Cloud and Fire
"Moses took the bones of Joseph with him because Joseph had made the Israelites swear an oath. He had said, “God will surely come to your aid, and then you must carry my bones up with you from this place.” After leaving Sukkoth they camped at Etham on the edge of the desert. By day the Lord went ahead of them in a pillar of cloud to guide them on their way and by night in a pillar of fire to give them light, so that they could travel by day or night. Neither the pillar of cloud by day nor the pillar of fire by night left its place in front of the people."
Exodus 13: 19-22 NIV
When the Israelites leave Egypt, God calls them to walk in faith toward the land He has promised them. At this point, they have experienced miraculous delivery from brutal slavery. They have seen God's mighty hand in dramatic ways--through the mystery of the plagues, in Egyptians begging them to go and offering gifts for the journey, as the vast waters of the Red Sea became dry ground before their feet. Almighty Jehovah God has done great things for His people, revealing His love, power, and presence in astounding ways. The circumstances of their redemption are stunning; as they move toward the desert, they need to remember them.
God, in His amazing, graceful way, meets them at this point of need also. He gives them a cloud by day and a pillar of fire by night to remind them that He is with them and can be trusted in this place. Because God created them, He knows how they, and we, are built. They are quick to complain and slow to praise. They often accept blessings without acknowledging their source. They grab the miracles that come their way, then quickly forget they happened. My ancient brothers and sisters and I share some family traits.
As one who loves words, I am stunned by the complexity and beauty of God's metaphors. He is the author and perfecter of our faith, and the greatest of all teachers. The tangible signs He gives the Israelites abound in meaning. The cloud by day reminds them of His mysterious ways. They may not see clearly what He is doing, but He is always doing something! The pillar of fire points to His almighty power--all-consuming, refining, dangerously potent. In these two signs, God communicates who He is while communicating where He is.
God speaks the same message to you and me. He is mysterious, magnificent, omnipotent, omnipresent, omniscient, loving, kind, merciful and mighty. The truths behind His signs apply to us as well, tenderly addressing our heartfelt questions and deepest needs.
How are you like an Israelite?
What aspect of God's character do you often forget?
Gratitude helps us remember. What movements of God's hand do you have to be thankful for?