Who went in the way before you, to search you out a place to pitch your tents in, in fire by night…
I. AS THE PILLAR OF CLOUD AND FIRE WAS A BLESSING TO THE JEWS, SO IS THE BIBLE A BLESSING TO ALL AGES.
1. Consider the characteristics of the Bible as set forth by those of the pillar. That pillar had its own history.
(1) It was Divine in its origin. It was not a common cloud, nor yet an exhalation from the marshy ground. It was evidently, from the history, a supernatural phenomenon. Does not the Word of God give light, and show the path of duty when all is dark around? Is not its glorious guidance given in the perplexities of this wilderness? All the raging storms of this life diminish not its lustre.
(2) The Bible, like the pillar, is exactly fitted for the object for which it is designed. "It is a light to my path and a lamp to my feet," said the Psalmist. "Oh, how I love Thy law; it is my meditation all the day." "How sweet are Thy words unto my taste! yea, sweeter than honey to my mouth!"(3) The pillar had two sides, and so has the Bible. The pillar was the same to all in itself, but it looked light and gave light to the Lord's hosts, and it looked dark and cast a deep shadow as seen by their opponents. Such, too, is the Bible. To the child of God it is all good, all cheering; to the ungodly it is all dark and terrible. It speaks of God's power. The power of God is the hope of the Christian, for it is power to help; but the power of God is the terror of the ungodly, for it is power to punish.
2. Consider the general influence of the Bible on the world as illustrated by the influence of the cloud upon those who went with it. The cloud benefited many who never knew or felt its value. In the camp of Israel there were many who were very thoughtless, as there are many in every age, yet did they enjoy the light and beat and guidance. They owed much of their comfort to that mystic cloud, but never felt or even thought of their obligation. Just so is it in reference to the Bible. Its influence is found in many a home where it is not acknowledged.
II. SOME OF THOSE WHO WERE BLESSED BY THE LIGHT AND COMFORTS OF THE MYSTIC CLOUD WERE BARRED AT LAST FROM CANAAN, AS SOME WHO HAVE BEEN BLESSED BY BIBLE TRUTH WILL NEVER FIND THEIR WAY TO HEAVEN. When that man on yon northern hills was surrounded by thick mist — when in that mist he lost his way and was overtaken by the chill, dark night, and lost his footing on the narrow ledge along which the path led him, and fell headlong into the deep abyss and was killed — the sight was very sad. But I can point you to a sadder scene than that. It is to see a man walk over some terrible precipice when the sun of heaven is shining to show his danger, and his eyes are open to it. But the saddest sight of all is to see, lost for ever, men and women who have been instructed in the Bible. Many who know the way to heaven come short of it through unbelief.
III. THOSE WHO WERE FAITHFUL TO GOD WERE LED BY THE MYSTIC CLOUD TO CANAAN; SO SHALL ALL BELIEVERS BE LED BY THE WORD OF GOD TO HEAVEN. Out of all the people who left Egyptian bondage only two entered the land of promise, Caleb and Joshua. The benefits of the fiery cloud were lost upon the rest. The cloud led them ever Jordan, and left them safe in possession of the land. Thus it ever is. Those who are faithful to God find His Word their guide and comfort to the end. Its promises turn their darkness into day, and calm all storms of inward fear.
(E. Lewis, B. A.)
Parallel VersesKJV: Who went in the way before you, to search you out a place to pitch your tents in, in fire by night, to shew you by what way ye should go, and in a cloud by day.