“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. Neither the pillar of cloud by day nor the pillar of fire by night left its place in front of the people.”-Exodus 13:21-22
One common misconception about the Lord guiding His people in a pillar of cloud by day and a pillar of fire by night is that He was acting as a tour guide or scout.
This idea is also commonly promoted in many movies, sermons and Bible study lessons.
The truth is the Lord wasn’t taking the Israelites to a place they had no idea where they were going or how to get to.
They knew exactly where they were going.
They were familiar with both the “Way of the Philistines” route the Lord told them NOT to take as well the “Way of the Wilderness” route they would be traveling on.
Rather than acting as a tour guide, God was serving as the Israelites’ own personal and armed bodyguard.
And for good reason.
Not only was Pharaoh and his powerful army going to be in hot pursuit of the Hebrews who in his mind were still his possession, but the Israelites were going to be traveling through pretty hostile territory.
So God was going to be guarding, protecting, and defending his people from attacks on all sides.
Notice the Scripture makes a point of saying that the appearance of the cloud and fire was so the Israelites could travel by day and by night.
Why was that so important?
First, the Hebrews needed to get as far away from Pharaoh as possible and they would never have as much energy and motivation to hightail it out of Egypt as now.
The start gun had just gone off and it was time to sprint while they could.
Second, all of this occurred during the late spring, so the desert wilderness was piping hot during this season.
These conditions dictated that the best time to travel was during the night and the best time to rest was during the day.
Throughout their whole journey to the Promised Land, God was going to intimately be with them.
He was going to tell them when to move, when to stop, when to take a rest and when to get back on the path.
Isn’t this an awesome picture of how God will operate in our own lives, if we will just trust Him?
God doesn’t just save us and then leave us to our own devices.
In order to ensure that our faith journey will be fruitful, AFTER saving us, God gives us His teachings and promises to protect us from enemy attacks all along the way.
Our being saved is just the beginning.
It’s the first step of the journey.
Salvation isn’t the end all and be all as is promoted in so many churches.