Verse 21. And the Lord went before them in a pillar - In the two first stages, it was enough that God directed Moses whither to march; he knew the country, and the road; but now they are come to the edge of the wilderness, they would have occasion for a guide, and a very good guide they had, infinitely wise, kind, and faithful, the Lord went up before them; The Shechinah or appearance of the divine Majesty, which was a precious manifestation of the eternal Word, who in the fulness of time was to be made flesh, and dwell among us. Christ was with the church in the wilderness, 1 Cor. x, 9. What a satisfaction to Moses and the pious Israelites, to be sure that they were under a divine conduct? They need not fear missing their way who were thus led, nor being lost who were thus directed; they need not fear being benighted, who were thus illuminated, nor being robbed, who were thus protected. And they who make the glory of God their end, and the word of God their rule, the spirit of God the guide of their affections, and the providence of God the guide of their affairs, may be confident that the Lord goes before them, as truly is he went before Israel in the wilderness, though not so sensibly. They had sensible effects of God's going before them in this pillar. For, It led them the way in that vast howling wilderness, in which there was no road, no track, no way-marks through which they had no guides. When they marched, this pillar went before them, at the rate that they could follow, and appointed the place of their encampment, as infinite Wisdom saw fit; which eased them from care, and secured them from danger, both in moving, and in resting. It sheltered them from the heat by day, which at sometimes of the year was extreme: And it gave them light by night when they had occasion for it.
Verse 22. He took not away the pillar of the cloud, - No not when they seemed to have less occasion for it: it never left them 'till it brought them to the borders of Canaan. It was a cloud which the wind could not scatter. There was something spiritual in this pillar of cloud and fire.
1. The children of Israel were baptized unto Moses in this cloud, 1 Cor. x, 2. By coming under this cloud they signified their putting themselves under the conduct and command of Moses. Protection draws allegiance; this cloud was the badge of God's protection, and so became the bond of their allegiance. Thus they were initiated, and admitted under that government, now when they were entering upon the wilderness.
2. And it signifies the special conduct and protection which the church of Christ is under in this world.