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A Cloud Leads the Way

Exodus 13:21, 22; 14:19, 20; Patriarchs and Prophets, pp. 282-290


The Message

We worship God when we obey Him.

Memory Verse

“I seek you with all my heart; do not let me stray from your commands” (Psalm 119:10).

John enjoyed summer camp. He was learning many new crafts. He especially liked leather craft. He followed his counselor’s directions very carefully as he worked on a new wallet.

Our Bible story tells about a large group of people who also followed directions. They followed directions from God—unusual directions, but very important.


After 400 years of slavery the Israelites were finally on their way to the Promised Land. But which way should they go? All that stretched before them was the hot, dry wilderness.

God did not leave them to wonder. Instead, He led them personally and in a way especially fitted for the desert. “By day the Lord went ahead of them in a pillar of cloud to guide them on their way and by night in a pillar of fire to give them light, so that they could travel by day or night” (Exodus 13:21). During the day the cloud gave them shade from the sun’s heat. At night when the desert became very cold, the pillar of fire provided heat as well as light. The cloud led the Israelites into the desert and on to the Red Sea. There it stopped.

Soon the Egyptians realized that when the Israelites left, their supply of slaves were gone. In a short time Pharaoh’s army raced across the desert. They wanted to get the Israelites back. The Israelites saw a great cloud of dust coming their way. From their camp at the edge of the sea, they could see the chariots racing toward them. What could they do? A mountain blocked their way on one side. The Red Sea kept them from going ahead. And Pharaoh’s army kept coming straight at them. They were trapped, and they were terrified.

“Do not be afraid,” said Moses. “Stand firm, and you will see the Lord deliver you today.”

The Egyptian army drew closer. But God’s cloud of protection did something awesome. It moved up and over the Israelites. Then it came to rest between them and the Egyptian army. On one side it became a cloud that brought darkness to the Egyptians. But on the other side it was fire that provided the Israelites with light.

“Tell the Israelites to move forward, into the sea,” God said to Moses. Even though there was nothing but deep water in front of them, the Israelites obeyed. They gathered their things and headed for the water.

“Raise your staff and stretch out your hand over the sea,” God commanded Moses. Moses obeyed, and a strong wind began to blow a path of dry ground through the sea. All that night the pillar of fire provided light. And the Israelites walked through the Red Sea on dry ground. The wall of water on their right and left stayed in place.

The Egyptians followed the Israelites into the sea. As soon as the last of the Israelites arrived safely on the other side, the Lord spoke to Moses again. “Stretch out your hand over the sea so the waters will flow back together.” Again Moses obeyed. And the Egyptian army drowned in the Red Sea as the waters flowed back together.

What a celebration the Israelites had that morning on the far side of the Red Sea. “I will sing to the Lord, for He is highly exalted,” they praised. “The Lord is my strength and my song; He has become my salvation.” What a worship service that was!

That morning the Israelites worshipped God in a special way. They wanted to thank Him for keeping them safe. But if they had not obeyed, there never would have been a victory celebration. Imagine what would have happened if they had not followed God’s command. Their obedience was an act of worship just as much as the celebration they enjoyed that morning.

Worship is honoring God. We can use our voices and our songs to honor God. And our lives can honor Him too, when we do what He asks.