Last time, we began looking at “The Cloud and Pillar of Fire” (Exodus 13:21-22).” In the biblical study of Old Testament types and patterns, we find that the cloud and fire represent the Holy Spirit. I Corinthians 10:1-13 indicates that Israel’s wilderness experience is a complete picture of our Christian life. That means that the appearance of the cloud and fire at the very moment Israel left Egypt is significant. It demonstrates that the baptism of the Holy Spirit is an event that occurs at the instant we are saved. Then, some time later, after salvation, we are led by the Holy Spirit to water baptism.
Today we want to focus in on the ministry of the Holy Spirit as revealed in Exodus. There are three services disclosed:
I.) God goes before us to lead us (Exodus 13:21a):
One of the principal ministries of the Holy Spirit in the lives of born again believers is to provide us with direction in life. For many Christians this is a real mystery. How does He guide us? For some, it is nothing more than a feeling, whim, or hunch. For others it is more mystical—sort of like waving hands over a crystal ball. Still others see it as just a big unknown where God gave us our heads and expects us to use them to figure out our own way. This should not be, because God plainly says that He will guide us (Psalm 32:8). So, how does this work?
Scripture: John 3:5
Jesus answered, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God.
Notice that a man must be born of both water and Spirit. Water and Spirit work together in the process of salvation. The question here is whether this water is merely H2O or something more. Once again, typology comes into play.
Scripture: Psalm 119:9
Wherewithal shall a young man cleanse his way? by taking heed thereto according to thy word.
Water represents the Word of God. Jesus told Nicodemus that he must be born again of both the Word of God (I Peter 1:23) and the Holy Spirit to be saved. One without the other does not work.
Scripture: John 7:38-39
38 He that believeth on me, as the scripture hath said, out of his belly shall flow rivers of living water. 39 (But this spake he of the Spirit, which they that believe on him should receive: for the Holy Ghost was not yet given; because that Jesus was not yet glorified.)
Notice that while water represents the Word, flowing water pictures the Holy Spirit. Do you see the connection? Water which stands still is dead and lifeless; whereas, flowing water is alive. This principle is taught in survival courses.
When possible, we should use iodine tablets or some filtration device to purify drinking water in the field. But when no means of purification are available, the safest water to drink is found in the rapids. The flowing action acts as a natural cleanser, inserting oxygen and washing away impurities.
The lesson is this: God, the Holy Spirit, works in union with the written Word to bring it alive to us. Instead of mere words on paper, the Bible becomes a living book, able to speak to our need - whether that be doctrine, conviction, exhortation, or direction (II Timothy 3:16-17). God uses His Word to lead us the way (Psalm 119:105).
II.) God lights our path and comforts us (Exodus 13:21b):
...and by night in a pillar of fire, to give them light; to go by day and night:
The second ministry of the Holy Spirit is that of giving light in the night. The New Testament refers to the Holy Spirit as the Comforter (John 16:7). In those dark nights of life when we fearful human beings quake, tremble, and cower, the Spirit lights our path with the Scriptures to comfort and show the way.
Many are the times that I have experienced that sudden remembrance of a verse at just the right moment to provide peace in the midst of turmoil. One strange incident should suffice to demonstrate this.
Years ago at a crisis point in my life when God was beginning to take over the reins of my heart, I had a very unusual experience. I am not quite sure what to think of it, but will simply share it to make my point.
I was fast asleep in the night season, when I seemed to abruptly awake with an intense fear that I have never known before or since. In the instant of my apparent wakefulness with my eyes seemingly open, the room looked to be filled with demonic forms and shadows that I somehow perceived to be wrestling for my soul.
Then just as suddenly as I awoke, the thought popped into my head, “I will never leave thee nor forsake thee (Hebrews 13:5).” This was accompanied by such peace and calm that I am reminded of Christ stilling the winds and sea (Luke 8:24).
All of this took but a moment and to this day, I do not know what to make of it. Was it a mere nightmare or was it a glimpse of the spiritual conflict that goes on unseen around us (Ephesians 6:12)? I do not know. One thing is sure—God’s Word calmed the howling winds of fear so fast and so completely that I lay for a time in a state of wonder and amazement.
If there is a lesson in all of this (and I believe there is), it is that experiences can often be very unsettling to us, but the Word of God is sure and steadfast (I Peter 1:25). Many today look for experiences, when they ought to look at their Bibles.
The Spirit knows just how to bring Scripture to bear at just the right moment in our lives. The Greek word for comforter is parakletos which literally means "called to one’s side". It implies the capability of giving aid. That is what the Holy Spirit does.
When we think of the desert, we often think of blazing heat from the scorching sun, but night time is just the opposite. It can get very cold. The extreme is so great that even 80 degrees seems cold. God knew just how to care for His people. He provided the cloud by day to shade them, and the fire by night to light and warm them.
III.) God never leaves nor forsakes us (Exodus 13:22):
He took not away the pillar of the cloud by day, nor the pillar of fire by night, from before the people.
The third ministry of the Holy Sprit is that of being our constant companion. Those words of consolation in Hebrews 13:5 calmed my fearful heart. They ought to encourage each of us who know Christ as Savior, because our text says that He did not take away the cloud.
Scripture: Ephesians 1:13-14
13 In whom ye also trusted, after that ye heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation: in whom also after that ye believed, ye were sealed with that holy Spirit of promise, 14 Which is the earnest of our inheritance until the redemption of the purchased possession, unto the praise of his glory.
The Holy Spirit is the earnest, or down payment, of our inheritance. Think of that! When we grieve Him (Ephesians 4:30), it is like trying to throw away our inheritance. How foolish! Fortunately, we cannot succeed, because He is also the almighty God who seals us until the day of redemption.
In ancient times, a letter was sealed by placing a drop of hot wax over the opening and imprinting it with an ornate seal. This security was not perfect. Occasionally, someone would manage to break it by counterfeiting or stealing the seal. But suppose that instead of wax, the seal consisted of an omnipotent bond that could never be broken. Such is the Holy Spirit. We are signed, sealed, and waiting to be delivered (II Corinthians 1:10). The Spirit is all of the assurance we need. He has promised that He will never leave nor forsake us.
The real question is “how often do we forsake Him?” How often do we grieve or quench (I Thessalonians 5:19) Him? We forsake Him, but He never does us. He seals us to the day of redemption and that day is fast drawing nigh (Luke 21:28).
In conclusion, the ministry of the cloud and pillar of fire to Israel was the same as the Holy Spirit’s ministry to us. He led them, comforted them, and abode with them through thick or thin. Even when they failed miserably and utterly, He was still there. He does the same for us—only better. For them He hovered over the camp. For us, He indwells our bodies. They become His temple.