And the angel of God, who had been going before the camp of Israel, moved and went behind them; and the pillar of cloud moved from before them and stood behind them. So it came between the camp of Egypt and the camp of Israel; and there was the cloud along with the darkness, yet it gave light at night. Thus the one did not come near the other all night.
Whenever I read these two verses lately, I cannot help but think of all the bodyguards that today’s politicians, celebrities, and senior businesspersons have. Millions and millions of dollars are spent annually protecting these people from harm, kidnapping, and even assassination. Yet the best protection for our lives is totally free of charge. God’s protection services come with only two requirements. Follow the path He has laid out for you as His child and rely totally on Him.
But let’s look closer at His methods. He employs angels who strategically place themselves between the perils we fear and us. Sometimes they go before us to lead us and sometimes they go behind us to protect us from surprise attacks. He is in full control of His armies. And when the world entraps us into utter despair, God is there.
While the angels’ primary concern was to protect the children of Israel, the pillar of cloud was more of a physical barrier to the Egyptians preventing them from attacking. Although it is often too hard for us to understand it in our times of trouble, the fact is that God’s protection services are twofold – they take care of us while at the same time dealing with our enemies.
The angels moved from being in front to being behind the Israelites. The pillar of cloud had provided light for them. Together they had led them under God’s direction to the Red Sea. The path to be followed at this point forward was clear – difficult, requiring great faith, but clear. Put another way, they could not get lost. Thus, it was totally safe for the angels to move behind them. And the light from the pillar of cloud, once it moved to being behind them as well, could now shine from behind to provide some light, but also be utilized as a “blinding light” to the enemy, preventing them from being able to see the children of God. Finally, as one commentator stated, that same pillar that was preventing the Egyptians from striking the Israelites could also have saved them had they, even at that point, heeded God’s warning to let His people go.
The passage ends by stating that “one did not come near the other all night” – the parties did not interact all night. God’s angel and His pillar of cloud kept them apart. They were safe. All they had to do was stay on the path He identified for them and trust Him.
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