After the final plague, Pharaoh, overwhelmed by the death of his son, lets the Israelites go. This starts the mass exodus from Egypt.
When Pharaoh finally let the people go, God did not lead them along the main road that runs through Philistine territory, even though that was the shortest route to the Promised Land. God said, “If the people are faced with a battle, they might change their minds and return to Egypt.” So God led them in a roundabout way through the wilderness toward the Red Sea. Thus the Israelites left Egypt like an army ready for battle. . . .
. . . The Lord went ahead of them. He guided them during the day with a pillar of cloud, and he provided light at night with a pillar of fire. This allowed them to travel by day or by night. And the Lord did not remove the pillar of cloud or pillar of fire from its place in front of the people.
(Exodus 13:17-18, 21-22)
God doesn’t always work in the way that seems best to us. We may see faster, cheaper, nicer, more enjoyable routes, but that may not be God’s way. God didn’t guide the Israelites directly from Egypt to the Promised Land. He took them a longer way to avoid fighting the Philistines. God gave the Hebrews a pillar of cloud and a pillar of fire so they would know day and night that God was with them on their journey.
In the same way, when we follow God’s path, he goes with us. His presence with us on the journey is more important than anything else—even the destination. “How good it is to be near God!” (Psalm 73:28). God can see the end of your journey from the beginning, and he will go with you.
What pillars has God given to you? He has given you his Word and his Spirit. As the Hebrews looked to the pillars of cloud and fire, you can look to God’s Word day and night as “a lamp to guide [your] feet” (Psalm 119:105). And the Holy Spirit “will teach you everything and will remind you of everything I [Jesus] have told you” (John 14:26).