Exodus 14:19, 20
And the angel of God, which went before the camp of Israel, removed and went behind them…
We are told that as the Israelites were about to cross the Red Sea, the fiery-cloudy pillar changed its position, and came between them and the Egyptians. It was the self-same pillar, but it wore a very different aspect to friends and foes respectively. "It was," we read, "a cloud of darkness to them (the Egyptians), but it gave light to these (the camp of Israel)." We should notice that the same double aspect belongs to all God's manifestations of himself, in Law and Gospel, in matter and spirit, in the world, and in the Church.
I. GOD'S ATTRIBUTES have this double aspect. Not one of his attributes but has a bright side turned to the believer, and a dark side to the wicked. This is true even of such attributes as holiness and justice, from which the believer, as a sinner, might seem to have most to fear. "Faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness" (1 John 1:9). So God's omnipotence, which is hostile to the transgressor, is pledged to defend, bless, and save the saint (1 Peter 1:5; Jude 1:24). God's eternity, in like manner, is given to the believer for a dwelling-place (Deuteronomy 33:27; Psalm 90:1), but how terrible an aspect it has to the evil-doer! The dark side of love is wrath. "If God be for us, who can be against us?" (Romans 8:31). But on the other hand, "It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God" (Hebrews 10:31).
II. GOD'S LAWS have this double aspect.
1. Physical laws. The constitution of nature is favourable to virtue, hostile to vice (See Butler's Analogy).
2. Moral law, for this, while awarding life to the obedient, is a ministry of condemnation to the sinner.
3. Mental and spiritual laws. Take e.g. the law of habit. "The law of habit, which applies alike to all our physical, mental, and moral actions, must be regarded in its design as a truly benevolent one. But the law of habit, when the soul yields to sin, works death to the sinner: - like the pillar of cloud which made day to Israel, and was darkness to the Egyptians, so the law, which is bright to the well-doer, sheds night upon the path of the sinner, until he is plunged into the sea of death" (Theodore D. Woolsey).
III. GOD'S WORD has this double aspect. To the prayerful, believing, docile mind, it is a source of unfailing light. It is a lamp to the feet and a light to the path (Psalm 119:105). But to the proud, the unbelieving, and the presumptuous, it is only darkness. These can see nothing in it but difficulties, incredibilities, contradictions, moral monstrosities. It is full of stumbling-blocks. The more they read it, the more are they blinded by it. They read only to discover some new fault or error.
IV. GOD'S VERY GOSPEL has this double aspect. "The preaching of the Cross is to them that perish foolishness, but to us who are saved it is the power of God" (1 Corinthians 1:18-24). It repels the one class, and attracts the other. To the one, it is a savour of life; to the other, a savour of death (2 Corinthians 2:16). - J.O.
Parallel VersesKJV: 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: