The Cloud That Led Them

A New Year lies ahead!

What will it bring? What will we experience, if we may live, in the months and days of this year? Such questions arise in our minds and souls, accompanied often with feelings of anxiety and fear. What will happen in the world, in the church, in our own denomination, in our own families, and with ourselves? For all these questions and a hundred of others we have no answers. Absolutely none. The future is always unknown to us. But we do have this word:

And the Lord wen! before them by day in a pillar of cloud, to lead them the way; and by night in a pillar of fire, to give them light: to go by day and night: He took not away the pillar of cloud by day, nor the pillar of fire by night, from before the people.” Ex. 13:21,22.



Life has often been compared with traveling. God‘s people are pilgrims traveling through this life. And travelers always need guides, such as road maps, road signs, and even compasses. Without them we would be completely lost in a strange country. So it was with Israel traveling from the land of Egypt through the wilderness to the promised land of Canaan.

But God always cared for His people. Before they had even begun to leave on this long journey God provided a wonderful guide, the cloud to lead them. Suddenly it appeared, we read, at Etham, and remained with them all the way. It led them, showed them the way, protected them against the Egyptians, as well as from the heat and the storms of nature. Usually it would just hover over the tabernacle, as well as fill the Holy of Holies. Sometimes, when God spoke to the leaders it would “come down” and appear at the door of the tabernacle. When the Lord wanted Israel to move it would be raised above the tabernacle and then move on ahead of the people. Israel simply would have been completely helpless without this cloud.

How simple it really was. The Old Testament is sometimes called the kindergarten age of the Church. God taught His people with such simple methods, with water coming out of the rock, manna falling from the sky and here with the guidance of the cloud by day and night.

On this cloud all our attention must be focused if we are going to understand the significance of this part of Scripture. And in it we will also find a rich meaning for us in 1979.

If we ask what the cloud symbolized, for what it stood, then the answer is given us in plain language in the Scriptures. In some passages the cloud is designated as the Lord Himself, then also it is called the Angel of the Lord. And the Angel of the Lord in the Old Testament is the Son of Cod in that particular form of revelation. Beyond any doubt, the cloud symbolized Christ in the Old Testament. Therefore we also see the glories of Christ our Savior, in the cloud. This cloud itself must have been a tremendous thing, very majestic and glorious. There surely Wits something sublime and grand about it. It must have been very large, at least at times, to bring about complete darkness in the camp of the Egyptians when they pursued the Israelites, and to protect the children of Israel from the heat and storms in nature. At night also it must have made a tremendous impression upon all the people, it was always like a large pillar of fire for the Israelites. Imagine!—for the entire forty years they never spent one night in darkness, at least not complete darkness.

We also read that when the cloud came down to the door of the tabernacle the people saw the glory of the Lord. Perhaps there was also, at such times, a special display of fire. Remember also, that clouds are always symbolical of something majestic and of grandeur. It is this cloud that led and protected the people of God, the apple of His eye. How wonderful Christ was for His church, His people, leading them as frail, helpless people through the uncharted and unknown desert. Surely they could say, if this cloud is for us, who can be against us?!

We must always be careful that we dont become jealous of these Old Testament people. Paul calls the Old Testament church a minor, a child not yet of age. Adults (majors) must not become jealous of children (minors) even though we can learn from the simple faith of a child. Remember that these people in the Old Testament couldn‘t even read or write, and they didnt have as much as one page of the Bible. We in turn have the complete revelation and guidance of the glorified Christ. Even as the cloud led the Israelites. Christ leads His people today. It may not always seem to be so simple, but it is true, nevertheless.

Also in 1979 Christ will lead His people, and always show them the way. He wiII show you the way in which you must go and where He will lead you. Also, He will give protection and guidance. It is not always easy to determine what the will or way of the Lord is for us. This can become very difficult. But I am also convinced that we can make it much more difficult than it realIy is. Remember, the Christ who led Israel by the cloud, leads us today by His Word. By the Word we must live, that Word we must consult, that Word we must learn to know, on that Word we must meditate, and according to that Word we must live. That Word tells us in general how we must  live, where we may live, how we must teach our children, what we should believe and confess, how we should conduct ourselves in our daily lives, what kind of homes we should have, how we should use television, and so I could go on and on . . .

It’s in the Word, always. Therefore we must know this Word. We must read it as families, but also personally, and teach our children to do this. Every child should have his own Bible. Bible reading, Bible knowing and Bible-memorizing Christians we should be. Constantly feed your soul with the contents of that Word, with the riches of Jesus Christ. And knowing it, live according to it, and let it be your guide in 1979. Doesn’t Hosea tell us that God condemned the Israelites, that they would be lost because they had no knowledge of the Lord? And isnt it also true that today, with God’s complete revelation given us in the 66 books of the Bible, and with perhaps at least a half a dozen Bibles in our homes the knowledge of the Word is so limited for many people of God? Sometimes it’s pitiful.

Make resolutions for 1979? Then this is a good one, there can‘t be any better. Read and learn to know the Word more. Through it’s use, with prayer, Christ will pour out blessings upon us. Blessings of guidance, His nearness, His comfort and protection in all of the needs of the New Year.

What will the New Year bring? No one knows. We need not know. What we need is to follow the cloud of 1979, Christ in the Word, the infallible speech of God to man in this world.

How long was this cloud with the Israelites? How long did it lead them, and where did it lead them? We do know that it led the people of Israel in a round-aboutway to Canaan. It was like living in Michigan and going to Florida by way of Cincinnati, then to New York, from there to Toronto and then down south to Florida. Whatever reasons the Lord may have had for so guiding Israel, it surely would not have been the way chosen by them. A detailed map of the journeys of Israel reminds one of spaghetti. So Israel zigzagged “all over the place.” God usually doesn’t take the shortest way, nor the easiest way to heaven for us. Christ often leads liS on many “detours,” ways where we don’t want to go. After all, who likes rough, long detours, having left a smooth highway? These detours can have sharp curves, and often be very rough. And this road is always narrow. There’s never room for two, only for one. They are ways of selfdenial, persecution, adversities, temptations and constant struggles with our own sinful flesh.

But following Christ in the Word they are also ways of untold riches of blessings of the Spirit, of love, peace, security and hope and joy.

Where did the cloud finally seule? To what place did it lead lsarel? The answer is simple, to the temple in Jerusalem. This was the place called the house of God, the house of rest and fellowship with God. So Christ leads tiS today, to the spiritual temple above, heaven itself. And in following the Christ in the Word, 1979 will be part of the way for His people on the way to the heavcnly Canaan and thc eternal temple above.

Remember, the cloud never departed from Israel. When we, by the grace of God, live by this Word we have the same assurances. Always will He go with us! What will 1979 bring? No one knows, but God. We need just one thing, follow the cloud of Christ in the Word. And we shall have a truly happy and blessed New Year.