MemberMarch 18, 2021 at 8:28 am
At the very end of John chapter 5, Jesus told His listeners that if they refused to believe what Moses had written in the Torah, they would not believe His own words either; for Moses had written about Him. It’s interesting to note that in the next three chapters of John’s Gospel, Jesus pulls three specific events from Moses’ written history of Israel’s wilderness-wanderings (all three of which were miracles — defined by Noah Webster as “an event or effect contrary to the established constitution or course of things, or a deviation from the known laws of nature; a supernatural event … effected only by the direct agency of Almighty power, and not by natural causes”); and He uses those three miracles to illustrate a spiritual truth about Himself and His work. This is spoken of by Frederick Brotherton Meyer, a British preacher that is remembered for his evangelism and mission work on both sides of the Atlantic in the late 1800s and early 1900s; he authored numerous articles and 75 books, biographies, and devotional commentaries on the Bible. In his two-volume commentary on the Gospel of John, he states:
The Feast of Tabernacles commemorated the march of the pilgrim hosts through the desert, fed by manna for their food; supplied with water from the smitten rock for their thirst; guided by a pillar of cloud which had at its heart a torch of fire – though this was only apparent when night had veiled the glaring light of the sun, and it brooded tranquilly over the camp. Our Lord compared Himself to the first of these symbols in the sixth chapter [of John], to the second in the seventh, and to the third in this [eighth chapter]. He declares that to all the pilgrim hosts of men, He is what the cloud – with its heart of fire – was to that [group] of desert-wanderers.
As to its functions, the work of the fire-cloud was threefold – to lead, to shield, and to illumine.
1. It led. The wilderness was a trackless waste to the hosts of Israel, and they were absolutely dependent on the cloud to show their path, and to find out a resting-place each night… When the cloud gathered itself up from the Tabernacle on which it brooded, the hosts must strike their tents and follow. However desirable the site of the camp, they must leave it. However difficult the desert paths, they must traverse them. However uninviting the spot where it stopped, they must halt there, and remain just so long as it tarried… The cloud might be taken up by day or by night; but there was no choice except to follow, or to wander in a trackless waste and die. For the manna fell, and the water flowed, and the Divine protection was enjoyed – only where the cloud rested.
2. It shielded – for, probably, when the people had pitched their tents on some exposed and scorched plain, it unfolded itself like a vast canopy; its base resting on the Tabernacle which stood in the midst of the camp, whilst its fleecy folds were spread out so as to screen the furthest extremities of the camp from the overpowering heat of the noontide sun.
3. It gave light. Whilst the camp was hushed in deep slumber, it watched over it like the eye of God. The people had no need of the sun by day, or of the moon by night; for the Lord had become their everlasting Light, and the days of their mourning might have been ended. There was a sense in which there was no night there, and they needed not candle or beacon-fire or torch; for the Lord God gave them light. Following the cloud, they had no need to abide in darkness; they already possessed the light of life.
All this, the Lord Jesus is willing to be to us! In Him, all the fullness dwells. In His many-sided nature, God has made all grace to abound – that we, having all-sufficiency in all things, should be abundantly filled and satisfied out of Him! In days of doubt, He will be our Guide; in days of trial, our Covert and Shade; in days of darkness, our Light.
Jesus clearly believed that Moses’ record of events – particularly the miracles – associated with the Exodus and wilderness-wanderings of the children of Israel were real historical happenings; and more than once, He used these miracles to paint a clearer picture of the real nature of His spiritual ministry and work for His people. Again, a miracle, by definition, is “a wonderful happening that is above, against, or independent of the known laws of nature” (Thorndike Dictionary). If one supposes that Moses’ record of these miraculous phenomena, like the cloudy and fiery pillar, did not really happen in the way that he described them; then doesn’t that undermine the authority of Jesus’ teachings? For example, He used the pillar of cloud and fire to show us how He is our spiritual Guide, Shade, and Light. But if that cloudy and fiery pillar was not really what the Old Testament describes it to be, then how could anyone ever be sure that Jesus really meant what He said when He used that pillar as a picture of Himself and His work?
“Had ye believed Moses, ye would have believed me; for he wrote of me. But if ye believe not his writings, how shall ye believe my words?”
– Jesus Christ of Nazareth, Son of God, Son of Man, Messiah, King of kings, Lord of lords, Sovereign Creator of the universe, Absolute Standard of truth, and Co-Author (with the Father and the Holy Spirit) of the inerrant Holy Scriptures