Verse 14. In the daytime also he led them with a cloud. HE did it all. He alone. He brought them into the wilderness, and he led them through it; it is not the Lord's manner to begin a work, and then cease from it while it is incomplete. The cloud both led and shadowed the tribes. It was by day a vast sun screen, rendering the fierce heat of the sun and the glare of the desert sand bearable.
And all the night with a light of fire. So constant was the care of the Great Shepherd that all night and every night the token of his presence was with his people. That cloud which was a shade by day was as a sun by night. Even thus the grace which cools and calms our joys, soothes and solaces our sorrows. What a mercy to have a light of fire with us amid the lonely horrors of the wilderness of affliction. Our God has been all this to us, and shall we prove unfaithful to him? We have felt him to be both shade and light, according as our changing circumstances have required.
"He hath been our joy in woe,
Cheered our heart when it was low,
And, with warnings softly sad,
Calmed our heart when it was glad."
May this frequently renewed experience knit our hearts to him in firmest bonds.
EXPLANATORY NOTES AND QUAINT SAYINGS
Verse 14. That there was a mystery in this pillar of cloud and fire is clear from Isaiah 4:5-6 , for there never was a literal cloud and fire upon Mount Zion. This fiery pillar did cease when they were entered into Canaan; Isaiah therefore intends a spiritual thing under those expressions. So it is represented by the Apostle as representing a gospel mystery: 1 Corinthians 10:2 . It signified and shadowed forth,
- Something of Christ himself;
- The benefits of Christ;
- The ordinances of Christ.
- Christ himself. Some have noted a shadow both of his Deity and humanity. There was a fiery brightness in the clouds, which yet was but a dark shadow of the glory of his Deity, which was often in vision so represented; but his divine nature was veiled and over clouded by his human, as in this shadow there was a pillar of cloud as well as fire. In Revelation 10:1 Christ is represented as clothed with a cloud, and his feet as pillars of fire; expressions notably answering this ancient type and shadow.
- It holds forth something of the benefits of Christ. What benefits had they from this pillar of fire and cloud? They had three:
- Light and direction.
- Defence and protection.
- Ornament and glory. All which we have in a higher manner in Christ by the gospel.
- It figured also the ordinances, and his presence in and with them; for the ordinances are the outward and visible tokens of God's presence with his people, as this fiery pillar was of old. And, therefore, when the Tabernacle was made and set up, it rested upon the Tabernacle, Exodus 40:38 . There be some duties are secret, which the world sees not, nor may see; as alms deeds and personal and secret prayer. But the ordinances of institution are things that ought to be practised with all the publickness that may be: they are outward and visible tokens of God's presence, particularly that great ordinance of baptism, as in 1 Corinthians 10:2 . The cloud, it seems, had a refreshing moisture in it, to shade, refresh, and cool them from the burning heat; and they were bedewed (Rather "baptised" in it, as Paul puts it in 1Co 10:2) with it, as we are with the water of baptism; whereby this legal cloud became a type of gospel baptism. And so you see how it represented something of Christ himself, and something of his benefits, and something of all his ordinances under the New Testament.
Verse 14. All the night. We need not dwell long upon the thought of what this all was to the Israelites. In night marchings, and night restings, it was very precious; whether they were in motion or at rest, it was alike needed, alike good. This light of fire, unless continuous, would have been of comparatively little worth. Were it suddenly extinguished as they marched, all Israel would have been plunged into confusion and dismay; the quenching of the light would have changed into a disordered rabble, the marshalled host. Philip Bennett Power, in "Breviates: or Short Texts and Their Teachings."
HINTS FOR PASTORS AND LAYPERSONS
Verse 12-16. God revealed in his deeds. The wonder working God -- Psalms 78:12-16 . The avenging God -- Psalms 78:12 . The interposing God -- Psalms 78:13 . The guiding God -- Ps 78:14. The Father God -- Psalms 78:14-16 . C. D.
Verse 12-17. Obstinacy of unbelief. It makes head against God's majesty -- Psalms 78:17 ; his gracious providence -- Psalms 78:14-16 ; his interposing care -- Psalms 78:13 ; his avenging justice -- Psalms 78:12 ; his distinguishing grace -- Psalms 78:12-16 . C. D.
Verse 12-17. Prodigies cannot convert the soul. Luke 16:31 . C. D.
Verse 14. The adaptations of God: a beautiful theme. C. D.
Direction. Protection. Refreshment. R. P. Buddicom.
Verse 14. The Lord guides his people by being,
- Their shade in prosperity, cooling and calming.
- Their light in adversity, cheering and warming.