The Passover (9:1–14)
14 A final instruction from the Lord concerned any alien who wanted to observe the Passover. They were allowed to do so as long as they were circumcised (see Exodus 12:4849). Once again we see God’s concern for non–Israelites. God’s ultimate plan was to extend the covenant blessings of Israel to all peoples on earth (Genesis 12:3).
The Cloud Above the Tabernacle (9:15–23)
15–16 On the day the tabernacle was set up, the cloud covered it; the cloud was the manifestation of God’s presence and His glory (see Exodus 40:34–35 and comment). In fact, throughout Scripture, the cloud is associated with the presence of God (Exodus 19:9,16–18; 1 Kings 8:10–11; Mark 9:7; Acts 1:9).
The cloud was clearly no ordinary cloud. It looked like a cloud in the daytime, but at night it looked like fire (verse 15). Furthermore, this cloud moved in direct response to God’s will; indeed, God used the cloud to communicate His marching orders to the people (verse 18).
It is impossible to know exactly how God appeared in the cloud; He can make His presence known in many ways. The point is that He was present with His people and was directly guiding them and protecting them by means of the cloud and the fire (see Exodus 13:20–22; 40:36–38 and comments).
17–23 Not only was the cloud a gracious indication of God’s presence and protection but it also gave the Israelites the daily guidance they needed to remain in God’s will. They may not have known exactly where they were or where they should go, but they didn’t need to know that. All they needed to do was to keep their eyes on the cloud and follow wherever it led (Hebrews 12:2).
Today, we Christians don’t need a cloud to guide us; we have the Holy Spirit (John 14:16–17,26). But in order to keep receiving the Holy Spirit’s guidance, we must obey His promptings (Galatians 5:25); if we don’t, the Spirit will withdraw. Like the ancient Israelites, we too must rely on and follow the Lord’s guidance day by day, hour by hour.32
They obeyed the LORD’s order (verse 23). It was indeed tragic that, having received from God such marvelous guidance from the cloud (affirmed through God’s spokesman Moses), the Israelites so quickly began to grumble and rebel against both Moses and God. Let us not suppose that the same could never happen to us! (see 1 Corinthians 10:1–12).