Exodus 13-15 The pillar of cloud by day and the pillar of fire by night did not depart from before the people

From Exodus 13-15

02 ExodusThe LORD has just rescued Israel from slavery in Egypt. Now he displays his power and presence through two gigantic pillars. One of cloud for the day and one by night. They lead the people and light their way. All God’s people need him to lead them.

This post is part of my bible in a year series.

Passage and Comments

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Israel has just been through the very first Passover (Ex 12). The event is important enough to warrant several laws to commemorate it:

  • The Passover meal (Ex 12.43-51),
  • The consecration of all the firstborn (Ex 13.1-2,15-16), and
  • The week long feast of Unleavened Bread (Ex 13.3-16).

Because this was the day the LORD rescued his firstborn son Israel from Egypt (Ex 4.22-23).

Now that the LORD has rescued them from slavery in Egypt and now they are on their way out they need special guidance.

Alexander, T.D., 1994. Exodus. In D. A. Carson et al., eds. New Bible commentary: 21st century edition. Leicester, England; Downers Grove, IL: Inter-Varsity Press, pp. 92–120.

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.

‘Philistines’, ‘War’. This is the shorter route to the promised land. This way however will bring them into conflict with the Philistines. After the demonstration of his power in Egypt, God is certainly able to hand them over. What is not certain at this moment is Israel’s readiness to fight. In any event Israel has must await God’s timing.

‘Wilderness’, ‘Red Sea’. The LORD instead leads them along the longer route, which will lead them by Mt Sinai and actually prove to be a greater test of Israel’s faith.

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.”

‘Bones of Joseph’. In Gen 50.25 Joseph made his brethren promise that when God ‘visits’ them in Egypt, they will take up his bones for burial in the promised land. That promise is now on its way to find fulfillment where it will eventually take place when Joshua invades and takes over the promised land (Josh 24.32).

The LORD is faithful to His promises as this entire story demonstrates.

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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. (Ex 13.17-22)

‘Pillar of cloud and fire’. As was the burning bush, the pillars of cloud and fire are both theophanies. The pillars serve two functions.

‘Went before them’. They guide the people along the way they must travel. He is leading and guiding them.

‘Did not depart’. They are both manifestations of God’s presence with his people. The LORD is with them and will not leave them.

It must have been amazing to see the visible and powerful presence of the LORD.

Soon the LORD will protect them (Ex 14.19-20)

Story of Israel

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The Exodus is the inception of Israel’s existence as a people. It does not simply deliver them from slavery. It is also the event that forms them, that gives them their beginning. Since it is the foundational event in Israel’s history, it should come as little surprise that it becomes a paradigm for understanding other acts of deliverance throughout their history and into the New Testament era. (Enns, P., 2000. Exodus, Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.)

Story of Jesus

Just as Israel was lead by the pillars of cloud and fire. In the gospel God’s people are visibly lead by Jesus. But after he leaves what then? Jesus promises to send the Holy Spirit.

15 “If you love me, you will keep my commandments. 16 And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Helper, to be with you forever, 17 even the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him. You know him, for he dwells with you and will be in you. … 25 “These things I have spoken to you while I am still with you. 26 But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you. (Jn 14.15-17, 25-26)

12 “I still have many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now. 13 When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth, for he will not speak on his own authority, but whatever he hears he will speak, and he will declare to you the things that are to come. 14 He will glorify me, for he will take what is mine and declare it to you. 15 All that the Father has is mine; therefore I said that he will take what is mine and declare it to you. (Jn 16.12-15)

The Holy Spirit, the Spirit of Christ guides God’s people.

Do you desire to be lead by God? Jesus sends his Spirit into his people. He will teach us and remind us of what Jesus said. He will glorify Jesus.

God desires us to ask him for guidance. God wants us to speak to him. Speak to him and ask for guidance in whatever stage of life you are in.

Copyright © Joshua Washington and thescripturesays, 2014. All Rights Reserved.