On the day that the tabernacle was set up, the cloud covered the tabernacle, the tent of the testimony. And at evening it was over the tabernacle like the appearance of fire until morning. So it was always: the cloud covered it by day and the appearance of fire by night. And whenever the cloud lifted from over the tent, after that the people of Israel set out, and in the place where the cloud settled down, there the people of Israel camped. At the command of the Lord the people of Israel set out, and at the command of the Lord they camped. As long as the cloud rested over the tabernacle, they remained in camp. Numbers 9:15-18, ESV.
What a sight this must have been! As the people of Israel went about their business in the days after being delivered from Egyptian bondage, they never lost sight of God’s presence over the tabernacle in the middle of camp as “the cloud covered it by day and the appearance of fire by night.” Can you imagine it? When Mrs. Israelite was having a dreadful day because the kids were acting up, her husband had a cold and spent the entire day bemoaning his fate in the tent, and the broom handle broke, she could look and be visibly reminded that God was with her. In the wilderness, God’s people always had the sign of His presence.
We don’t get special clouds or pillars of fire in our day. Then again, those who have placed their faith in Christ do not need external signs of God’s presence. Jesus promises His disciples, “I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Helper, to be with you forever, even the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him. You know him, for he dwells with you and will be in you” (John 14:15-17). Paul writes to the church in Rome, “You, however, are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if in fact the Spirit of God dwells in you. Anyone who does not have the Spirit of Christ does not belong to him” (Romans 8:9). He reminds the Corinthians, “Do you not know that you are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit dwells in you?” (1 Corinthians 3:16).
We do not need to look for clouds by day or fire by night. The very Spirit of God dwells within us! And if symbols were a reasonable comfort for struggling Israelite men and women, what should the actual inner presence of God be to you?
My prayer for you today is that you will, in both good times and bad, know with an assurance greater than your eyes could ever provide that God is with you!