Ex.13:21,22 – And the LORD went before them by day in a pillar of cloud to lead the way, and by night in a pillar of fire to give them light, so as to go by day and night. He did not take away the pillar of cloud by day or the pillar of fire by night from before the people.
The children of Israel were a people without a country, worse than that, they had been slaves for 430 years. They were launching out on an impossible journey, with unbeatable enemies, no resources, traveling to a land inhabited by giants. Their odds weren’t great. The moment they left Egypt in obedience and came to the edge of the wilderness the Lord appeared to them in a cloud. The cloud is a picture of God’s protection and guidance. As long as Israel followed the cloud they would be okay. That’s how it always is even for us today, we always have to follow the cloud. You may think, “wait a minute, I haven’t seen any clouds lately”. The Lord may not show up in a physical cloud but He will lead you if you follow. The cloud is a picture of His tangible presence which is more available now than ever. Here is how Henry describes this passage.
“In the first two stages it was enough that God directed Moses whither to march: he knew the country and the road well enough; but now that they had come to the edge of the wilderness they would have occasion for a guide; and a very good guide they had, one that was infinitely wise, kind, and faithful: The Lord went before them, the shechinah (or appearance of the divine Majesty, which was typical of Christ) or a previous manifestation of the eternal Word, which, in the fulness of time, was to be made flesh, and dwell among us. Christ was with the church in the wilderness.
Mic.2:13 – ‘Now their King passed before them, even the Lord on the head of them’.”
For Moses there was a cloud, for the disciples there was Christ as a man, today we have the wonderful Holy Spirit. The Jews struggled following the cloud, after all this has never happened before. The nation of Israel rejected Jesus; can anything good come out of Nazareth? Today, many struggle following the Holy Spirit; it is so much more comfortable following a routine or a program. All of us face hostile circumstances and enemies, our only recourse is to follow Christ’s presence. He will lead us into our land of promise.