In many ways a "journey" is a picture of the
Christian life! Paul is constantly talking about our "walk"
with the Lord. Peter calls us pilgrims and strangers down here
on earth. Abraham was "looking for a city," a Heavenly one!
Jesus (in John 17) reminds us that we are NOT of this world!
(IN it but not OF it!)
Christian friend, stay on the journey! Don't
get sidetracked! Don't stop! (The whole motif of the Christian
classic "Pilgrim's Progress" is that of a journey also.) Make
some progress spiritually each day. The moment you got "saved"
you began the journey. Reaching the land of Canaan is a picture
of entering into spirit-filled mature victorious living even
while yet here on earth! I say, "Forward ... march!"
The little place called "Succoth" is the
starting place (at least for our text here). It is literally
where they went after leaving Rameses, having just observed the
slaying of the lamb, shedding its blood and applying it to their
doorposts. (That's a picture of getting "saved.")
"Succoth" means a place of little "booths."
It comes from a word that means a "hut." So this is a little
place of dwelling, something temporary and portable! See how
that lends itself to the theme of a pilgrimage? By the way, for
the Christian it is "huts" and "booths" down here ... but
"mansions" up yonder in heaven! (Again, I realize Canaan is not
heaven. I am just making the point here so you can see the
contrast.) I am not saying that there will be no hard times on
the way to Canaan. There are other places called "Succoth" in
the future of the Israelites! But the final destination ...
Canaan ... will be a "booth" free existence. God will give them
homes over there. This is a picture of us Christians "dwelling
in the Spirit!" Being Spirit-filled! Overflowing with love,
joy, peace, longsuffering and all the rest of the fruit of the
Spirit! God knows how to "enlarge" our quarters!
The next stop is "Etham." The name has a
difficult history to discern. One source says it is associated
with a "plowshare." Others just associate it with the
"wilderness." Either way it symbolizes some difficulty ahead!
Some effort required!
The Israelites have just experienced
Passover, a clear picture of salvation. Now they must journey
to Canaan, a clear picture of growth in the Christian life ...
heading to "maturity!"
They are no sooner "saved" and they face the
wilderness. There is work ("plowshare") to be done! Salvation
is a GIFT! Salvation cannot be bought! Jesus paid it ALL! BUT
the journey after salvation sure can be WORK!
The word "edge" actually means "mouth." They
must soon enter the wilderness on their way to the Promised
Land! We too shall have our "wildernesses" on the way to
victory! This wilderness journey could have taken 11 days. See
Deuteronomy 1:2 ("There are eleven
days' journey from Horeb by the way of mount Seir unto
Kadeshbarnea.") But it took Israel 40 years to make the
trip (and two generations of people)! This, as you know, was
due (at least in part) to sin.
Lastly, the word "wilderness." The word is "midbar"
in Hebrew and means the desert! We shall all have desert
experiences. Let's learn in this text how God plans to lead us
through them! And He does have a PLAN, a PERSON!
I may be writing to someone today who is
saved ... and yet just beginning the journey. Stay with me for
a few days. We're going to see God's Plan for leading us
Yet again someone may be visiting today who
is in the "desert" of life. Things are dry and barren all
around you. God even has a Plan for you too! We shall see that
Plan tomorrow, Lord willing.
Don't give up! Where God guides ... He
Keep that open Bible nearby ...
--- Dr. Mike Bagwell
During the wilderness journeys of Israel, God
did not leave them without a guide! (He never does that!) He
has so promised! For example in Psalm 32:8 He says:
“I will instruct thee
and teach thee
in the way which thou shalt go:
with mine eye.”
And to New Testament believers He adds:
“Howbeit when He, the Spirit of
is come, He will
into all truth.”
The WAY He guided Israel of old is quite
interesting. In fact that comment alone leads us to today’s
Bible study verse!
LORD went before them by day in a pillar of a cloud, to lead
them the way; and by night in a pillar of fire, to give them
light; to go by day and night.” Exodus 13:21
The verb “went”
is in Hebrew “halak” and means to walk! It is a Qal participle
and suggests that the Lord walked right along with them
(constantly) everywhere they went! Glory to God! The first
time the verb is used in Scripture is in Genesis 2:14 where the
river “goeth” (“halak”) toward the east. (At times the word can
mean “to carry” also!)
translates "paniym,” their word for “face!” It’s faces
here because it is plural in number. God has always loved
communion with His people! He still longs for us to come before
His Throne of Grace!
The word for
"day" comes from a root stem that means “to be hot.” As (in the
desert especially) it gets HOT each mid-day … it has become
their word for the cycle of time in which the sun rises and
heats the earth and sets again over the horizon. Makes sense,
Now for the
word “cloud.” It is from a Hebrew term that means to cover.
(To protect or even to guard!) The first time we see the word
in Scripture (Genesis 9:13) a “rainbow” is set in a cloud! A
picture of grace!
is “ammud,” meaning a column (a pillar shaped object)! You are
looking at the first use of the word in the whole Bible. The
Hebrew verb “amad” means “to stand!” This visible expression of
God’s Presence is a standing one!
What is the
purpose of the cloud?
them. This verb is “nachah” in Hebrew and means to guide or to
govern or to straiten! Its first Bible use is a classic:
“I being in the way, the LORD
led me to the
house of my master's brethren.” It was spoken by
Abraham’s servant as he sought a bride for the Son of His
Master. (Genesis 24:27) Notice that if God is going to lead
you … you need to be IN THE WAY!
The word for
“way” is “derek” and means a road or a path. We need to learn
to walk in the ways of the Lord! This noun is from a verb that
means “to tread.” To walk on something until it is firm and
stable! Well established!
The first use
of the word for “fire” (“esh”) is in Genesis 15:17 where God
first makes a covenant with Abraham! “A BURNING lamp!”
Therefore “fire” has covenant implications. Remember that
salvation is a covenant.
“To give them
light” translates “or,” a little verb that means to shine or to
become bright or to be illuminated! This is a “Hiphil”
infinitive. There are CAUSES behind this light … such as the
love and grace of God! And the light continued for 40 years!
(What light!) In fact, in reality it is eternal light!
“To go,” the
infinitive, means (“halak” again) to walk or to travel (to come,
to go, to lead)! God has this “direction” thing down securely!
He will lead us in an unmistakable way.
“Night” as a
noun is derived from a verbal root meaning “to fold back.” I
believe it pictures a “folding back” of the light for a time of
night (and rest) for mankind. God made the day and the night
too. (Genesis 1:5)
“exegeted” the vocabulary words, let’s make some practical
observations about this great “cloud.”
Preacher of years gone by said that He saw in this event a
picture of the Trinity! He recognized God the Father by His
great Name Jehovah. The God Who devised the great plan of
redemption (from Egypt) in this local sense. Then there was a
little “passover” lamb that had to be slain and its blood
applied to the doorposts of their homes. He (the little lamb)
pictures the dear Lord Jesus (the REAL Lamb), Who died on
Calvary! Next is the Cloud that led them by day and by night.
A symbol of the good Holy Spirit of God, Who guides and leads us
yet today! Pretty good application that he made, isn’t it? The
Father, Son and Spirit right here in our little Exodus text!
Also I noticed
that the cloud apparently stayed in a “pillar” configuration day
and night. It seemed to never change basic form. Then I
thought, what about the wind or rain, the weather in general?
You know that wind shears and blowing currents can tear clouds
to pieces. BUT this Cloud is different! It either controlled
the wind … or resisted it in such a manner as to retain its
shape constantly! Of course the Holy Spirit is pictured by
Jesus in John 3 as the Wind! “The
where it listeth,
and thou hearest the sound thereof, but canst not tell
whence it cometh, and whither it goeth: so is every one that is
born of the Spirit.” John 3:8 Our Leader (God the Holy
Spirit) is weather proof!
I am so glad
today that we have the Guiding Hand (every bit as sure as the
Cloud the Jews of old had) of God directing our every move!
Also I am delighted that God (still via His threefold essence,
the Trinity) is directing me to Heaven! The Father designed the
plan to save me! The Son shed the precious blood in vicarious
death for me! And the Holy Spirit convicted and called and me
to Jesus … thereafter leading me step by step the rest of my
Also let us be
thankful that this leading of God in our lives is strong, clear
and undisturbed by the many “winds” of false doctrine and
“storms” of life that come our way! It just can’t be
Glory to God!
Lord willing, I want us to study God’s directing Hand in our
lives even more.
We shall view
it through the “picture” of this “pillar of a cloud” or “pillar
of fire” God provided for Israel.
Join us again
then … with a Bible in your hand!
--- Dr. Mike Bagwell
LESSON 3 ...
Today I want to say something about a few of
the gracious ways in which God leads us as His people. He is the
Shepherd and we are the sheep.
My comments stem from our verses for today.
"And they took their
journey from Succoth, and encamped in Etham, in the edge of the
wilderness. And the LORD went before them by day in a
pillar of a 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 the cloud by day, nor the pillar of fire by night,
from before the people."
You will notice the "pillar" of a cloud or a
"pillar" of fire mentioned four times in these short verses!
That is how God led the Israelites during their wilderness
journeys! (From Egypt to Canaan!)
I believe that Cloud is a picture of the way
God leads us yet today. Note some things with me please.
The Cloud was not given until Israel has
applied the Blood of the little lamb to doorposts! No Cloud ...
until Blood! If this Cloud is an Emblem of the Holy Spirit ...
the picture holds true! You do not receive the Spirit Who
indwells you UNTIL you have been saved!
The Jews did not seek the Cloud! It was God’s
idea. It was given to them without their asking! So with the
Holy Spirit! He is God’s Gift to us! He certainly came to us
when we were not seeking Him!
And just as the Cloud LED Israel ... so does
the Holy Spirit LEAD us today! Romans 8:14 says:
"For as many as are led by the Spirit of
God, they are the sons of God."
And the Cloud gave light during the dark
times! So does the Holy Spirit. In fact, He is called the Spirit
of wisdom and counsel and knowledge in Isaiah 11:2!
The Cloud was provided for a "covering" also!
Psalm 105:39 says of It: "He spread a
cloud for a covering; and fire to give light in the night."
This would be so refreshing to the Israelites as they
walked day after day! And isn’t the Holy Spirit "refreshing" yet
today? Also it would warm them on the cold desert nights! (The
Spirit has sure warmed this preacher a few times too!)
We are told several times that the Lord SPOKE
from the Cloud! Psalm 99:7 tells us: "He
spake unto them in the cloudy pillar: they kept his testimonies,
and the ordinance that he gave them." And now when
the Spirit "speaks" to our hearts, is it (He) not God talking?
And as soon as the Tabernacle was completed,
the Cloud rested upon it! "And he reared
up the court round about the tabernacle and the altar, and set
up the hanging of the court gate. So Moses finished the work.
Then a cloud covered the tent of the congregation, and the glory
of the LORD filled the tabernacle. And Moses was not able to
enter into the tent of the congregation, because the cloud abode
thereon, and the glory of the LORD filled the tabernacle."
Exodus 40:33-35 As you know that Tabernacle is a Type of Jesus!
And as soon as Jesus began His public Ministry the Holy Spirit
(the Dove ... at Jesus’ Baptism) descended upon Him in fulness
and power! What a lovely truth!
And, as we shall see more fully tomorrow,
once given ... the Cloud was not taken away! I mean for the
whole of their time of travel the Cloud was there to faithfully
guide them! Nehemiah 9:19 declares to us:
"Yet thou in thy manifold mercies forsookest them not in the
wilderness: the pillar of the cloud departed not from them by
day, to lead them in the way; neither the pillar of fire by
night, to shew them light, and the way wherein they should go."
And the Holy Spirit, Who may be "quenched" or grieved,"
will yet never leave us in this age of Grace! Praise the Lord.
I am so thankful today God still "leads His
dear children along!"
Lord willing ... more tomorrow on the Cloud
and Exodus 13:20-22.
Join us if you can ... with an open Bible in
There is still just nothing like the precious
Word of God!
--- Dr. Mike Bagwell
LESSON 4 ...
remember the fact of God's great deliverance to a whole nation
(Israel ... at least 2,000,000 people)! He brought them from
Egypt through the wilderness into the promised land of Canaan.
One of the
Lord's great "tools" for such a miraculous (and successful)
journey was the Cloud that guided the Jews every day.
Listen to what
Exodus 13:22 says about it.
"He took not away the pillar of
the cloud by day, nor the pillar of fire by night, from before
What truths about God are learned in this
If fact we are told that this long journey
became a "teaching" and a a"testing" laboratory for the God of
Israel. "And thou shalt remember all the
way which the LORD thy God led thee these forty years in the
wilderness, to humble thee, and to prove thee, to know
what was in thine heart, whether thou wouldest keep his
commandments, or no. And He humbled thee, and suffered thee to
hunger, and fed thee with manna, which thou knewest not, neither
did thy fathers know; that He might make thee know that man doth
not live by bread only, but by every word that proceedeth
out of the mouth of the LORD doth man live. Thy raiment waxed
not old upon thee, neither did thy foot swell, these forty
years." Deuteronomy 8:2-4
I believe the Cloud was a type (or picture)
of the Holy Spirit of God. In fact, God was PRESENT with His
people through that Cloud! A little later into the journey one
may read this: "And it came to pass,
that in the morning watch the LORD looked unto the host of the
Egyptians through the pillar of fire and of the cloud, and
troubled the host of the Egyptians, and took off their chariot
wheels, that they drave them heavily: so that the Egyptians
said, Let us flee from the face of Israel; for the LORD fighteth
for them against the Egyptians." (Exodus 14:24-25) Did
you see it? God "looked ... through the pillar of fire and of
the cloud!" Again I say it: The Cloud represents God's very
presence! (By the way, if God here "looked" into the situation
via the Cloud ... His Holy Spirit ... we have a perfect
illustration of Proverbs 20:27. "The
spirit of man is the candle of the LORD, searching all
the inward parts of the belly.") The "spirit" is God's
tool of examination!
Our verse today reminds us of another great
truth. God "took not away" the Cloud. The verb is "mush" and
means "to withdraw." Here it is negated to mean: "NOT to
withdraw." God never left His people! It is still true today!
Hebrews 13:5 declares: "For he hath said,
I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee." (The verb in
its root means "to touch!" The belief is that it implies
"touching" ... then "withdrawing.") Thank God! He touched us
... then stayed with us!
The Cloud is a constant presence! Day and
night ... good times and bad times ... pleasant times and
One old writer called the Cloud "the uplifted
arm of God!" It looked like a column or "pillar" rising from the
earth! The idea of God's mighty arm is embedded throughout the
Old Testament. For example, Psalm 89:13 ---
"Thou hast a mighty arm: strong is thy
hand, and high is thy right hand." Or Isaiah
52:10 --- "The LORD hath made bare his
holy arm in the eyes of all the nations; and all the ends of the
earth shall see the salvation of our God."
One writer told of the 3 "positions" the
Cloud assumed for Israel. It stood "between them" and their
foes (or "behind" them as this next verse declares)! Exodus
14:19 --- "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." Next it It went "before" them!
(Numbers 9:17) Then it rested "upon" them according to Numbers
10:34. These facts remind me of something Paul said in Acts
17:28 --- "For in Him (our Lord) we live,
and move, and have our being."
And with our verse today indicating the
permanency of the Cloud ... let me mention that some day in the
future the Cloud is going to return to this earth! Isaiah 4:5
describes this future Millennial time.
"And the LORD will create upon every dwelling place of mount
Zion, and upon her assemblies, a cloud and smoke by day, and the
shining of a flaming fire by night: for upon all the glory
shall be a defence." (Wow!)
Let's all (as Believers in Christ Jesus)
thank God today for the indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit
of God! He guides us through the truths of Scripture and He
never leaves or forsakes us! What blessings we enjoy!
That verb we studied a minute ago, "mush"
(took NOT away) is a "hiphil" verb ... the "stem" in which form
it appears. This is a "causative" stem. There is something
that causes Almighty God not to withdraw His Cloud, His
Presence, His Spirit! Surely it is God's love ... His very Grace
that impels Him to do so!
Praise His good Name!
Now as you go to Church this Lord's Day ...
there will not be a visible cloud hovering around you! BUT One
is there none-the-less! You are indwelt by the Holy Spirit (if
you are saved)! And SOME of you are even filled with that dear
Holy Spirit! Let's endeavor to live like it all day long!
--- Dr. Mike Bagwell
LESSON 5 ...
all studied the great Cloud of Glory that led Israel from Egypt
to Canaan. It represented the very Presence of God!
amazed to learn that the word "cloud" occurs 107 times in the
Bible ... plus an additional 49 times for its plural form,
"clouds." (And another 6 times for "cloudy.")
one can build a whole Bible "history" of clouds if he works at
first uses are found in Genesis 9 and all refer to the cloud in
which God placed a "rainbow." So we initially see the good Grace
of God in a cloud.
one of the 17 times "cloud" appears in Exodus (always singular)
it has reference to the Cloud that led Israel so effectively for
chosen some of the Bible references that mention clouds to
illustrate how Scripture views these little creations of God.
praised by means of His clouds! For example, Psalm 36:5 ---
"Thy mercy, O LORD, is in the
heavens; and thy faithfulness reacheth unto the
clouds." Or Psalm 57:10 ---
"For thy mercy is great unto the heavens, and thy truth
unto the clouds." And Psalm 68:34 ---
"Ascribe ye strength unto God: his
excellency is over Israel, and his strength is in
the clouds." See the "qualities" of God herein
extolled! Mercy, faithfulness, truth and strength!
Creator is implied often in Job ... with the clouds in mind.
See Job 26:8 which says: "He bindeth
up the waters in his thick clouds; and the cloud is not rent
under them." Or Job 36:29 ---
"Also can any understand the spreadings of the clouds,
or the noise of his tabernacle?" And again in Job
37:16 --- "Dost thou know the
balancings of the clouds, the wondrous works of him which is
perfect in knowledge?" Each of these questions has
course Jesus left here in a cloud. Acts 1:9 ---
"And when he had spoken these things,
while they beheld, he was taken up; and a cloud received him out
of their sight."
is coming back the same way! Back in Daniel 7:13 we first see
this truth. "I saw in the night
visions, and, behold, one like the Son of man came with
the clouds of heaven, and came to the Ancient of days, and they
brought him near before him." Then in Matthew 26:64 ---
"Jesus saith unto him, Thou hast said:
nevertheless I say unto you, Hereafter shall ye see the Son of
man sitting on the right hand of power, and coming in the clouds
of heaven." Plus Revelation 1:7 ---
"Behold, he cometh with clouds; and
every eye shall see him, and they also which pierced him:
and all kindreds of the earth shall wail because of him. Even
me quickly add a couple of "beautiful" passages. Like Psalm
104:3, which asks: "Who layeth the
beams of his chambers in the waters: who maketh the clouds his
chariot: who walketh upon the wings of the wind?" The
clouds as God's chariots! Then Nahum 1:3 ---
"The LORD is slow to anger, and
great in power, and will not at all acquit the wicked:
the LORD hath his way in the whirlwind and in the storm, and the
clouds are the dust of his feet." The dust of His
I read a
book recently on the man who named the clouds. He was raised in
a Christian home. I believe I saw in the science of clouds some
real spiritual truths!
way, one could study the "weather" of the Bible, which would
certainly include clouds! When did it thunder in Scripture? Or
hail? Or snow? (All imply the presence of clouds.)
learned that there are 3 basic kinds of clouds ... cirrus,
the ones with the greatest elevation, then the cumulus,
lower in altitude, plus the stratus which are nearest the
earth. And then there is always the possibility of the
thunderstorm, nimbus, which shoots right up through all
three members of the cloud family ... as if joining them
together in some sort of concerted effort! Do you see it? It
is a picture of the Trinity! Three members yet when in action
(as is always the case) they are in reality one!
learned in the cloud book that what happens on earth can effect
cloud formation! (Volcanoes, dust storms, massive fires!) And
spiritually speaking ... actions on earth can grieve or quench
the Holy Spirit (of Whom the Cloud is a Type) as well.
saying is this. We need to learn to love and lean upon the Holy
Spirit much more than we do! Paul speaks in 2 Corinthians 13:14
of the "communion of the Holy Ghost."
Believers must appropriate this!
the next time you see a cloud ... you will be reminded of the
Guiding Presence of God in your life. Again I give you Jesus'
words in John 16:13 ---"Howbeit when
He, the Spirit of truth, is come, he will
guide you into all
clouds as object lessons!
was good at that! He make birds and fishes and roosters and
even the weather teachers of great spiritual facts! So should
--- Dr. Mike Bagwell