Expositor's Dictionary of Texts
And the LORD spake unto Moses in the wilderness of Sinai, in the first month of the second year after they were come out of the land of Egypt, saying,The Guiding Pillar
I. Note the Double Form of the Guiding Pillar.—The fire was the centre, the cloud was wrapped around it. The same double element is found in all God's manifestations of Himself to men. In every form of revelation are present both the heart and core of light, which no eye can look upon, and the merciful veil which, because it veils, unveils; because it hides, reveals; makes visible because it conceals; and shows God because it is the hiding of His power. It reappears in both elements in Christ, but combined in new proportions, so as that 'the veil, that is to say, His flesh,' is thinned to transparency and all aglow with the indwelling lustre of manifest Deity.
Note also the varying appearance of the pillar according to need. By day it was a cloud, by night it glowed in the darkness.
Both these changes of aspect symbolize for us the reality of the Protean capacity of change according to our ever-varying needs, which for our blessing we may find in that ever-changing, unchanging, Divine presence which will be our companion, if we will.
II. Note the Guidance of the Pillar.—When it lifts the camp marches; when it glides down and lies motionless the march is stopped and the tents are pitched. Never, from moment to moment, did they know when the moving cloud might settle, or the resting cloud might soar.
Is not that all true about us? God guides us by circumstances, God guides us by His word, God guides us by His Spirit, speaking through our common sense and in our understandings, and, most of all, God guides us by that dear Son of His, in whom is the fire and round whom is the cloud.
In like manner, the same absolute uncertainty which was intended to keep the Israelites (though it failed often) in the attitude of constant dependence, is the condition in which we all have to live, though we mask it from ourselves.
III. The Docile Following of the Guide.—'At the commandment of the Lord they rested in their tents, and at the commandment of the Lord they journeyed.' Obedience was prompt; whensoever and for whatsoever the signal was given, the men were ready.
What do we want in order to cultivate and keep such a disposition? We need perpetual watchfulness lest the pillar should lift unnoticed. We need still more to keep our wills in absolute suspense, if His will has not declared itself. Do not let us be in a hurry to run before God. We need to hold the present with a slack hand, so as to be ready to fold our tents and take to the road, if God will. We need, too, to cultivate the habit of prompt obedience. If we would follow the pillar, we must follow it at once.
—A. Maclaren, The Unchanging Christ, p. 203.
References.—IX. 16.—A. Maclaren, Expositions of Holy Scripture—Exodus, Leviticus, and Numbers, p. 306. X. 1, 2.—C. Jerdan, Pastures of Tender Grass, p. 98. X. 10.—J. Baines, Sermons, p. 1.
Let the children of Israel also keep the passover at his appointed season.
In the fourteenth day of this month, at even, ye shall keep it in his appointed season: according to all the rites of it, and according to all the ceremonies thereof, shall ye keep it.
And Moses spake unto the children of Israel, that they should keep the passover.
And they kept the passover on the fourteenth day of the first month at even in the wilderness of Sinai: according to all that the LORD commanded Moses, so did the children of Israel.
And there were certain men, who were defiled by the dead body of a man, that they could not keep the passover on that day: and they came before Moses and before Aaron on that day:
And those men said unto him, We are defiled by the dead body of a man: wherefore are we kept back, that we may not offer an offering of the LORD in his appointed season among the children of Israel?
And Moses said unto them, Stand still, and I will hear what the LORD will command concerning you.
And the LORD spake unto Moses, saying,
Speak unto the children of Israel, saying, If any man of you or of your posterity shall be unclean by reason of a dead body, or be in a journey afar off, yet he shall keep the passover unto the LORD.
The fourteenth day of the second month at even they shall keep it, and eat it with unleavened bread and bitter herbs.
They shall leave none of it unto the morning, nor break any bone of it: according to all the ordinances of the passover they shall keep it.
But the man that is clean, and is not in a journey, and forbeareth to keep the passover, even the same soul shall be cut off from among his people: because he brought not the offering of the LORD in his appointed season, that man shall bear his sin.
And if a stranger shall sojourn among you, and will keep the passover unto the LORD; according to the ordinance of the passover, and according to the manner thereof, so shall he do: ye shall have one ordinance, both for the stranger, and for him that was born in the land.
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.
So it was alway: the cloud covered it by day, and the appearance of fire by night.
And when the cloud was taken up from the tabernacle, then after that the children of Israel journeyed: and in the place where the cloud abode, there the children of Israel pitched their tents.
At the commandment of the LORD the children of Israel journeyed, and at the commandment of the LORD they pitched: as long as the cloud abode upon the tabernacle they rested in their tents.
And when the cloud tarried long upon the tabernacle many days, then the children of Israel kept the charge of the LORD, and journeyed not.
And so it was, when the cloud was a few days upon the tabernacle; according to the commandment of the LORD they abode in their tents, and according to the commandment of the LORD they journeyed.
And so it was, when the cloud abode from even unto the morning, and that the cloud was taken up in the morning, then they journeyed: whether it was by day or by night that the cloud was taken up, they journeyed.
Or whether it were two days, or a month, or a year, that the cloud tarried upon the tabernacle, remaining thereon, the children of Israel abode in their tents, and journeyed not: but when it was taken up, they journeyed.
At the commandment of the LORD they rested in the tents, and at the commandment of the LORD they journeyed: they kept the charge of the LORD, at the commandment of the LORD by the hand of Moses.