The Pillar of Cloud and of Fire
Numbers 9:15-23
And on the day that the tabernacle was reared up the cloud covered the tabernacle, namely, the tent of the testimony…


1. We see the pillar in God's Word. The Bible has not a precept for every emergency which can arise in daily life, so that at such a point you can see a guide-board, like the signs pointing to the old cities of refuge; but it is full of general principles which, if obeyed, will direct without mistake to the promised land.

2. We see the pillar in God's providences. Sometimes it appears in prosperity, beckoning us onward; sometimes in adversity, turning us back.

3. We see the pillar in God's special revelations. They come, perhaps, at the threshold of some great undertaking. Shall we move out from Egypt toward the Red Sea? And there, if we are watching, will be the sign in the sky I When Pastor Harms, in Germany, was deliberating whether, without one dollar in his possession, he should build a ship to carry missionaries to Africa, he says, describing his conflict: "I prayed fervently to the Lord, laid the matter in His hands, and as I rose up at midnight from my knees I said, with a voice that almost startled me in my quiet room, 'Forward now, in God's name.' From that moment there never came a thought of doubt into my mind." Such an experience must, indeed, be interpreted with great care, there is so much danger of delusion. Yet it is true that with a prayerful mind, with diligent study of the Word, especially with the intuitions of a filial spirit, such revelations may be as distinct as any that ever came to Moses.

II. THE PILLAR IS A BLESSING ONLY TO THOSE WHO TRUST AND FOLLOW IT. On some sides the Israelites are a poor example for us, but we may learn something from them in this particular: that they followed the pillar.

1. They followed it promptly. Whenever and wherever it moved, then and thither they moved without delay. If it aroused them from their sleep they obeyed with alacrity. It is when the cloud speaks to us "suddenly," unexpectedly, that our obedience is most severely tested. But that is our standard; a mind to run in the way of God's commandments.

2. They followed the pillar constantly (vers. 21, 22).

3. They followed the pillar by faith. They obeyed even when they could not understand. If troubles were only explained they would be so much easier to bear. But the best faith endures without understanding. A generation ago some of us used to hear of an afflicted woman in Connecticut named Chloe Lankton, who, many will be surprised to know, is living still. For fifty-five years she has lain upon her bed and suffered, but without losing her Christian faith. Acknowledging, not long ago, a remittance sent for her support, she wrote: "Jesus only knows how much I endure. He knows it all and supports me I have a strong arm to lean upon and will trust Him to the end Oh, how thankful I feel... for the many comforts and blessings God gives me!" Poor soul! How long, for her, the cloud has tarried! And she is only one of the great "shut-in-society" who have learned to trust and follow "two days or a month or a year," or a lifetime, if God wills, It would be a mistake, however, to think of this truth as applying only to the darker side of human experience. It is great joy in the brightest prosperity to see the pillar; and no one has so good a right to live in the sunshine as a Christian. Friendship is joy, home is joy, music is joy, learning is joy. The world is full of such pleasures. But does it not intensify these to realise that they are all signs of the Father's love? Is not the water at Elim more sweet if, as we quench our thirst, we can look up and see the pillar? Then, too, is there not comfort in knowing that if farther on we have cause to apprehend another experience of thirst and suffering, we shall be under the same heavenly presence and can hear the voice out of the cloud? So for all, in every condition and need, the pillar has heavenly blessing. Still we must remember the blessing is only for those who trust and follow.

(T. J. Holmes.)

Parallel Verses
KJV: And on the day that the tabernacle was reared up the cloud covered the tabernacle, namely, the tent of the testimony: and at even there was upon the tabernacle as it were the appearance of fire, until the morning.

WEB: On the day that the tabernacle was raised up, the cloud covered the tabernacle, even the Tent of the Testimony: and at evening it was over the tabernacle as it were the appearance of fire, until morning.

The Pillar of Cloud and Fire
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