TEXT: Number 9:15-23
THE PRESENCE OF GOD IN THE GLORIOUS CLOUD
There are many clouds we see every day. Cloud formed from the smoke of burning substances, cloud from the silencer of some old vehicles, cloud from various explosives. Most of these clouds appear in different shapes, some in circular shape but they always dissipates and vanishes within a certain period of time.
The cloud of His glory always appears in a vertical shape like a pillar. And from it, the name pillar of Cloud and Pillar of Fire were derived. Its consistent physical manifestation day in day out in the course of the journey of the Israelites in the wilderness for those forty years differentiated this glorious cloud from ordinary ones that we see every day. When it appeared, it could not be taken for other crowd of clouds in their vicinity because it was so obvious and real. The people of God beheld the glory of God in the cloud and referenced the presence of God among them.
Another thing we should know is that, Pillar of Cloud and Pillar of Fire are the same. They are not two different entities. It is the manifestation of the power of God in a different new dimension in different events for useful purposes and for His glory.
Why then, should God appear in the cloud among His people? Exodus 33:18, 20, “And he said, I beseech thee, shew me thy glory. And he said, Thou canst not see my face: for there shall no man see me, and live.” This explains the reason why God always appear physically to His people in the cloud of His glory.
How Israelites began to experience this glorious guidance? The presence of God did not just appear in the cloud among His people without any relationship. The relationship of God began with the extension of His mercy towards Abraham and this graduated to His promises. Genesis 12:1-3 This relationship was further strengthened with His covenant with Abraham (Genesis 15:18-21) In the same day the LORD made a covenant with Abram, saying, Unto thy seed have I given this land, from the river of Egypt unto the great river, the river Euphrates The Kenites, and the Kenizzites, and the Kadmonites, And the Hittites, and the Perizzites, and the Rephaims, And the Amorites, and the Canaanites, and the Girgashites, and the Jebusites.” God renewed this covenant, to include circumcision of the males in the household of Abraham as a token of the covenant, change of names of Abram to Abraham and Serai to Sarah, and also included the generation of Abraham. (Genesis 17:1-22) Finally the covenant was sealed up with a sworn oath. (Genesis 22:15-18)
In this relationship you will notice the consistent faithfulness of the Patriarch; you will also notice their obedience to the commandments of God. The same trend of commitment was noticed in the lives of the subsequent leaders among the Israelites. God had not changed, if we desire the presence of God with us in our Christian lives, we must have a consistent relationship with God, we must be committed faithfully in total obedience to His commandments.
The appearance of the cloud in some cases in the Bible was an indication that the spiritual sacrifices of His people had been acceptable.
THE PURPOSE OF THE GLORIOUS CLOUD IN THE CAMP OF ISRAELITES
As I had mentioned earlier, the primary purpose of the Pillar of Cloud in the Camp was the express physical evidence that the presence of God was with His people.
The Scripture revealed that the Israelites were in the land of Egypt for about 430 years. (Exodus 12:40) Many of the people that embanked on the exodus journey in the wilderness were born in Egypt. As a result, they did not know their ways to the Promised Land. The Heavenly Father that had covenanted the land to their forefather, Abraham and his generation knew the way to the Promised Land. During this olden day, there was nothing like guiding map. The MapQuest and the Road Navigator, GPS had not been invented. But glory be to God, because “God Positional Spirit,” that manifested in the Pillar of Cloud was the unique divine guidance through which the Ancient of Days have been guiding His people. I described this unique manifestation as God Positional Spirit, because the Spirit of God positioned Himself among His people in order to guide them.
In vs 19, whenever the Pillar of Cloud appeared and settled on the Tabernacle, the Israelites will pitch their tents there and tarry there. When the Pillar of Cloud lifted up, and move, whether it is during the day or during the night, the Israelites will move and followed the direction of the Cloud.
In vs 16, during the day, the Cloud would provide for the people of God a cool shadow in order to prevent them from scourging of the desert high temperature heat. In the night, the Pillar of Fire will provide them with light so that the people of God may travel both day and night whenever the Spirit of God guided them to move. A light in the dark hour of the night is an unquantifiable comfort unto the people of God.
The presence of God in the cloud is not only for guiding them. It is also a pillar of defense unto the people of God. “And the angel of God, which went before the camp of Israel, removed and went behind them; and the pillar of the cloud went from before their face, and stood behind them: And it came between the camp of the Egyptians and the camp of Israel; and it was a cloud and darkness to them, but it gave light by night to these: so that the one came not near the other all the night.” Exodus 14:19-20
Since the Israelites will not proceed in their journey until The Pillar of Cloud was lifted up and move, we can also deduce that the Pillar of Cloud became the school Master teaching the Israelites the compliance to the spiritual ordinances like the Sabbath and others.
The presence of the Cloud executes righteous judgment. The glorious Cloud intervened swiftly to correct misconceptions and malicious gossips of Aaron and Miriam and at the same time executed judgment against their unbecoming actions. “And the LORD spake suddenly unto Moses, and unto Aaron, and unto Miriam, Come out ye three unto the tabernacle of the congregation. And they three came out. And the LORD came down in the pillar of the cloud, and stood in the door of the tabernacle, and called Aaron and Miriam: and they both came forth.” Numbers 12:4-5
The lesson here is that all the idle utterances from our mouth shall be accounted for because the presence of God is everywhere. Matthew 12:36, “But I say unto you, That every idle word that men shall speak, they shall give account thereof in the day of judgment.”
God always encamp around His people. The fact that we do not behold his glory physically like people of old does not indicate that the presence of God is no longer with us. “For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them.” Matthew 18:20 That is why we must not grief the Holy Spirit.
THE POWER OF THE GLORIOUS CLOUD IN CHRISTIAN DAYS
The Messiah was with the Israelites in their wilderness journey. (1 Corinthians 10:1-4) “Moreover, brethren, I would not that ye should be ignorant, how that all our fathers were under the cloud, and all passed through the sea; And were all baptized unto Moses in the cloud and in the sea; And did all eat the same spiritual meat; And did all drink the same spiritual drink: for they drank of that spiritual Rock that followed them: and that Rock was Christ.” (This explains the similarity and agreement of the Passover feast and the Last Supper institution)
The Lord was the Captain of the Host, leading the Israelites into uncountable victories over their enemies until they possess their inheritance in the Promised Land. (Joshua 5:13-14) “And it came to pass, when Joshua was by Jericho, that he lifted up his eyes and looked, and, behold, there stood a man over against him with his sword drawn in his hand: and Joshua went unto him, and said unto him, Art thou for us, or for our adversaries? And he said, Nay; but as captain of the host of the LORD am I now come.” Our Lord, Jesus Christ is our Mighty Warrior and the Captain of our battle.
He is the One who will take us to the Promised Land of His eternity. “In my Father’s house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also.” (John 14:2-3)
At transfiguration, the glorious cloud was there and overshadowed the disciples. They heard a powerful instruction from the cloud. “While he was still speaking, behold, a bright cloud overshadowed them; and behold, a voice out of the cloud, said, “This is My beloved Son, with whom I am well-pleased; listen to Him!” (Matthew 17:5)
“At the ascension of Jesus Christ, the cloud was there to received Jesus Christ as He was ascending to heaven. “And after He [Jesus Christ] had said these things, He was lifted up while they were looking on, and a cloud received Him out of their sight.” (Acts 1:9)
It is the same cloud of His glory that we should expect to see in the camps of the righteous in the turbulent time of our Christian journey. (Isaiah 4:5-6) “And the LORD will create upon every dwelling place of mount Zion, and upon her assemblies, a cloud and smoke by day, and the shining of a flaming fire by night: for upon all the glory shall be a defence. And there shall be a tabernacle for a shadow in the daytime from the heat, and for a place of refuge, and for a covert from storm and from rain.”
Jesus Christ, the Son of Man will come back in the cloud with power and glory. All eyes will see Him. (Luke 12:27) “And then they will see the Son of Man coming in a cloud with power and great glory.” Are we ready to behold Him in His glory and partake in the bliss of the cloud of His glory? His grace will see us through, in Jesus name, Amen.