking similarity occurs between this setting up of the Tabernacle, and the subsequent consecration of the Temple. " And it came to pass, when the priests were come out of the holy place, that the cloud filled the house of the Lord, so that the priests could not stand to minister because of the cloud: for the glory of the Lord had filled the house of the Lord." 1 Kings 8:10-1110And it came to pass, when the priests were come out of the holy place, that the cloud filled the house of the Lord, 11So that the priests could not stand to minister because of the cloud: for the glory of the Lord had filled the house of the Lord. (1 Kings 8:10‑11); see also 2 Chron. v. 13, 14. In both instances a dwelling place had been erected according to the precise directions given by God. Neither man's thought, or taste, or imagination had been consulted. But the Lord had given the complete pattern, and Moses with the workmen under him, and Solomon with those employed by him, had to the letter, fulfilled the commands of God. May we not say that implicit obedience was the peculiar characteristic stamped upon each building, and upon every part.
There is however, a difference between the two consecrations. In the case of the tabernacle it is simply related that Moses finished the work, then a cloud covered the tent of the congregation. The lamps had been lighted, the incense was burning in the holy place, the burnt-offering was sending up its sweet savor from the brazen altar; the tabernacle, and its vessels, were standing complete and in full use, before the Lord; when thus He manifested His presence and glory, in approval of the faithful way in which His requirements had been carried out; and according to His promise, " there I will meet with the children of Israel, and the tabernacle shall be sanctified by my glory. And I will sanctify the tabernacle of the congregation, and the altar: I will sanctify also both Aaron and his sons, to minister to me in the priest's office. And I will dwell among the children of Israel, and will be their God. And they shall know that I am the Lord their God, that brought them forth out of the land of Egypt, that I may dwell among them: I am tie Lord their God." Ex. 29:43-4643And there I will meet with the children of Israel, and the tabernacle shall be sanctified by my glory. 44And I will sanctify the tabernacle of the congregation, and the altar: I will sanctify also both Aaron and his sons, to minister to me in the priest's office. 45And I will dwell among the children of Israel, and will be their God. 46And they shall know that I am the Lord their God, that brought them forth out of the land of Egypt, that I may dwell among them: I am the Lord their God. (Exodus 29:43‑46).
This was a dwelling place for the Lord in the midst of His people, during their wilderness journey, and during their season of warfare and conflict in the land before it was subdued, so that a reign of peace might begin under Solomon.
We find in the Epistle to the Hebrews the tabernacle alone mentioned as a type, and no direct reference to the temple; because we are strangers and pilgrims, pressing on, towards our glorious city of habitation whose maker and builder is God; and we have at the same time conflict with wicked spirits in heavenly places, seeking to hinder us from keeping possession of our own inheritance above, into which we have already been introduced in Christ; and where by faith we stand.
When the temple was dedicated, the ark had entered its final rest; for the staves which bore it on the journey were removed from their rings. Countless victims from the altar sent up their sweet savor towards God, and one sound of trumpet, music, and song, burst forth from priests and Levites, " praising the Lord for he is good for his mercy endureth forever." It was a scene typical of the future glory, when the resurrection shout, blended with the trumpet's sound from heaven and rolling on " as the voice of many waters and as the voice of mighty thunderings," combined with harp and song, will sound forth the great eternal truth, that God is good, that His mercy endureth forever.
In both instances the cloud of glory so filled the place that all human ministry was suspended. Moses was not able to enter the tabernacle; indeed he had finished his work-the great object was accomplished, God was there. The priests could not stand to minister in the temple, for the great end of their priesthood was accomplished, the glory of God filled the house.
" And on the day that the tabernacle was reared up the cloud covered the tabernacle, namely the tent of the testimony: and at even there was upon the tabernacle as it were the appearance of fire, until the morning. So it was alway: the cloud covered it by day. and the appearance of fire by night. And when the cloud was taken up from the tabernacle, then after that the children of Israel journeyed: and in the place where the cloud abode, there the children of Israel pitched their tents. At the commandment of the Lord the children of Israel journeyed, and at the commandment of the Lord they pitched: as long as the cloud abode upon the tabernacle they rested in their tents. And when the cloud tarried long upon the tabernacle many days, then the children of Israel kept the charge of the Lord, and journeyed not. And so it was, when the cloud was a few days upon the tabernacle; according to the commandment of the Lord they abode in their tents, and according to the commandment of the Lord they journeyed. And so it was, when the cloud abode from even unto the morning, and that the cloud was taken up in the morning, then they journeyed: whether it was by day or by night that the cloud was taken up, they journeyed. Or whether it were two days, or a month, or a year, that the cloud tarried upon the tabernacle, remaining thereon, the children of Israel abode in their tents, and journeyed not: but when it was taken up, they journeyed. At the commandment of the Lord they rested in the tents, and at the commandment of the Lord they journeyed: they kept the charge of the Lord, at the commandment of the Lord by the hand of Moses." Num. 9:15-2315And on the day that the tabernacle was reared up the cloud covered the tabernacle, namely, the tent of the testimony: and at even there was upon the tabernacle as it were the appearance of fire, until the morning. 16So it was alway: the cloud covered it by day, and the appearance of fire by night. 17And when the cloud was taken up from the tabernacle, then after that the children of Israel journeyed: and in the place where the cloud abode, there the children of Israel pitched their tents. 18At the commandment of the Lord the children of Israel journeyed, and at the commandment of the Lord they pitched: as long as the cloud abode upon the tabernacle they rested in their tents. 19And when the cloud tarried long upon the tabernacle many days, then the children of Israel kept the charge of the Lord, and journeyed not. 20And so it was, when the cloud was a few days upon the tabernacle; according to the commandment of the Lord they abode in their tents, and according to the commandment of the Lord they journeyed. 21And so it was, when the cloud abode from even unto the morning, and that the cloud was taken up in the morning, then they journeyed: whether it was by day or by night that the cloud was taken up, they journeyed. 22Or whether it were two days, or a month, or a year, that the cloud tarried upon the tabernacle, remaining thereon, the children of Israel abode in their tents, and journeyed not: but when it was taken up, they journeyed. 23At the commandment of the Lord they rested in the tents, and at the commandment of the Lord they journeyed: they kept the charge of the Lord, at the commandment of the Lord by the hand of Moses. (Numbers 9:15‑23).
In this passage we have a very full account of the cloud. And seven times do the words " at the commandment of the Lord" occur in connection with this manifestation of His presence. " At the commandment of the Lord the children of Israel journeyed." (Verses 18, 20, 23.) " At the commandment of the Lord," they pitched, abode in their tents, rested in their tents. (Verses 18, 20, 23.) " At the commandment of the Lord they kept the charge of the Lord." (Ver. 23.)
The moving of the cloud was " the commandment of the Lord" for their journeying. The resting of the cloud was " the commandment of the Lord" for pitching their tents. The prolonged tarrying of the cloud upon the tabernacle, was " the commandment of the Lord" for them to keep the charge of the Lord.
Throughout this passage, the word translated commandment, is literally " mouth."
The cloud was God's mode of declaring to them His will; and they had to watch its movements in order to ascertain that will.
We have no external beacon to direct us, as to our journeys through this world. But we have that which is far better, the in-dwelling of the Holy Spirit. Far better, because God does not deal with us now as slaves, bidding us go hither and thither without our having any fellowship with Him or His purposes. He deals with us as children, having given us the spirit of Sonship whereby we cry, " Abba, Father." He would have us seek to know His mind and will in every fresh change that we propose. In this respect the Word must first be consulted that we may ascertain whether the counsel of our hearts is in any way opposed to the smallest injunctions of Christ. If so, it is plain that we have not the guidance of God for our undertaking.
On the other hand, there are many changes in our place of service, or in our circumstances of life, which may have in them no decided evil as contrary to the direct word of God; but which must be yet submitted to Him in prayerful and patient waiting, that we may have His guidance.
In these things we are very ignorant of the leadings of the Holy Spirit. He has been so long grieved by us, and our faith is so weak, that we are but little conscious of His blessed directing power. Doubtless where there is confession of our low estate, and a true desire to ascertain the will of God, He will make known that will, either by a direct intimation upon our souls, or by so ordering circumstances round us, that we shall be able to perceive it.
We have to learn from Israel's history, to move at a moment's notice. The cloud was often an inconvenient interruption to their will. By night or day they had to journey. Scarcely had they pitched their tents, when again the signal might be given for another journey onward. The place they were in might seem most convenient; and yet they might have to remove to a spot just the contrary. God gave no account of His purposes. The cloud seemed to be an expression of the words " I will."
Are we content to be guided by God, when that guidance crosses our self-will and our purposes? Do we really believe that He knows best? And are our utterances true, when we ask for His leading, and when we profess to desire to know His will?
When the cloud tarried long, Israel was not to be listless or impatient. They had always a definite work and service to accomplish, expressed by the words, " to keep the charge of the Lord."
So the believer has always a service for God, and an important one, though his daily life may have but little variety. He has to contemplate Christ. He has to keep his heart with all diligence. He has to remember his fellow saints in prayer. He has to learn what "the patience of hope " means; and what is expressed by those words, " I waited patiently for the Lord." And how they may be combined with the concluding paragraph of the same Psalm, " make no tarrying O my God." Psa. 40:1717But I am poor and needy; yet the Lord thinketh upon me: thou art my help and my deliverer; make no tarrying, O my God. (Psalm 40:17).
Many a saint of God has to endure long the monotony of a couch of weakness and sickness, laid aside from active service, and perhaps deprived of much power of thought; but to such the church of God owes much They are sustaining the hands of many servants of the Lord by prayers night and day. Their faith and patience are a bright testimony for Jesus; and the sick chamber is often a meeting place for many of the Lord's people.
"The fruit of the spirit, love, joy, peace, long-suffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance," may be all abundantly borne to the glory of God, by those who are quite excluded from the activities of the Christian life. Very precious, and alas! comparatively rare, is such fruit.
The pillar of the cloud by day," became " a pillar of fire by night." It was to give light in the night; "by night in a pillar of fire to give them light." Ex. 13:2;12Sanctify unto me all the firstborn, whatsoever openeth the womb among the children of Israel, both of man and of beast: it is mine. (Exodus 13:2)
" It gave light by night to these." (Israel) xiv. 20.
Thus light streamed from the tabernacle all over the camp. The darkness was no darkness to them. " The night was light about them." Psa. 139:1111If I say, Surely the darkness shall cover me; even the night shall be light about me. (Psalm 139:11).
A very significant type of the church of God, who not only have the Lord Jesus as their light, but who are " light in the Lord." God has brought us out of darkness into His marvelous light. And we are no longer "of the night, nor of darkness," but "children of light and of the day." Although it is night all around, yet the true light shineth upon God's children, and that light makes manifest what is true and what is false.
A wonderful message has been declared to us, that God is light, and in him is no darkness at all." He can allow of no compromise with evil. Ways of crookedness and expediency, which we find sometimes practiced by saints in the Old Testament times, cannot be permitted now, since this message has been delivered to us, that God is light. A message confirmed by the solemn judgment upon sin, manifested in the cross of Christ.
" If we say we have fellowship with him, and walk in darkness, we lie and do not the truth." We may make strong assertions respecting our intercourse with God, but if we walk in darkness, our assertions are mere falsehood.
The truth has to be "done" -lived- and we shall show by our ways whether we have communion with God. " But if we walk in the light as he is in the light, we have fellowship one with another, and the blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanseth us from all sin."
One great evidence of walking in the light is, that we have fellowship one with another. Fellowship, not with a restricted company, not merely with those who think precisely as we do, but with one another. The words " one another " have a wide sense-they include all saints; and we may fairly estimate our communion with the Father and the Son, by our capacity for fellowship with the Lord's people. We shall also more constantly realize the cleansing power of the precious blood as we walk in the light with God, and as intercourse with one another causes the evil of our hearts, the sectarian spirit of the flesh to rise up within our bosoms; discovering of what spirit we naturally are, and necessarily casting us upon the value of that blood, which not only has cleansed, but cleanseth us from all sin.
The pillar was not only a light to the whole camp, but gave light in the way. " Thou leddest them in the night by a pillar of fire, to give them light in the way wherein they should go." " The pillar of fire by night, to show them light, and the way wherein they should go." Neh. 9:12,1912Moreover thou leddest them in the day by a cloudy pillar; and in the night by a pillar of fire, to give them light in the way wherein they should go. (Nehemiah 9:12)
19Yet thou in thy manifold mercies forsookest them not in the wilderness: the pillar of the cloud departed not from them by day, to lead them in the way; neither the pillar of fire by night, to show them light, and the way wherein they should go. (Nehemiah 9:19)
. Our path may sometimes be very obscure, and then the danger is, that we seek by our own wisdom and efforts to throw light upon it. Oftentimes also the believer mistakes the providence! of God, for the guidance of God. Moses is an instructive example to us in this respect. By a remarkable series of events, he was made to pass the first forty years of his life in Pharaoh's court; brought up as the son of Pharaoh's daughter. Carnal reasoning would have suggested, " continue where you are, God has placed you in your present circumstances, and you may be very useful in your place of honor and authority, both in easing the burdens of the children of Israel, and in instructing the learned in Egypt in the knowledge of the true God." But he judged otherwise. Light from the Lord told him that the reproach of Christ was to be preferred to the treasures of Egypt. Making one bold decided step, he identified himself with an oppressed, despised people. Setting aside all the advantages in which from his infancy he had been remarkably placed by the providence of God, he took the path of faith, and became for many years a wanderer far off from his brethren, whom it was his desire to serve.
On the other hand Abraham, in his early history exhibits to us the opposite of this. Having been led into the land of promise by the guidance of God; and having implicity trusted Him for a length of time; when famine came he went down into Egypt, not consulting the Lord as to his course, but induced by the fact that there was plenty in that country, whilst there was scarcity in the land where he was.
The results of this false step clave to him for many years; Hagar the Egyptian slave was brought from thence.
Should we not be able to discern the guidance of God; should the pillar by night be for some reason hidden from our sight, it is an intimation to us that we are to be still. " Who is among you that feareth the Lord, that obeyeth the voice of his servant, that walketh in darkness, and hath no light? let him trust in the name of the Lord, and stay upon his God." Isa. 1:1010Hear the word of the Lord, ye rulers of Sodom; give ear unto the law of our God, ye people of Gomorrah. (Isaiah 1:10). We are to exercise faith in our God; to trust in Him, and stay or lean upon Him. Perhaps there is no more difficult or trying exercise of faith, than patiently to wait for the help and guidance of the Lord, when circumstances are difficult and dark. The flesh prone to be either restless or sluggish, would tempt one to activity when the Lord says, " wait;" and to indolence when He says, "act."
" Behold, all ye that kindle a fire, that compass yourselves about with sparks; walk in the light of your fire, and in the sparks that ye have kindled. This shall ye have of mine hand, ye shall lie down in sorrow. Ver. 11.
The Lord preserve us from walking in the false light of our carnal wisdom, and from compassing ourselves about with sparks of human reason and expediency.
The word of God, and the Spirit of God, will be our infallible guides, if we truly submit ourselves and our own will to them. " Thy word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path." That word which first gave light by its entrance into the soul through the power of the Holy Ghost, will continue to shed its light upon the path all our journey through.
"Light is sown for the righteous." The " incorruptible seed " of the word is scattered by the hand of God all along our way; and the more faithfully we follow the guidance of that word, the more will our path be that of the just, shining more and more unto the perfect day.
Another use of the cloud was to be a covering or shelter for Israel during the day. The first allusion to this is in Num. 10:3434And the cloud of the Lord was upon them by day, when they went out of the camp. (Numbers 10:34), "And the cloud of the Lord was upon them by day, when they went out of the camp?' In this instance the cloud seems to have been displaced. Moses sought to induce Hobab to accompany the children of Israel in their journeys; and on his refusal, repeated his request upon the ground that they were to encamp in the wilderness, and that he might be to them instead of eyes. The Lord could not permit this. No human wisdom or experience could be allowed to supplant the direct guidance of God. Accordingly we find that the Lord Himself took the lead, (if we may so express it, in person,) for the ark of the covenant of the Lord went before them. The cloud thus superseded by the ark, spread itself over them by day, when they went out of the camp on the march. An allusion to this is again made, Num. 14:1414And they will tell it to the inhabitants of this land: for they have heard that thou Lord art among this people, that thou Lord art seen face to face, and that thy cloud standeth over them, and that thou goest before them, by day time in a pillar of a cloud, and in a pillar of fire by night. (Numbers 14:14). " Thy cloud standeth over them," and Psa. 105:3939He spread a cloud for a covering; and fire to give light in the night. (Psalm 105:39), " He spread a cloud for a covering." If we are under the guidance of God, we are also under His protection and shelter. " The Lord is thy keeper. The Lord is thy shade upon thy right hand. The sun shall not smite thee by day, nor the moon by night. The Lord shall preserve thy going out and thy coming in from this time forth, and even for evermore." Psa. 121:5,6,85The Lord is thy keeper: the Lord is thy shade upon thy right hand. 6The sun shall not smite thee by day, nor the moon by night. (Psalm 121:5‑6)
8The Lord shall preserve thy going out and thy coming in from this time forth, and even for evermore. (Psalm 121:8)
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The cloud on ordinary occasions, searched out a fitting place for a temporary rest in the wilderness, where they might pitch their tents. Deut. 1:3333Who went in the way before you, to search you out a place to pitch your tents in, in fire by night, to show you by what way ye should go, and in a cloud by day. (Deuteronomy 1:33)," Who went in the way before you to search you out a place to pitch your tents in, in fire by night, to show you by what way ye should go, and in a cloud by day."
The shepherd care of God was beautifully manifested in the movements of the cloud. That favorite Psalm the 2 3 rd, is a short but full description of the Lord's watchful care of His people. It speaks for the most part in the present tense.
Jehovah is my Shepherd.
He maketh me to lie down in green pastures. He leadeth me beside the still waters.
He restoreth my soul.
He leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for His name's sake.
Thou art with me.
Thy rod and thy staff they comfort me.
Thou prepares a table before me in the presence of mine enemies.
Thou anointest my head with oil,
My cup runneth over.
The green pastures and still waters are places of encampment, where the believer finds rest, food, and refreshment.
The paths of righteousness are the wilderness journeyings.
In the very presence of enemies the table is prepared for strengthening the soul for conflict.
The head is enriched with oil, and the countenance thus made to shine, though the path be rugged, and The cup of joy brims over, although the way be full of sorrow and trial.
The only futures of the psalm are-first, an absolute negativeI shall not want.
Secondly.-Should even the path lie in the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil.
Thirdly.-An absolute certainty of goodness and mercy following all the days of one's life, and the closing future, with its sure eternity of glory, I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.
The only place for " goodness and mercy" in the pathway of the believer, is behind him; for the Shep. herd is in front to lead-at hand to restore-and with him, as on the right hand and on the left, to dispel even the fear of evil.
Thus goodness and mercy close up the rear, preventing any failings and faults of the past from overtaking the child of God; obliterating the heel-prints of past iniquities, and pursuing him so as to hasten his entrance into the house of the Lord.
The pillar of cloud and of fire by day and by night, seem to have somewhat symbolized this shepherd care of the Lord.
It was a guide, a defense, a shelter, a light, a place of intercourse with God, from whence He spoke, and from whence He manifested His power and His glory.
This token of the presence of Jehovah reappeared after a lapse of ages, upon the Mount of Transfiguration. Israel's Lord was there. Their departed leader, Moses, was summoned from the grave; and one of their choicest prophets, Elijah, was brought from the glory, as His attendants upon the holy mount.
It was a scene depicting, and anticipative of the Lord's coming, when the dead saints will be raised and the living ones changed, represented by Moses and Elijah, types of each company. The bright cloud of glory received them, and the disciples, (Peter, James, and John,) feared, when they saw them enter the cloud.
The cloud will again appear upon the earth during the future reign of the Lord Jesus. This is foretold in Isa. 4:4,54When the Lord shall have washed away the filth of the daughters of Zion, and shall have purged the blood of Jerusalem from the midst thereof by the spirit of judgment, and by the spirit of burning. 5And the Lord will create upon every dwelling place of mount Zion, and upon her assemblies, a cloud and smoke by day, and the shining of a flaming fire by night: for upon all the glory shall be a defence. (Isaiah 4:4‑5). A remnant of the people of Israel will be spared in Jerusalem after they have passed through the fearful oppression of the man of sin, the willful king, and that remnant will be all holy. They will look upon Him whom they have pierced, and mourn.
Jerusalem will be established, and will become the city of the great King. " And the Lord will create upon every dwelling place of Mount Zion, and upon her assemblies, a cloud and smoke by day, and the shining of a flaming fire by night: for upon all the glory shall be a defense."
Israel's wanderings of unbelief will then all be at an end, and the presence of the cloud will make manifest that the former loving kindness and tender mercies of God, have never utterly forsaken them. They will then be reminded of their early history, and of the unchangeableness of Jehovah, for "His gifts and calling are without repentance."
Having endeavored to trace out the type of the Tabernacle, and the priestly garments, and to cite some of the Scriptures wherein allusions are made to this wide subject, we have to turn back again, and contemplate the consecration of the Priesthood, directed in Ex. 29, and accomplished in Lev. 8 and ix.