It’s interesting to reflect on how the meaning and images of words and phrases change over time. For example, when I was growing up “His head is in the clouds” meant that person was out of touch with reality, nothing but a dreamer. Today if our head – and indeed all our vital information – is not in the Cloud we’re considered unwise and unsafe. So which is it?
So it’s no wonder I was struck when I read Ps. 105:39 – “God put a cloud over his people…” Just what did the Psalmist mean? That led to a search on the use of the cloud image in the Bible. I’ve discovered, so far, at least four distinct but beautiful meanings – each of which I will briefly unwrap over the next four weeks.
One meaning can be drawn from the image in Exodus 13:21 – “By day the Lord went ahead of them in a pillar of cloud to guide them on their way…” On their journey through the desert from Egypt to the Promised Land God used a cloud to lead them – the cloud was a visible tour guide they could follow. After all, they had never been this way before and needed someone who knew the way to take the lead. At times, God would speak from the cloud and give them even further guidance.
The primary meaning is that God guides His people during their life journeys. That’s a good thing. After all, we’ve never been this way before. But where is our cloud? How does God speak to us? Certainly we have His written Word, the Bible. It is filled with direction and guidance. But we have even more. We have Jesus.
John wrote “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning…The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.” (John 1:1-2, 14) Jesus is God’s spoken Word who leads and guides us. John later records “Do not let your hearts be troubled. You believe in God; believe also in me. My Father’s house has many rooms; if that were not so, would I have told you that I am going there to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am. You know the way to the place where I am going.” Thomas said to him, “Lord, we don’t know where you are going, so how can we know the way?” Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” (John 14:1-6)
Yet that’s not all. As Jesus was preparing His disciples for life beyond His resurrection, He taught them about the Holy Spirit He would send to them.
“I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Helper, who will stay with you forever. He is the Spirit, who reveals the truth about
God. The world cannot receive him, because it cannot see him or know him. But you know him, because he remains with you and is in you…The Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you everything and make you remember all that I have told you…“I have much more to say to you, more than you can now bear. But when he, the Spirit of truth, comes, he will guide you into all the truth. He will not speak on his own; he will speak only what he hears, and he will tell you what is yet to come. He will glorify me because it is from me that he will receive what he will make known to you. All that belongs to the Father is mine. That is why I said the Spirit will receive from me what he will make known to you.” (John 14:16-17, 26 & 16:12-15)
God’s Cloud – His Word, His Son, His Spirit – guides us through our life journey.
I appreciate how Robert Smith described it: “When I meditated on the word Guidance, I kept seeing “dance”
at the end of the word. I remember reading that doing God’s will is a lot like dancing.
When two people try to lead, nothing feels right. The movement doesn’t flow with the music, and everything is quite uncomfortable and jerky. When one person realizes that, and lets the other lead, both bodies begin to flow with the music. One gives gentle cues, perhaps with a nudge to the back or by pressing lightly in one direction or another. It’s as if two become one body, moving beautifully. The dance takes surrender, willingness, and attentiveness from one person, and gentle guidance and skill from the other. My eyes drew back to the word Guidance. When I saw “G: I thought of God, followed by “u” and “i”. “God, “u” and “i” dance.” God, you, and I dance.
As I lowered my head, I became willing to trust that I would get guidance about my life.
Once again, I became willing to let God lead.”
Thank God for the Cloud!