Rev. Margaret Minnicks is an ordained Bible teacher. She writes many articles that are Bible lessons.
Since the cloud is now a technological word, it is necessary to say that is not the cloud this lesson is about. The cloud referred to in this article is the cloud we see in the sky. It is what we see close up when traveling on an airplane.
The cloud referred to here is a buzzword for meteorologists and not a computer term that is a buzzword for those who work in information technology (IT). The cloud in this sense is a type of storage for computer data and photos.
The cloud by day and fire by night were symbolic of God's provision, protection, and guidance. Since the Israelites did not know where they were going, they had to rely on God to lead them in the right direction. Even with God's guidance, it too them forty years to make a trip that ideally should have been an eleven-day journey.
According to Numbers 9:1-23, the Israelites were required to stay put when the cloud rested over the tent during the day and the fire rested over the tent at night.
"At the commandment of the Lord the children of Israel journeyed, and at the commandment of the Lord they encamped." (Numbers 9:18)
The Israelites moved whenever the cloud moved during the day and the pillar of fire moved at night. There was no such thing as delaying their trip. Sometimes the cloud stayed put for several days or several months. Sometimes the Israelites had just pitched their tent, and they had to move immediately. Sometimes they had just bedded down for the night, but if the pillar of fire moved, they had to get up and move along with the fire in the sky at night. There was no set pattern, and it would be good to know that it was not a family of a few people who had to get up and go. It was millions of people and animals.
Exodus 12:37-38 gives a vague number of those who wandered in the wilderness with Moses. According to those two verses, the Israelites numbered about six hundred thousand men on foot, besides women and children plus many non-Israelites and livestock. The non-Israelites included some Egyptians who left with the Israelites when they left Egypt.
Numbers 1:46 gives a more exact number. The total of those men who were registered to fight in the military was 603,550 men aged 20 and up. Even that number did not include men younger than 20 years old and women. However, the large number gives readers an idea of how many people traveled in the wilderness.
When the Israelites Didn't Travel
Miriam and Aaron complained against Moses, their brother. Aaron was not punished because he was a priest of the tribe of Levi. However, God punished Miriam by afflicting her with leprosy.
She had to be put outside the camp. The cloud stood still over the tent, and the entire group waited for Miriam to be healed. She was healed after Moses prayed for her and the group began to travel again after seven days, according to Numbers 12:1-15.
God Still Guides
God doesn't lead us today by a cloud during the day and a pillar of fire at night. However, He still guides us by other methods, such as through prayer, meditation, reading His word, listening to sermons, or songs. You will know when God is prompting you to do something or not to do something.
When your cloud doesn't move, it is God telling you to stay put. When your cloud moves, it is God telling you to move. Move with the symbolic cloud for it is God guiding you to where He wants you to go.