‘He spake unto them in the cloudy pillar’, Ps. 99. 7.
Paul reminds us that one of the things that should characterize us as Christians is a forbearing or gentle spirit towards everyone. The reason for this is then given, ‘The Lord is at hand’, Phil. 4. 5. If we take this clause with the preceding verses, then it could mean that the Lord is near in time - the coming of the Lord will be very soon. However, if we link this clause to verses 6 and 7, then it could be interpreted as the Lord being nearby or ever-present, cp. Ps. 119. 151. In other words, the Lord is near us or always beside us, and thus we should be conscious of His presence at all times, affecting the way in which we think and act, cp. Ps. 145. 18; Acts 23. 11.
When the children of Israel were redeemed out of Egyptian bondage, God went with them in a pillar of cloud by day, and a pillar of fire by night. This represented His continuous presence with them, guiding and protecting them, Exod. 13. 21, even when there was a cloud over the nation’s life. How could anyone disobey God in the presence of so vivid a witness? Yet Israel still murmured against Moses, 15. 24, disobeyed God Himself, 16. 28, desired the food of Egypt again, Num. 11. 5, and worshipped other gods, Exod. 32. 1-4. The cloud both revealed and concealed God’s presence, 16. 10; Lev. 16. 2, while the fire signified God’s power and purity, Exod. 19. 18; Mal. 3. 2. God left no doubt in their minds, because of His continued presence with them, as to where and when He wanted them to travel, and when He wanted them to rest. We, however, have no cloud or pillar to lead us today, but God has not left us to our own devices but provided us with two infallible guides, namely His word and the person of the Holy Spirit. They enable us to follow Christ in the daytime when things are relatively easy to discern, but also when much harder to discern in the night when the darkness seems to envelop us. Faithfulness to God’s word which mediates Christ’s presence by the Holy Spirit is extremely important, and the great encouragement for us today is that God will never forsake us, Heb. 13. 5, even though we often forsake Him. What God requires from us is the prayerful reading of His word, and allowing the Holy Spirit to apply the text to our hearts and minds so that we practise the presence of the Lord on a daily basis. Is this our practice, or, like Israel, has the spiritual significance of the cloud (His presence) faded into the background of our lives?
We have been through another challenging year, and it has been difficult for the people of God to physically meet together. Local church meetings, previously taken very much for granted, have now become even more precious to us. Long may this be our sentiment, Heb. 10. 25, as we enter, in the Lord’s will, a new year.
We take this opportunity once again to thank all our readers for their continued support both spiritually and financially, and also all our writers who have contributed to the edification of the body of Christ.
Ministry Articles Editor