“Pillars of Clouds and Pillars of Fire!”
Shalom Partner and Friend of Israel,
“And the Lord went 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 the cloud by day, nor the pillar of fire by night, from before the people,” Exodus 13:21-22.
First let’s look at why “Clouds” are important…? Usually their most obvious feature on the horizon of the sky can both reflect imminent weather patterns and also play a role in what the climate will be... Clouds can be light and porous bands, or they can be dark and imposing, with rolling or vertical shapes and they consist of a condensed form of atmospheric moisture consisting of small water droplets or tiny ice crystals which includes the evaporation of moisture from the surface of the earth. They carry this moisture into higher levels of the atmosphere, condensation of water vapor into cloud masses, and finally the return of water to the surface as precipitation. The different cloud formations result partly from the temperature at which condensation takes place. When condensation occurs at temperatures below freezing, clouds are usually composed of ice crystals; those that form in warmer air usually consist of water droplets. Clouds also perform a very important function for the sustenance of life on the surface of the earth by modifying the distribution of solar heat over the earth's surface and within the atmosphere. Clouds bring us rain, shield us from heat, and give us early warnings as to weather changes so we can prepare for hazardous weather. Without clouds, our world would become an unsuitable habitat. In Job 26:8; “He binds up the waters in His thick clouds; and the clouds do not burst under their weight.” Signs and symbols of the Holy Spirit are; Wind (breath); Water (rain, river, dew); Oil (anointing); Fire; Cloud; Seal (stamp, impression); Hand, Finger (touch) and Dove.
When most Christians run across a Bible passage talking about “fire,” they usually think about HELL. But, while that’s sometimes true, “fire” can actually represent a wide range of literal or symbolic things. The Bible gives us some ways the concept of “fire” is used: daily activities, like cooking (Exodus 12:8; John 21:9); keeping warm (Isaiah 44:15; John 18:18), giving light (Isaiah 50:11; Matt. 25:1–13), or burning garbage (Leviticus 8:17). Refining metals, such as silver (Numbers 31:22–23; Malachi 3:2–3), Destroying enemy’s cities in war (Joshua 6:24; 8:8; 11:11; Judges 1:8; 1 Kings 9:16; Matthew 22:7); executing criminals (Daniel 3; Genesis 38:24; Leviticus 20:14; 21:9; Joshua 7:15); Burning sacrifices in the Temple (Leviticus 2:2; 6:8–13). Divine - God’s Presence things (sometimes literal or symbolic): God first speaks to Moses in a “burning bush” (Exodus 3:2) when He first chose Moses to lead the Israelites out of slavery. The “fire” blazed but the bush itself was not consumed. God came to Moses “in fire” on Mount Sinai (Exodus 19:18).
God guides the Israelites through the desert with a “pillar of fire” (Exodus 12:21; Numbers 14:14). Ezekiel describes a vision of God as surrounded by “fire” (Ezekiel 1:27). God appears as lightning in a storm (Psalm 18:14, 29:7, 144:6).
God’s Punishment: "fire" destroyed evil Sodom and Gomorrah (Genesis 19:24), disobedient priests (Leviticus 10:1 - 2), and enemies of God (Revelation 20:9; Ezekiel 38:22, 39:6). God’s anger burns and pours out like "fire" (Hosea 8:5; Nahum 1:6; Lamentations 2:4). God’s present judgment is often represented as destruction by fire (Psalm 97:3; Isaiah 33:12; Joel 2:3; Micah 1:4). God’s judgement is often depicted as "fire" - (2 Thessalonians 1:7; Revelation 8:7-8, 9:17-18, 18:8). Hell is described as consisting of "fire" - (Matthew 5:22, 13:42, 18:8-9; Revelation 20:10, 14-15). God’s Purification: The ability for God to eliminate sin and purify His people, like "fire" purifies metals (Isaiah 1:25; 6:6-7). Being tested is like being purified by "fire" (Isaiah 43:2; Jeremiah 6:29; 1 Peter 4:12).
What did the "Pillar of Cloud by day" and the "Pillar of Fire by Night" signify during the Israelites Exodus out of Egypt? "Then the Lord said to Moses, "Leave this place, you and the people you brought up out of Egypt, and go up to the land I promised on oath to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, saying, ‘I will give it to your descendants.’ I will send an angel before you and drive out the Canaanites, Amorites, Hittites, Perizzites, Hivites and Jebusites. Go up to the land flowing with milk and honey. But I will not go with you, because you are a stiff-necked people and I might destroy you on the way!" - Exodus 33:1-3. But, as we read further God is truly a God of a second change; "Moses said to the Lord, "You have been telling me, ‘Lead these people,’ but you have not let me know whom you will send with me. You have said, ‘I know you by name and you have found favour with me.’ If you are pleased with me, teach me your ways so I may know you and continue to find favour with you. Remember that this nation is your people." The Lord replied, "My Presence will go with you, and I will give you rest." Then Moses said to him, "If your Presence does not go with us, do not send us up from here. How will anyone know that you are pleased with me and with your people unless you go with us? What else will distinguish me and your people from all the other people on the face of the earth?" And the Lord said to Moses, "I will do the very thing you have asked, because I am pleased with you and I know you by name." Then Moses said, "Now show me your glory." And the Lord said, "I will cause all my goodness to pass in front of you, and I will proclaim my name, the Lord, in your presence. I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I will have compassion. But," he said, "you cannot see my face, for no one may see me and live!" - Exodus 33:12-20. So, here we see in Exodus 33 that the visible manifestation of "God’s Glory" was somewhat restrained. When Moses asked to see "God’s Glory," God hid Moses in the cleft of a rock, covered him with His hand, and passed by. Then He removed His hand, and Moses saw only His back. This would seem to indicate that God’s glory is too awesome and powerful to be seen completely by man. The visible manifestation of God’s presence was seen NOT only by the Israelites but also by the Egyptians! During the last watch of the night the LORD looked down from the "pillar of fire" and "pillar of cloud" at the Egyptian army and threw it into confusion. He made the wheels of their chariots come off so that they had difficulty driving. And the Egyptians said, "Let's get away from the Israelites! The LORD is fighting for them against the Egyptians," Exodus 14:24-25. Just the presence of "God’s Shekinah Glory" was enough to convince His enemies that He was not someone to be resisted.
Exodus 13:21-22 describes the miracle… “By day the Lord went ahead of them in a pillar of cloud to guide them on their way and by night in a pillar of fire to give them light, so that they could travel by day or night. Neither the pillar of cloud by day nor the pillar of fire by night left its place in front of the people.“ Besides the practical purpose of leading the people through the wilderness, the pillar also comforted the Hebrew with God’s protective presence. When the people were waiting to cross the Red Sea, the pillar of cloud moved behind them, blocking the Egyptian army from attacking. God gave light to the Hebrews from the cloud …but darkness to the Egyptians! The “pillar of cloud by day” and “the pillar of fire by night” guided the Israelites during their exodus from Egyptian bondage. This allowed them to travel by day and by night. Exodus 13:21-22 explains that God gave them the “pillar of cloud” by day to lead them in the way He wanted them to go and the pillar of fire by night to give light. The pillar was NOT just symbolism but a real phenomenon. We have no way of knowing how God made the pillar, but it was obviously a miraculous event that God used to lead them for their forty years in the wilderness. During the day the pillar guided their journey. During the night it gave light and no doubt – comfort! In addition to guidance for the Hebrews …the pillar was a testimony to other nations concerning God’s involvement with and protection of His people Israel. In Exodus 14:24 God troubled the Egyptians through the cloud, and Moses used this in Numbers 14:14 in his plea to God to not destroy the Hebrews because of their sin. God’s provision of the pillar was remembered in the prayer of the Jewish leaders in Nehemiah 9 as an instance of God’s care and provision for His people.
These two pillars – “the cloud by day” and “the fire by night” served as 'witnesses' to commemorate special events and times…. In scripture, we find something similar in Genesis 31:52; “This heap be witness, and this pillar be witness, that I will not pass over this heap to you, and that you shall not pass over this heap and this pillar against me, for harm!" Thus Pillars, are a form of Witness! Here we have an example of a Witness of “Pillar of Cloud” in Psalm 99:7; “He spoke unto them in the cloudy pillar: they kept his testimonies, and the ordinance that He gave them!" And, here we have a Witness of “Pillar of Fire” in Numbers 9:15; “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.” God appeared as a “Pillar of Cloud by day,” and a “Pillar of Fire” by night. Ponder on this… “the Lord went before them;” Exodus 13:21; “…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” The word “before” can mean went ahead or in front to prepare the way!
The “Earth” is related to “pillar of fire” and the “moon,” while “Heaven” is related to the “sun” and “pillar of cloud” - these are the “Two Witnesses.” We find these relationships all throughout Scripture. Heaven and clouds always go together… Revelation 11:12; “And they heard a great voice from heaven saying to them, Come up here. And they ascended up to heaven in a cloud; while their enemies looked on.” This one is very telling… Revelation 10:1; “And I saw another mighty angel come down from heaven, clothed with a cloud: and a rainbow was upon his head, and his face was as it were the sun, and his feet as pillars of fire!” Notice that his “feet” are Pillars of Fire! What do feet walk on? Earth… which is God’s ‘Footstool!’ Earth and Fire go together as well… Luke 12:49; “I am come to send fire on the earth; and how I wish it be already kindled?”
We also see in; Revelation 8:5; “And the angel took the censer, and filled it with fire of the altar, and cast it into the earth: and there were voices, and thundering’s, and lightnings, and an earthquake.” Also in Job 28:5; “As for the earth, out of it comes bread: and under it is turned up as it were fire.” Note also that Earth is compared to one type of Living Being, while Heaven is compared to another type of Living Being; “So also it is written, “The first MAN, Adam, BECAME A LIVING SOUL.” The last Adam became a life-giving spirit. However, the spiritual is not first, but the natural; then the spiritual. The first man is from the earth, earthy; the second man is from heaven. As is the earthy, so also are those who are earthy; and as is the heavenly, so also are those who are heavenly. Just as we have borne the image of the earthy, we will also bear the image of the heavenly,” 1 Corinthians 15:45-49.
Here are some amazing examples putting all of these elements together; “There are also heavenly bodies and earthly bodies, but the glory of the heavenly is one, and the glory of the earthly is another. There is one glory of the sun, and another glory of the moon, and another glory of the stars: for one star different from another star in glory,” 1 Corinthians 15:40-41. Note how these are now compared to the Human Body/DNA… “So also, is the resurrection of the dead. It is sown in corruption (Earthly); it is raised in incorruption (Heavenly); It is sown in dishonour (Earthly); it is raised in glory (Heavenly): it is sown in weakness (Earthly); it is raised in power (Heavenly): It is sown a natural body (Earthly); it is raised a spiritual body (Heavenly). There is a natural body (Earthly), and there is a spiritual body (Heavenly),” 1 Corinthians 15:42-44. See the separation…? Earthly things are bad - Heavenly things are good!
God knew the long journey through the desert wilderness would be exhausting for the Hebrews and that they would be afraid and filled with doubt. God gave them the “pillar of cloud” and “pillar of fire” to assure them that He was always with them. The “pillar of cloud” also shaded the people from the intense desert sun and also contained droplets of moisture which refreshed the Israelites and their livestock. The “pillar of fire” at night would have provided light and warmth if there was no wood available for fires. God knew the long journey through the desert wilderness would be exhausting for the Hebrews and that they would be afraid and filled with doubt. God gave them the “pillar of cloud” and “pillar of fire” to assure them He was always with them.
God is first identified as a “consuming fire” in Deuteronomy 4:23-24; 9:3. The writer to the Hebrews reiterates, warning the Hebrews to worship God with reverence and awe “…for our God is a consuming fire!” There is nothing mysterious about the Hebrew and Greek words translated “consuming fire.” They mean exactly “a fire that utterly consumes or destroys!” How, then, can a loving and merciful God also be a consuming “fire?” God is called a “consuming fire” …and Moses is speaking first to warn the Israelites against idolatry because God is a “jealous God” and will not share His glory with worthless idols. Idolatry provokes Him to a righteous anger which is justified when His Holiness is dis-respected! Moses refers to God as a “consuming or devouring fire” who would go ahead of the Israelites into the Promised Land, destroying and subduing their enemies before them! Here again we see God’s wrath against those who oppose Him depicted as fire that utterly consume and destroys anything in His path.
There are several incidents in which God’s wrath, judgment, holiness or power are displayed by “fire from heaven!” Aaron’s sons Abihu and Nadab were destroyed by fire when they offered a profane sacrifice, “strange fire,” in the Tabernacle, a sign of their dis-regard for the utter holiness of God and the need to honour Him in solemn and holy fear.
The cloud came down on the tent of meeting and the glory of the Lord filled the desert “Tabernacle” (Exodus 40:34). When the cloud covered the tent of meeting, the Israelites encamped. When the cloud lifted, they moved. God warned Moses not to let Aaron (his brother), the high priest, enter the “Holy of Holies” in the Tabernacle whenever he wanted because he would die. God appeared on the mercy seat, or atonement cover of the “Ark of the Covenant,” in the cloud. The cloud came down on the tent of meeting and the Glory of the Lord filled the desert “Tabernacle” (Exodus 40:34). When the cloud covered the tent of meeting, the Israelites encamped. When the cloud lifted, they moved. Bible References to the Cloud and Pillar of Fire: Exodus 13:21-22, 14:19, 14:24, 33:9-10; Numbers 12:5, 14:14; Deuteronomy 31:15; Nehemiah 9:12, 19; Psalm 99:7.
The confrontation between Elijah and the prophets of Baal on Mount Carmel is another example of “consuming fire” from God. The prophets of Baal called upon their god all day long to rain “fire from heaven” to NO avail. Then Elijah built an altar of stones, dug a ditch around it, put the sacrifice on the top of wood and called for water to be poured over his sacrifice three times. Elijah called upon God …and God sent “fire down from heaven,” completely consuming the sacrifice, the wood, and the stones and licked up the water in the ditch. Then His anger turned against the false prophets, and they were all killed. When prophesying the destruction of the Assyrians, who resisted the true and living God and warred against His people, Isaiah refers to the tongue of the Lord as a “consuming fire” and His “arm coming down with raging anger and consuming fire!” (Isaiah 30:27-30).
God’s Holiness is the reason for His being “a consuming fire,” and it burns up anything unholy! The Holiness of God is that part of His nature that most separates Him from sinful man. The godless, Isaiah writes, tremble before Him: “Who of us can dwell with the consuming fire? Who of us can dwell with everlasting burning?" Isaiah answers this by saying that only the righteous can withstand the consuming fire of God’s wrath against sin, because sin is an offense to God’s holiness. But Isaiah also assures us that NO amount of our own righteousness is sufficient (Isaiah 64:6). Fortunately, God has provided the righteousness we need by sending Yeshua (Jesus Christ) to die on the cross for the sins of all who would ever believe in Him. In that one act, Christ mitigates God’s wrath, exchanging His perfect righteousness for our sin. “God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God,” 2 Corinthians 5:21. All the wrath of God was poured out on Yeshua (Jesus), so that those who belong to Him would not have to suffer the same fate as the Assyrians. “It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God,” Hebrew 10:31. But, we need not fear the consuming fire of God’s wrath if we are covered by the purifying blood of Christ.
“Fire” foretells the of the “Light of the World” … The “pillar of fire,” illuminating the way for the Israelite nation, was a foreshadowing of Yeshua (Jesus), the Messiah who came to save the world from sin! In preparing the way for Yeshua, Johan the Baptist said, “...I baptize you with water. But one more powerful than I will come, the thongs of whose sandals I am not worthy to untie. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and with fire,” Luke 3:16. Fire can symbolize purification or God's presence. Light stands for holiness, truth, and understanding. Yeshua (Jesus) said, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life,” John 8:12. The Apostle John repeated this in his first letter - “This is the message we have heard from him and declare to you; God is light; in him there is no darkness at all,” 1 John 1:5. The light Yeshua brought continues to guide and protect us believers today …just as the “pillar of fire” guided the Israelites. In Revelation 21:23, John tells how Christ's light shines in heaven; “The city does not need the sun or the moon to shine on it, for the glory of God gives it light, and the Lamb is its lamp,” Revelation 21:23.
In the New Testament, Jesus Christ is the dwelling place of God’s glory… Colossians 2:9, tells us that “in Christ all the fullness of the Deity lives in bodily form,” causing Yeshua (Jesus) to exclaim to Philip, “Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father,” John 14:9. In Christ, we see the visible manifestation of God Himself in the second person of the Trinity. Although His glory was also veiled, Yeshua is nonetheless the presence of God on earth. Just as the divine Presence dwelled in a relatively plain tent called the “Tabernacle” before the Temple in Jerusalem was built, so did the Presence dwell in the relatively plain man who was Yeshua (Jesus). “He had no beauty or majesty to attract us to him, nothing in his appearance that we should desire him,” Isaiah 53:2. But, when we get to heaven, we will see both the Son and the Father in all their Glory, and the Shekinah will no longer be veiled (1 John 3:2). Most Christians quote; Genesis 1:1; “In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth.” But, not many know the very next verse. It’s not God’s famous Word: “Let there be light!” No, it’s a bit of a surprise! In verse 2 we read further; “The earth was without form and void, and darkness was over the face of the deep. And, the Spirit of God moved upon the waters!” We have often found that statement odd as it looks like God intentionally begins His creation by making a dark, empty mess …and only then in verses 3-26 the Word goes to work with the famous “Let there be…” sentences. This is incredibly significant and, we believe this was intentional! By starting with “chaos and darkness” God teaches us two truths about how He works: When God created everything, He did it by starting with a “formless void” and then shaping it with His Word. He did that to show us that, in the same way, our lives are a formless void until God’s Word comes in to bring life and peace, beauty and order. But, the opposite is true as well: when God’s Word departs from our lives, they descend back into “chaos.” We see this, for instance, in the “plagues” that God sends to Egypt in the Exodus. Moses brings a word from God directly for Pharaoh …and when Pharaoh rejects it, the plagues begin! If we’re not reading closely, we might just think of the “plagues” as random cosmic punishments. But, they follow a pattern of creation un-ravelling as the Nile turns to blood, which destroys the eco-system and out of the Nile came frogs …from the dead frogs come gnats …from the gnats come disease!
When God’s Word is rejected, order becomes disorder, light becomes literal darkness, and goodness becomes terror! The Word of God creates …just as sin de-creates every time without exception! And, the same is true in our lives as sin un-ravels our families, puts darkness into our hearts, and places us in bondage to addictions. But, that leads to the other side of the coin as the Word of God will one day redeem what sin has destroyed. The Apostle John opens up his story of Yeshua’ (Jesus) life by connection Him to the creation story! “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. All things were made through him, and without him was not anything made that was made. In him was life, and the life was the light of men,” – John 1:1,3-4. Christ, the Word, would come to re-enter a dark, sin-filled, chaotic world. And that Word would bring life and light once more.
The story of the Israelites; “Pillar of Cloud” and “Pillar of Fire” was put into the Bible to teach us the right way to travel the wilderness of this life. It will not be an easy journey, but the Lord promised to be with us all the way!
We most sincerely believe that God WILL bless you for your faithfulness and love for His land and His chosen people. God’s Word is true! He IS watching to see how the nations are treating His people. God will have mercy on Israel through Gentile believers acting as mediators towards them. This is one of the most amazing revelations ever given to the church – an opportunity to do something that carries the highest priority in the heart of God. Yet, sadly, so few have seen the potential and the rewards of serving God in this manner - as agents of mercy to Israel and the Jewish people! Israel was and still is despised today and a despised nation continually turning away from God but nothing ever altered the purpose of God for that nation. The despised element is always a noticeable element in the purpose of God. When the Saviour of the world came, He came of that despised nation; like Israel… He Himself was “despised and rejected by men,” …and there is that despised element; “…things that are despised God has chosen,” 1 Corinthians 1:28. Now, more than at any time is the time to support Israel and the Jewish people - the Lord’s Brethren! We are witnessing the nations and people turning their backs on Israel. Thank you once again for your prayers and generous support!
We hope that you enjoy and become more informed by our work. We serve an awesome God and we are humbled by this opportunity to bring you this information. With Shalom to you and your family always,
Alf & Julie Saunders
01st January, 2018
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John Bunyan once said, "You have never lived successfully until you have done something for someone who can NEVER repay you!"
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