Not only were these pillars the assurance of God’s presence and leading, but also protection.
Danger lurked at every turn and the barren desert wilderness threatened the life of a foot-traveler. Hot sun baked the land. What would it do to a human body? Did the cloud provide shade?
At night, enemy forces looking to obliterate this traveling nation, and/or hungry, wild animals looking for an easy meal, would have found the light from the miraculous fire pillar a deterrent.
Think for a moment about the people who called this region home. What was it like for them to witness such a phenomenon? The gods they worshiped couldn’t do this.
Clearly, Israel’s God was El-Elyon, God Most High.
Cartoonists depict a depressed person with a dark cloud above their head. Wherever they go, they are under that cloud. While God’s pillar of cloud was much different, it’s the same concept. In I Corinthians 10:1 Paul writes, “Moreover, brethren, I do not want you to be unaware that all our fathers were under the cloud…”
The cloud and fire protected Israel in ways we cannot fully understand and although we do not now have physical pillars of cloud and fire, we do have God’s promises. When filled with the indwelling Spirit of God, we reside in the secret place of the Most High. There, scripture tells us, we abide under the shadow of the Almighty, and under His wings, we take refuge.
The Name of the Lord is our Strong Tower. He is our Refuge, our Fortress and our Deliverer. Just as God protected Israel, He protects us from perilous pestilence and the enemy’s snare. Yet, this does not mean we will never suffer adversity. We will, because we live in a sin-cursed world.
God makes the sun to rise and the rain to fall on everyone, just or unjust. However, like a bird shelters its young with feathery wings, believers are safe under God’s all-encompassing protection, knowing He will work all things together for our good.
As the pillar of cloud and pillar of fire were Israel’s clear evidence of God’s presence and His embracing protection, true believers have the spiritual equivalent in Him and His Word. Almighty God is our shield, our protection, our deliverer, and our guide. It's crucial for us to dwell in His secret place and to abide under the shadow of His protective wings. Because my friends, without Him we can do nothing.