At the commandment of the LORD they rested in the tents, and at the commandment of the LORD they journeyed…
God's presence with Israel was perpetual (Exodus 3:12; Exodus 13:17-18). The sign of it in the cloud was given as soon, and was continued as long, as it was needed (Exodus 13:21, 22; Exodus 40:38). God's active, providential presence was -
I. A SOURCE OF SAFETY;
II. A GROUND OF FAITH; and therefore,
III. A MOTIVE TO OBEDIENCE.
I. The cloud
(1) led them the safest way (Exodus 13:17).
(2) Ensured protection from foes when near at hand (Exodus 14:19, 20, 24).
(3) Gave light on the camp in moonless nights (Nehemiah 9:19).
(4) Was a pledge of safety to sinners, as it rested on the mercy-seat (Leviticus 16:2). This visible cloud a symbol of protection by an invisible God (Isaiah 4:5). Illustrations, bird and young (Ruth 2:12; Psalm 17:8; Psalm 91:4). Father carrying his child by day (Deuteronomy 1:31), and watching by him at night (Psalm 121). There is safety for sinners not away from God but in God (Psalm 143:2, 9).
II. God showed himself in the cloud for the very purpose of guiding. He took the responsibility out of the hands of the people and Moses that they might have the privilege of trusting (Exodus 33:9-17; Deuteronomy 1:33). Such a guiding presence we may enjoy by the aid of God's written counsels, providential acts, and inward monitions (Psalm 25:4, 5, 9, 14). See how these three are combined in the narrative (Acts 8:26-35).
III. Verse 23 is very emphatic. They obeyed even if at times the journey was very arduous (Numbers 21:4), or the halt very tedious (verse 22), or the start was sudden, as when a midnight alarm of the trumpets was a sign that the cloud had begun to move (verse 21). Hence we learn
(1) not to take for granted that any place is our rest (Job 29:18; Micah 2:10).
(2) To be willing to go to the wilderness with God, rather than to stay in the choicest paradise without God.
(3) To be willing to endure, at God's bidding, protracted toil or enforced inactivity.
(4) To be ready at any time to strike our tent and go home. Thus waiting on God and waiting for God, we arc safely led, and have the rest of trustful obedience (Psalm 5:11, 12; Psalm 48:14; Psalm 84:11, 12). - P.
Parallel VersesKJV: At the commandment of the LORD they rested in the tents, and at the commandment of the LORD they journeyed: they kept the charge of the LORD, at the commandment of the LORD by the hand of Moses.