Though we don’t know the exact numbers, most scholars agree that several million Hebrews followed Moses out of Egypt. The Lord led them with a cloud by day and a pillar of fire by night, (Exodus 13:21). When the Egyptian army pursued them, the cloud moved behind the fleeing captives, coming between the camps of the Israelites and their pursuers, (Exodus 14:18-19). The cloud of God’s presence indicated when to stay; likewise, the cloud directed when and where to move.
The Cloud of God’s Faithfulness
The cloud continued with the Israelites as they marched forward from Egypt. In Sinai, Moses received the Law and the instructions to build a tent of meeting, called a “Tabernacle.” The cloud of God’s glory descended and remained upon the completed Tabernacle.
“Throughout all their journeys whenever the cloud was taken up from over the tabernacle, the sons of Israel would set out; but if the cloud was not taken up, then they did not set out until the day when it was taken up.” (Exodus 40:36-37 NASB).
Regardless of the unfaithfulness of the people, the presence of the Lord remained with the Israelites. Even when the people refused to enter the Promised Land and were condemned to wander in the wilderness for forty years, the cloud of God’s Presence never ceased to guide them.
The Cloud of God’s Presence
Ah, the good old days… Where should we go? “Well, where is the cloud headed?” What’s for dinner? “Manna.” Where will we find water? “Where is God causing the water to flow?” Obeying God was as simple as following the cloud of His presence. In fact, I find myself envious. “What’s so hard about following a cloud?” On one hand, there is a beauty and simplicity of just “following orders;” yet, most of the Exodus story isn’t about following. The story regards God’s faithfulness in spite of the doubt, complaining and disobedience of His people.
Writing to the Church at Corinth, the Apostle Paul says,
“I don’t want you to forget, dear brothers and sisters, about our ancestors in the wilderness long ago. All of them were guided by a cloud that moved ahead of them, and all of them walked through the sea on dry ground. In the cloud and in the sea, all of them were baptized as followers of Moses. All of them ate the same spiritual food, and all of them drank the same spiritual water. For they drank from the spiritual rock that traveled with them, and that rock was Christ.” (I Corinthians 10:1-4 NLT).
In enjoying God’s protection and provision, the nation of Israel was partaking of Christ. The Hebrews saw the expression of Christ in the cloud, the manna, and the springs of water; as New Testament believers, we have a revelation of that same Christ who accompanied them. As the people of Israel pitched a physical Tent of Meeting, we are each the temple of the Holy Ghost, (I Corinthians 6:19-20). Likewise, as our brethren traversed the wilderness, following after the cloud, so also we follow the Spirit of Jesus. “For all who are being led by the Spirit of God, these are sons of God.” (Romans 8:14).
The Will of God or the Heart of God?
Then, in the wilderness, and now, in our everyday lives, it’s not a matter of knowing God’s will; it’s all about knowing God’s heart. God made His will obvious to the children of Israel, yet they disobeyed continually. Jesus spoke of the Jews when He quoted Isaiah, “This people honors Me with their lips, but their heart is far away from Me.” (Matthew 15:8 NASB). In his first letter to the Corinthians, the Apostle Paul speaks of his reliance on the Holy Spirit. He devotes the second chapter to the difference between man’s natural thoughts and the spiritual thoughts of God.
” For, ‘Who can know the Lord’s thoughts? Who knows enough to teach him?’ But we understand these things, for we have the mind of Christ.” (I Corinthians 2:16 NLT).
If we know God’s mind, we will never be deceived. If we know His heart, we have in us a well of water springing up to eternal life. This is the living water that springs from the rock of Christ.
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