Fire by Night, Cloud by Day
Dec 19, 2021 1997
Fire by night and cloud by day? What what that about?
When the Lord God led Israel out of Egypt, the book of Exodus tells us that,
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 (Exodus 13:21).
The truth is that the pillar of cloud and the pillar of fire are both representations of Jesus Christ and his leading and care for us.
Fire by night, cloud by day
First of all, we should note that the pillar of cloud and of fire was a manifestation of God himself, as Exodus says:
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. 22 Neither the pillar of cloud by day nor the pillar of fire by night left its place in front of the people (Ex. 13:21–22.)
You need to put this together with the fact that Jesus claimed to be the God of the Exodus, when he applied the sacred name of God to himself:
Very truly I tell you… before Abraham was born, I am!
This is unquestionably a direct reference to the very beginning of the story of the Exodus, when the Lord God himself appeared to Moses at the burning bush, and asked him to go to Egypt to free his people.
In this way, Jesus claimed to be the God of the Exodus, and it was therefore Jesus who manifested himself through the pillar of cloud and fire.
There is a powerful lesson in this description of how the Jesus guided his people. The presence of a mighty, swirling pillar of fire would normally be a terrifying phenomenon. But not when it benevolently gave the children of Israel light, and protection from their enemies at night in the terrifying desert. Clouds that blot out the sun weren’t necessarily a welcome sight in a society that was based on agriculture and the produce of the land. But it was welcome when you had to walk through a seemingly never-ending desert, especially when the children of Israel knew that it was the Lord himself who was guiding them and showing them the way.
The lesson is that the Lord always knows what we need best. If you had asked the Israelites what they needed, they probably wouldn’t have come up with the idea of a pillar of cloud by day and a pillar of fire by night. That’s because God always has better ways of giving us what we need, even when we don’t know we need them!
And just as what God gave his people was different in the night to what he gave them in the night, so too, he understands the different seasons of our lives, and that what we will need tomorrow is not what we need today. God will always provide for us just what we need at the time.
In every season of your life, the Lord will provide what you most need.
As we go through the various seasons of life, with their highs and lows, we will usually have an idea of what we need in our lives. The reality is that most people don’t ultimately know what’s best for their own lives. That’s why we can often ask God for the wrong things. That’s why Paul tells us in the Bible that,
…the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us through wordless groans (Rom. 8:26.)
Whole Christian churches have been built on the premise that God is there to give you the blessings you want in this life, according to our own wisdom and plans for our lives. The Jewish faith in the time of Christ was largely based on these kinds of ideas also.
They wanted a Saviour for the Jews; they got the Saviour of the World. They wanted someone who would kill their enemies; they got a leader who loved them. They wanted a king who would sit on a throne in the city of David; they got a condemned man who was nailed to a Cross. They wanted an eternal kingdom on earth; they received eternal life as a gift for all who would accept him. God’s way was far better than any of their religious desires.
That’s the reason for the fire by night and cloud by day. The children of Israel never asked for this. They were far more interested in food. But God provided them with light and guidance by night, and with shade and leading in the desert by day. And he gave them food also.In every season of your life, if you trust in him, the Lord will provide what you most need, and not what you think you need or want. How deep is your commitment to the Lord? Are you willing to trust?