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the children of Israel, saying, " God will surely visit yon; and ye shall carry up my hones away with you,"ver. 17, 18, 19.
We may see here in the verses before us, the wonderful grace and compassion of the Lord to his people: he knew that the philistines would deny them a passage, for before this, they had killed some of them, while they dwelt in Egypt, in the days of Ephraim, the son of Joseph, as is mentioned in Chron. vii. 22, 23. Thus the Lord Jesus, who knew his people's weakness and fears, is pleased not to lead them a direct, but a roundabout way, lest they should be discouraged: exactly in conformity with this, he deals with all his saints; he will not suffer them to be tempted above that they are able to bear.
The Israelites went out of Egypt harnessed or marshalled, by five in a rank, in the fourth generation, as the Lord had foretold to Abraham, Gen. xv. 16. and it may be armed, for so the word harnessed sometimes signifies. Thus the Lord led the people out with an high hand, and trained them up for future wars to conquer Canaan.
Joseph's bones which were left in Egypt as a pledge, as it were, with his oath which he expressed as an evidence and assurance of their exodus, were removed out of Egypt, and carried by the Israelites with them, carried into Canaan, and buried in future time in Sechem. They journeyed from Rameses to Succoth, which signifies booths or tabernacles, so called, either because the Israelites encamped here, or because the cloud of glory came upon them at this place; and they came to Etham, which was at the edge of the wilderness, or end of it. And this brings me to my text, verses 21 and 22. " 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."
As Jehovah Jesus thus most graciously illustrated his care and protection of his church and people, in this most marvellous act of his providence, in spreading out a cloud to be a covering, and fire to give light in the night; my design in setting before you this wonderful phenomenon, shall be declared in the following particulars.
First. I will shew what we are to conceive concerning this cloud and its appearance, and of the Lord's going before the people in it. Our text says, " 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."
Secondly. I will point out the design of it. It was to lead them the way in which they should go. It was their constant and perpetual guide, both by day and night.
And, thirdly. I will consider the continuance of it, all the time they were on their journies through the wilderness of Arabia, until they came to Canaan. "He took not away the pillar of the cloud by day, nor the pillar of fire by night, from before the people."
May the Holy Ghost shine upon my mind,and help me to say on this subject, what is most truly agreeable with the written word; and may he assist me to open and explain this scripture, as may be for his glory, and your soul's benefit. Having given you the heads of my discourse, I begin it thus.
First. I will shew what we are to conceive concerning this cloud, and its appearance, and of the Lord's going before the people in it. It was a most wonderful phenomenon, and doubtless a variety of sacred truths were expressed by it. "The Lord went before them by day in a pillar of a cloud, to lead them the way ; and in a pillar of fire by night." As it respects this cloud, and its appearance, it was wholly miraculous, and produced by the almighty power of God, to answer those ends and purposes designed by him, for his own glory, and his people's good. This preternatural column of fire and cloud, was miraculously supported in its respective conditions: it was a pillar of cloud with fire burning iu it, the former of which would and did appear by day, the latter by night. The divine appearances under the old testament, were generally in fire, light, or glory, surrounded with a cloud; the angel Jehovah appeared in a flame of fire to Moses, at the bush in Horeb. He now appears, and goes before this people in a supernatural cloud, in which was the visible appearance of fire, light, and splendour, which shewed him to be peculiarly present with them. This cloud, here called a pillar, was not an erect, solid body, at some distance before the Israelites, but it was all around them : it was before them, and behind them, and on each side of them, and it was also over them, see Numb., xiv. 14. It attended the camp of Israel; it rested with them, and moved on before them ; it directed and conducted them in all their journies; in the night season it was a bright shining light; in the day-time it afforded a grateful cooling shade from the burning heat of the sultry deserts. Thus the Lord, to use the psalmist's words, " spread out a cloud to be a covering, and fire to give light in the night."
In this supernatural cloud, Jehovah, the Saviour, went before the people; out of it he spake; and at times his glory appeared in it. By it he guided his people in all their march through the deserts of Arabia; was their protector by day and night; and was seen and known amongst them by this visible smybol of his presence, which was their defence, guide, ornament, and glory: thus the Israelites had a visible symbol of Christ's presence with them, of his being in the midst of them, and of his being their guardian and protector. Thus the Lord went before them by day in a pillar of a cloud to lead them the way, and in a pillar of fire by night. It was most surely a convincing proof that he had brought them out of Egypt, and would assuredly lead them safely to the promised inheritance.
We will uow observe the uses of it. By it the people of Israel had all the evideuce they could have, that the Lord would guide them continually. And we may learn from it to consider the promise made to the church and people of God. "And the Lord shall guide thee continually," Isa. lviii. 11. That ever blessed Jesus, who came down from heaven, and became incarnate, that by his obedience, blood, and death, he might redeem his people out of the hands of all their spiritual enemies, will not leave nor forsake them in their present journey through life, and whilst they are on their march to their heavenly habitation, but will be their guide, protector, and defence. This God Jesus " will be our God for ever and ever; he will be our guide, even unto death," Psalm xlviii. 14.
As by this preternatural cloud, the Israelites were screened from the scorching penetrating rays of the sun, and though they walked in trackless paths, and on hot burning sands, yet they were never without their guide, and so screened