The pillar of cloud by day and the pillar of fire by night did not depart from before the people.
The theme of the Book of Exodus is the freeing of the people of Israel from slavery in Egypt and their journey towards the land God had promised to give them — the land of Israel. However the journey was to take them a long time - 40 years in all! This was not because the distance between Egypt and Israel was very great, but because God had many lessons to teach the people along the way. The people were not always easy to teach and were often disobedient to God.
In spite of this, there was one constant reminder of God's care and love for his people even in their times of disobedience — his presence was among the people guiding and protecting them - "the pillar of cloud by day and the pillar of fire by night did not depart from before the people." God was always there.
This must have been a great comfort to the people, especially as they had no experience of the conditions of the territories they were passing through or the peoples they encountered. But God knew and protected them. In the same way our Lord Jesus has promised: "Behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age" (Matthew 28:20). God is still watching over his people just as he did in the days of the Exodus. What a comfort his presence is to lead and to guide us!
Dear Lord, please help me to know the comfort of your presence and to be willing to be guided by you. Amen.