This verses describe how God demonstrated his promise to take care of his people. His presence changed forms to become what the Israelites needed at any given moment. During the day, a cloud was their covering. As they walked through scorching desert. God provided a cloud to provide and protect them from the heat of the sun. Perhaps the covering cloud also hid them from enemies, a common use of the cloud metaphor. The cloud hid God’s people under God’s active presence.
At night, God’s presence appeared as a pillar of fire. Lighting the way, warming the air around them, intimidating their enemies. Whatever the people needed God was. 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 13:21-22)
God also fed them, not merely to meet their needs but even with the delicacy of quail. The people never went without nourishment. God’s provision never failed even one day of their forty-year journey.
Have you heard the expression, you can’t get water from a rock. Except when you can (God) split open the rocks in the wilderness to give them water as from a gushing spring. He made streams pour from the rock, making the waters flow down like a river! God made water gush from a rock and his provision was so abundant that the millions of Israelites and their livestock drank their fill! We may walk through deserts, but the provision of the Lord will always be ours.