I was ill recently and had to spend some time in bed. To occupy my thoughts and not sleep I stared out my bedroom window at the clouds. It was a partly sunny day with a variety of clouds to view. There is something special about clouds, have you ever noticed? Some clouds are large and menacing and dark while others are white, fluffy, and appealing. Some clouds look like the shape of an animal, building, or even people. Other clouds are just blobs floating through the air. Some clouds are obviously full of water and ready to open up and pour out a refreshing drink upon the parched earth below. Yet other clouds have no particular use at all except to provide a moments shade to someone below.
The rate that clouds drift is also different which makes watching clouds even more interesting. Some clouds seem to be stationary or moving so slowly that they feel stationary. Other clouds, though, march by so quickly that if you close your eyes for even a moment you might miss them. Some clouds seem to be dancing across the sky while others appear to be angrily stomping across the sky. What I found most interesting is that as the clouds become lower and more numerous I could see clouds that seemed to be going in opposite directions of each other, the lower clouds were going right while the higher clouds were going left and sometimes a line of clouds were sort of going in a circle. How odd it appeared to me and yet how much like a silent symphony the orchestration of it all seemed.
This study of clouds reminded me of several different things. First of all, the clouds reminded me as I watched them dance across my window of people and how we live out our lives. Some of us are solid and stable. It takes a pretty high wind to move us about the sky. Other people, though, are in a hurry and moving so fast that we look like we are being chased. Still others are slowly but surely making a dent in the afternoon sky and seem to move with purpose and intentionality. Others are full of goodness and refreshment while neighboring clouds are prickly looking, menacing, and frightening. But we all have one thing in common with the clouds; we are all created by God. God is the key to our whole existence and He cares as much about you and me as He does about the clouds.
Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God, Hebrews 12:1-2, (English Standard Version or ESV).
The writer of Hebrews spent some time prior to these verses giving a great citation of examples of men and women who had a great faith in God. Abel had faith that God would accept his offering as righteous. Abraham and Sarah had faith that God would keep the promise made to them for a son and all that this promise entailed. The faith of Jacob and Joseph and Moses and a whole host of others listed in Hebrews 11 prelude this passage. And how are all these people of faith portrayed by the writer of Hebrews? We are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, and what are these witnesses doing? They are cheering us on by their examples in how they continued to have faith in God and the promises of God. I thought of this scripture passage as I lay on my sickbed and watched the clouds from my bedroom window. I felt encouraged to know that great men and women of faith have existed in every generation and that the cloud of witnesses has grown much since the writer of Hebrews envisioned the cloud of witnesses. I felt encouraged that my illness would not prevail and that I would soon be up and running the race of a lifetime once more. I felt joy! There is another place in the Bible that talks about clouds.
“Therefore, son of man, prophesy, and say to Gog, Thus says the Lord God: On that day when my people Israel are dwelling securely, will you not know it? You will come from your place out of the uttermost parts of the north, you and many peoples with you, all of them riding on horses, a great host, a mighty army. You will come up against my people Israel, like a cloud covering the land. In the latter days I will bring you against my land, that the nations may know me, when through you, O Gog, I vindicate my holiness before their eyes Ezekiel 38:14-16, (ESV).
The prophet Ezekiel is doing his thing, which is to predict the future. This particular passage is predicting the final battles, Gog, the city in the land of Magog against the land of Israel. God will not let the ruler of Gog remain in power. I am no Bible expert so I can’t say whether this is a battle that has already taken place or as some believe a battle yet to take place. I just want to point out the fact that when God moves people into action it looks like clouds moving across the landscape.
Blow a trumpet in Zion; sound an alarm on my holy mountain! Let all the inhabitants of the land tremble, for the day of the Lord is coming; it is near, a day of darkness and gloom, a day of clouds and thick darkness! Like blackness there is spread upon the mountains a great and powerful people; their like has never been before, nor will be again after them through the years of all generations, Joel 2:1-2, (ESV).
Once again a prophet of God predicts how awful the darkness of the clouds will be when the day of the Lord arrives and judgement begins. This is terrifying to read, unless you are a Christian. I like to think of the best cloud, the one yet to come!
And then if anyone says to you, ‘Look, here is the Christ!’ or ‘Look, there he is!’ do not believe it. For false christs and false prophets will arise and perform signs and wonders, to lead astray, if possible, the elect. But be on guard; I have told you all things beforehand. “But in those days, after that tribulation, the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light, and the stars will be falling from heaven, and the powers in the heavens will be shaken. And then they will see the Son of Man coming in clouds with great power and glory. And then he will send out the angels and gather his elect from the four winds, from the ends of the earth to the ends of heaven, Mark 13:21-27, (ESV).
Oh what a day that will be when we see Jesus coming for us, when all seems to be in chaos and destruction surrounds us, but then! Look! Here comes our Lord and Savior to collect His own, to take us away from the turmoil, the pain, the suffering, and the terror. I long for that cloud to come! I long for the day when all wrongs will be made right. I long for the moment when we meet our Lord face to face! Don’t you? So take a moment to look at the clouds and be encouraged!