Many people walk in confusion, around and around in aimless wanderings trying to figure out their purpose for being placed here on earth. They have no direction and are lost souls. Unfortunately, they will remain in their aimless pursuit until they find their Maker and Divine Creator, God the Father, Jesus the One who gives life and the Holy Spirit who guides and leads us into all truths.
As a young man, Joseph was sold into slavery by his brothers but what his brothers meant for evil God turned for good and he eventually became Prime Minister of Egypt. Because of a famine, Joseph’s family of 70 came and to Egypt and found him, food and a sanctuary. Four hundred years later, the children of Israel grew to a staggering tribe numbering to over two million. They could have easily taken over the land with there immense size which caused fear to enter into the heart’s of the Egyptians. The Israelites were forced into slavery to build the Pharoah’s empire and to keep them under control.
The well known story of Moses is told in Exodus. The Book of Exodus is about redemption; being set free from bondages. As Moses grows in strength, valor and position, He becomes the deliverer of God’s people from Egypt and thus the story Moses, one of the greatest leaders of all times, unfolds. He sets his people free and the Book of Exodus tells the narrative of the Israelites desert wanderings for 40 years.
What should have been a ten day journey turned into forty long years. Those years were not wasted as God used the time to prepare, humble and test them. God also used the time to get to know what was in their hearts and time for them to get to know His great power and miracles, (Deuteronomy 8:2).
What was God up to? Why didn’t He take the people on a direct course to the Promise Land? It’s one thing to take people out of Egypt and quite another to take Egypt out of the people. Sound familiar? We give our lives to the Lord but it takes time to get the world’s value system out of our hearts and minds. We are on a life’s journey of getting the “me” out of me. Until we understand this, we will always be wondering and asking God, “Why is this happening to me and what are You doing?” When we don’t understand the ways of the Lord, disappointment can set in and some may turn away from the Lord. The only problem with that is once you give your life to Him, you are His forever. He says, “All souls are mine,” Ezekiel 18:4 and “No one can take you our of my hand.” A person can walk away and live for self excluding God but they still belong to Him. God patiently waits with open arms for His children to return. Think of it like a rubber band tied between God and each of His children. The farther away a person chooses to go and stretch the band will determine the speed and force in which they will snap back.
We enter the story line in Exodus 13:17 where Pharaoh has let the people go and God leads them toward the Red Sea. They camped at Etham which means, “With them,” and by day the Lord went ahead of them in a pillar of cloud and a pillar of fire by night. They could travel day or night. The cloud and fire not only gave them direction but practically speaking gave them shade and coolness in the scorching desert sun and also light to see by at night. God has everything covered day and night.
Throughout the Old and New Testaments, the Lord shows up saying, “I AM with you always.” The pillar of cloud and fire is a picture of the Holy Spirit guiding, leading, covering and lighting our pathway. Isaiah speaks of God’s goodness to His people in Isaiah 63:11-14 reminding them it was God who set the Holy Spirit among them, who sent power to Moses to divide the waters and gave them rest.
Even though Pharaoh let the people go, he had second thoughts and prepared His invincible army to pursue the Israelites. The people fell into great fear when they saw the Pharaoh’s army approaching. They felt boxed in and no where to go. They thought they were going to die. Do you ever feel boxed in and no where to go? Moses told the people not to be afraid and assured them that they would once again see the hand of God deliver them. Exodus 14:14, “The Lord will fight for you; you need only to be still.”
God gave instructions for Moses to raise his staff and stretch out his hand over the sea to divide the waters so the people could cross over the dry land. Then an angel of God who was before them and the pillar of cloud and fire also moved from the front to the rear, coming between Egypt and Israel. This is a beautiful picture of the Lord always covering our backs when we are boxed in a situation. He will give us a way of escape with protection and provides the miracles. The cloud brought darkness to the Egyptians but remained light to the Israelites. The same is true in the case of those who do not choose to believe in Jesus. His light looks like darkness to them but light to us. John 3:19-21 says, “This is the verdict: Light has come into the world but men loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil. Everyone who does evil hates the light and will not come into the light for fear that his deeds will be exposed. But whoever lives by the truth comes into the light so that it may be seen plainly that what he has done has been done through God.”
The Israelites made it across on dry land but the mighty Egyptian’s army of horses and chariots were bogged down in the mud. Exodus 14:24 says, “During the last watch of the night the Lord looked down from the pillar of fire and cloud at the Egyptian army and threw it into confusion. He made the wheels of the chariots come off so that they had difficulty driving. And the Egyptians said, ‘Let’s get away from the Israelites. The Lord is fighting for them against Egypt.'”
Yes, it is the Lord who fights against our enemies and causes confusion and their tiresome tactics to get stuck in the mud. The enemy may be on the chase but we always have the pillar of cloud and pillar of fire between us and the enemy. The Lord bogs down and stops the plans of the enemy before it reaches us.
We also read about the pillar of cloud and pillar of fire above the tabernacle that lead and guided the people in Numbers 10:15-23. The day that the tabernacle was set up, God sent the cloud to hover over the tabernacle. The cloud that looked like fire hovered from evening till morning. Whenever the cloud and fire lifted, the people moved on and when it settled, they stopped and encamped. Sometimes the cloud and fire hovered for only a day; other times they encamped for a week, months or a year before they moved on. They obeyed the moving of the Holy Spirit which came to them by cloud and fire. Good lesson for us. Do we move when the Holy Spirit says, “Move?” Do we stay still when the word is “No?” Do we come up with excuses and procrastinate when we are told to go or take off on our own impulses just because it sounds good?
We may not have a visible, tangible cloud and fire over head but we do live under the New Covenant. God spoke to Jeremiah about a new thing He was going to do in Jeremiah 31:33, “I will put my law in their minds and write it on their hearts.” We have the cloud of pillar and the cloud of fire within as a free gift, the Holy Spirit.
No longer do we need to walk in confusion. We now are to be led by the power of the Holy Spirit who lights up our pathway, giving us direction and purpose. Psalm 119:105 tells us, “Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light for my path.” We are given the written Word so we no longer are wandering aimlessly in the desert sun but resting under His sheltering cloud of coolness and peace and His fire to light our way.