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EXODUS 13:20-22



EXODUS 13:20-22

"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."



LESSON 1 ...

The Jews' journey from Egypt to Canaan is just filled with spiritual truth!

For three or four days we shall study one aspect of that trip.

"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."      Exodus 13:20-22

Today I want to concentrate on the opening few words:

"And they took their journey from Succoth, and encamped in Etham, in the edge of the wilderness."   Exodus 13:20

 The words "took journey" really translate one Hebrew verb, "nasa," which means to pull out or to set out or to depart.  In certain stems it can even mean "to be plucked up!"  The first Bible use of the word is in Genesis 11:2 where we are told how folks journeyed FROM the east.  Their next activity was building the wicked tower of Babel.  In our text today the journey (from Egypt to Canaan ... under God's supervision) is BACK TOWARD the east!  (Now going the opposite way sinful man did after the flood!)  It is important which way you travel!  Remember that the Tabernacle always faced the east too.  Jesus portrayed His Second Coming as being like the lightning ... from the east.  (Matthew 24:27 --- "For as the lightning cometh out of the east, and shineth even unto the west; so shall also the coming of the Son of man be.")

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! 

Even crossing the Red Sea, a picture or type of the salvation they had just experienced (shedding and applying the blood of the lamb), had its tough moments! Paul called that "water" experience at the Red Sea ... (again, AFTER the blood of the lamb was applied) ... a picture of baptism in 1 Corinthians 10:2! Wow!

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 "home!"

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 provides!

Keep that open Bible nearby ...

                                                                                      --- Dr. Mike Bagwell




LESSON 2 ...

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: I will guide thee with mine eye.”  And to New Testament believers He adds: “Howbeit when He, the Spirit of truth, is come, He will guide you into all truth.”  John 16:13

The WAY He guided Israel of old is quite interesting.  In fact that comment alone leads us to today’s Bible study verse!

“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.”   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!)

 “Before them” 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, doesn’t it?

 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!

 And “pillar” 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? 

 “To lead” 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)

 Now, having “exegeted” the vocabulary words, let’s make some practical observations about this great “cloud.”

 One old 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 wind bloweth 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 days!

 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 dissipated! 

 Glory to God!

 Now tomorrow, 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." Exodus 13:20-22

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 your hand!

There is still just nothing like the precious Word of God!

                                                                                          --- Dr. Mike Bagwell




LESSON 4 ...

We all 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 the people."

What truths about God are learned in this great Cloud!

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 unpleasant times! 

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 ...

We have all studied the great Cloud of Glory that led Israel from Egypt to Canaan.  It represented the very Presence of God!

I was 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.")

In fact, one can build a whole Bible "history" of clouds if he works at it.

Its 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.

Every one of the 17 times "cloud" appears in Exodus (always singular) it has reference to the Cloud that led Israel so effectively for forty years.

I've chosen some of the Bible references that mention clouds to illustrate how Scripture views these little creations of God. 

God is 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!

God as 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 scientific answers!

Then of 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."

And He 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 so, Amen."

And let 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 feet!

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! 

By the 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.) 

I 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!

I 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.

All I'm 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! 

Maybe 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 truth."

The very clouds as object lessons! 

(Jesus was good at that!  He make birds and fishes and roosters and even the weather teachers of great spiritual facts!  So should we!)

                                                                         --- Dr. Mike Bagwell


We have enjoyed your studying this text with us!  You are to be commended for "sticking with it" until the end!  Kindly e-mail me and let me know what you think about this series of studies.  Your sincere comments will be helpful.



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