By Dr. Rick Chesher
The first mention of a cloud that Israel was to follow is found in Exodus 13:21, and for me in very interesting. Let’s look at this a little closer, and see what we may glean out of these Scriptures. This happens at the very tail end of the Exodus of Scripture and, in my opinion, ties Passover and Sukkot together. I f you will remember, the plagues were almost over. There was only one left that was going to happen. Pharaoh to this point had hardened his heart, to the point that it says that Yahweh hardened Pharaoh’s heart, what a terrible place to be. This last plague was going to be the one that got Pharaoh’s attention and would force Pharaoh to let Israel go, and you can find this is Exodus 11:1. This last plague was the one that would kill the firstborn male of every household that had not placed the Passover Lamb’s blood on the lintel and door posts of their houses. I can’t even imagine what that night must have been like for, not only, the Egyptians but even for Israel. Even though Israel was safe because the blood of the Passover Lamb, they must have heard all of the screams and groanings of those that had not followed the instructions of that plague. If you will look at Exodus 12:30, it says that there a loud wailing because there wasn’t one household among the in Egypt that someone wasn’t dead. So, Pharaoh gets up at midnight and he summons Moses and Aaron, and Pharaoh tells them that they are to go and to leave Egypt and tells them to take their flocks with them. Now remember, this is midnight, and they were to leave Egypt right then, not the next morning, but right them. And if you will look at this account, the pillar of cloud was not with them, so the fire that they will later follow was not there at this point. The reason I bring this up is, that we most look at how would they be able to leave Egypt in the middle of the night without the pillar of fire to light their way? To find out about how they would have been able to see to leave Egypt we would have to look at what time of the month this was. We actually have a clue in Scripture that shows us this. Look at Exodus 12:3, Moses is to tell all of Israel that on the 10th of the month they are to select the lamb that will be their Passover Lamb, and they are to get that lamb with them until the 14th of the month and at twilight they are to slay it and the put the blood on the lintel and the door posts of their houses. Now twilight would not be dark, twilight is the time of day that the sun has gone down on the horizon, but it is still light enough to read setting outside with no help of another light. The reason I bring all of this up, is that at sunset or when it got dark, it would have been the 15th, or the unleavened bread time. So, Nasa actually helps us understand all of this. Nasa says that at the first of every month the moon is in a conjunction state, in other words, you are not able to see the moon, but on the 15th of every month there is a full moon. So, Israel would have been able to see to leave Egypt because there would have been a full moon that would light the whole area for them to see. Yahweh is so amazing! So, Israel would have been able to grab their stuff and go. Remember, they were told to be ready to go, and also remember, their bread was to be unleavened so they would not have to wait or have trouble with leaven at this time of departure. So, when they were told to leave Egypt, they didn’t actually make it out of Egypt. If you will look at Exodus 12:37, it says that they traveled from Rameses to Succoth, and with them they took the unleavened bread, and they cooked the unleavened bread there at Succoth. Succoth is about one day’s journey from Rameses and is still within the borders of Egypt. Now, in Scripture Succoth is mentioned but there is not much mention about this place, or why it may be an important place, especially for Israel at that time. Now here we go, I first got interested in this place when I had been studying getting ready for the Celebration of Sukkot. I had to dig to find out about this place, but I found that at one time in Egypt’s history that Succoth had been a wadi. A wadi is a place in the desert that you will find water and vegetation David stay at a wadi when he was running from Saul. Now the reason I said that it is interesting and seems to tie both the Passover and Sukkot together is this, the word Succoth means booths, and it is the only place that Israel would have leaved in booths during their whole time in the desert. Scripture says that while they were traveling in the desert they lived in tents, and it a different word altogether than booths. We also need to know that this place is the only place that they would have had the materials required to live in booths as described in Scripture. When you look at this, and think of it militarily you will see that these booths made of vegetation would have made it very difficult to be seen by any Egyptians soldiers who may have been looking for them. It is not until after they left this place of protection that Pharaoh caught up with them. Now the other thing I want you to see, and this gets us back on topic, is that they did not have a cloud to follow or anything else until when they were told to leave from that place. We find this in Exodus 13:20-22, it says from that time on the pillar of cloud by day, and the pillar of fire by night never left its place in front of the people. So, in my mind I would like to know more about this pillar of cloud, and of fire that is being talked about here. The word pillar in the Hebrew means a column or a stand and has to do with the support of a building, as in, holding the building up, but most scholars today say that it also represents the presence of Yahweh, and in this case, it does. The it always best when Scripture spells out what is being discussed, look at Exodus 13:21, and we will take a closer look. In this verse it says and the Lord went ahead of them in the pillar of cloud, we find this again in Exodus 14:19 which says that the Angel of the Lord, which again, most believe to be the pre-incarnate Yahshua, went from in front of them and took a position behind them, keeping the Egyptian Army at bay so He could part the sea for them to cross. So, if we look at Scripture in Torah dealing with the cloud it deals with Yahweh’s presence, His direction, His leading them, Israel receiving His wisdom, and also telling them what is to come and preparing Him. So, the question I have is why do we not see the pillar of cloud today, or do we? Maybe we are not understanding all that there is to understand in this whole thing. I believe that Yahweh wants to be with His people, but can not stand in their presence without a covering of some kind to protect the people from dying. So, He actually covered Himself in the cloud, which represents His presence so He could be with them. This understanding leads us to the idea that His presence can not be with His people when His people are sinning, especially with worshipping other gods. We see this in Exodus 33, when after the people had worshipped the golden calf He moved His presence outside the camp, and if anyone wanted to enquire of Him they had to go outside of the camp to do so. They would know He was there because of the Pillar of Cloud that would stand over or rest on the Tent of meeting. There was only one man that had been in the presence of Yahweh without the covering of the cloud, and even He could not see the face of Yahweh, he could only see the hinder parts of Yahweh, so Yahweh protected him, and that man was Moses. In Exodus 34:29, when Yahweh did come down from being in Yahweh’s presence Moses’ face had a shine to it that people could see, and it scared them. So much did it scare them that Moses had to put a vale over his face as this glory of Yahweh faded. Look at 2 Cor. 3:13, this is an amazing verse, and may show a transition that may have taken place that I want to discuss. This verse is part of a teaching that Paul is giving to the congregation at Corinth. In 2 Cor. 3:7-11, Paul begins to discuss this idea of the ministry of Moses at that time, and the current of the believer. Paul is not saying that the law is bad, but because of them breaking the law and becoming aware of they had broken the law, and then rejected the righteousness from Yahweh, which is Yahshua Messiah, it became a ministry of death for them. So, the contrast is, we have now, a ministry of life through faith in Yahshua Messiah. So, in this ministry of life, we are not like Moses who had the glory of Yahweh that had shone on his face and was now fading, we as believer’s no longer have a veil, but can see the truth, and in fact, have the truth and we are able with unveiled faces to look as in a mirror from glory to glory, the glory does not have to leave our faces or the faces of our brothers and sisters around us. We are able to step into the presence of Yahweh, because of the finished work of Yahshua, as we are filled with the Holy Spirit. In John 16:7-15, Yahshua is about to depart this world as the disciples had known Him, so He is spending some time preparing them for this. He tells them that He is going to leave them, but is not going to leave them alone. He tells them that He will send them another counselor to be with them. This counselor will remind the world of the sin in their lives and their need for Him. But He also tells them that this counselor will show them what is to come, remind them of all that He said, and will lead them into all truth. This is the same ministry that was before, except now it has to do with something that takes place within each of us, and not in the form of a cloud, but in the form of the Spirit that indwells His people. He has taken us from a place where we each can be apart of what He is doing. Paul teaches of this in body life of the congregation. It is the congregation that He uses to complete the work He is doing, and through this we can see the importance of us to be involved in a congregation where we are able to let Him use us to be apart of the ministry of Life. Now, is there ever going to be another cloud? Well, that is another Blog!