Throughout all their journeys whenever the cloud was taken up from over the tabernacle, the sons of Israel would set out; but if the cloud was not taken up, then they did not set out until the day when it was taken up. For throughout all their journeys, the cloud of the LORD was on the tabernacle by day, and there was fire in it by night, in the sight of all the house of Israel.
The pillar of cloud/fire was a fixture in the camp of the Israelites until they reached the Promised Land. This was God’s guidepost for the Israelites. When the pillar lifted up, they struck camp; when it moved, they followed; when it stopped, they stopped and made camp until it lifted up again. Sometimes, the pillar would settle for a day. Sometimes the pillar would settle for weeks or months. All the while, the Israelites just marched along behind it. This pillar was a visual bit of guidance from God to a few million people.
Verse 34 tells me that the glory of the LORD came along with the cloud when it settled on the tabernacle. God was in this cloud/fire. This was not just a tool that God was using, it was a place where God Himself led the people around.
I find this personally meaningful because I am in a place where the pillar has been taken up in my own life. God has allowed circumstances such that my family and I must leave the place we have been for a while. It is now a question of where we will go. The Israelites did not know where the pillar was going, only that it had lifted up from the tabernacle and they needed to get ready to follow until it stopped again. My wife and I are trying to see where God leads. It is difficult. We have no literal pillar settling over the next place in which we should live. This we do have: Christ living in us. The glory only entered the tabernacle when the cloud settled. God promises to reside within believers. There is no pillar because God Himself is in me to guide. So we move and trust that when we find the place He wants us to settle — for however long He wants us to settle there — we will know.
Father, thank You for Your guidance. You have led us to green pastures; greener than we could ever have found ourselves. Thank You that You give us a better, if less visible, guidance by leading us from within. Please make sure that our eyes are open to see what You want us to and our ears open to hear Your voice so we can go where You want us to go and stop where You want us to stop.