17 When Pharaoh let the people go, God did not lead them by way of the land of the Philistines, although that was near. For God said, “Lest the people change their minds when they see war and return to Egypt.” 18 But God led the people around by the way of the wilderness toward the Red Sea. And the people of Israel went up out of the land of Egypt equipped for battle. 19 Moses took the bones of Joseph with him, for Joseph had made the sons of Israel solemnly swear, saying, “God will surely visit you, and you shall carry up my bones with you from here.” 20 And they moved on from Succoth and encamped at Etham, on the edge of the wilderness. 21 And the Lord went before them by day in a pillar of cloud to lead them along the way, and by night in a pillar of fire to give them light, that they might travel by day and by night. 22 The pillar of cloud by day and the pillar of fire by night did not depart from before the people.
Pharaoh finally let his people go, and the Israelites were freed to go their way. But the journey wasn't over. In fact, it had just begun. Ahead of them was another challenge. Although they were no longer slave status having to suffer under cruel slave masters, the next thing facing them was the foreign desert wilderness.
The wilderness is a tough and dangerous place. During the day, it can get so hot that plants would dry up. Not only that, there is hardly any food around or water to drink. But most of all, the Israelites wouldn't know how to survive in the desert because they lived their entire life as slaves in Egypt. This was new to them. How would they know what was safe to touch? Which direction to go? How to safely reach Canaan?
Pillar of Cloud
God protected Israelites by the pillar of cloud so that they could survive in the scorching desert heat. When God's cloud stopped above the tent, Israelites also stopped and pitched a tent. When the cloud moved again, they also moved following the cloud. Because the pillar of cloud was together with the Israelites, they did not get lost. The pillar of cloud also provided a shade for them to stay cool.
The Pillar of Fire
Night time in the desert is opposite to the scorching day time because the temperature can sharply drop. It is difficult to stay healthy in this climate. Not only that, there are venomous creatures such as snakes and scorpions.
Then how were Israelites able to stay unharmed? The pillar of fire was with them. During the night, they saw the pillar of fire and it kept them safe and warm even in the cold. Just like this, God loved his people and protected them with a pillar of cloud by day and pillar of fire by night.
Guidance and Protection of a Shepherd
Through the pillars of cloud and fire, Israelites witnessed the guidance and protection of God. Today, we cannot see these pillars with our own eyes, but the same God is always one step ahead of us, giving us direction, protection and assurance.
How can we know of His perfect guidance? Just as sheep follow the shepherd's voice, we also need to be attentive to his voice. Jesus is our shepherd and we are his sheep (John 10:11). As a good shepherd knows his sheep, Jesus knows us and how to guide us where we are. Therefore, we need to follow Jesus and his word, our good shepherd, fully trusting his guidance.
By Bible Portal