Robert D. Pace
1 Corinthians 10:1-5
The study of clouds in Scripture is fascinating. Most references are metaphorical as they are identified 125 times. The typology of clouds is peculiar because most Bible metaphors correspond to only one truth; however, clouds connote many truths.
Noah’s Ark corresponds with the church’s safety.
Moses’ rod exemplifies God’s power.
The brass serpent raised on a pole depicts Christ becoming man’s sin and being lifted on a cross.
The Stone Tablets represents God’s righteous demands.
Elijah’s Mantle signifies the Spirit’s empowerment.
But notice the many messages that God conveys through the imagery of clouds.
1. Ezekiel 30:3 correlates clouds with calamity. “the day of the LORD is near—a day of clouds, a time of doom for the nations.” Job lamented his calamity by saying a dreadful cloud hovered over his life (Job 3:3-5).
2. Isaiah 14:14 identifies clouds with God’s glory. He sees God enthroned “above the tops of the clouds.” (Also note Matthew 17:5.)
3. Exodus depicts clouds offering protection. The Lord created a thick cloud between the Egyptians and the Israelites as Pharaoh pursued them near the Red Sea. The cloud by day and night providentially protected Israel during their forty-year wilderness trek. (It’s amazing that despite Israel’s repeated wilderness insurrections God graciously kept the clouds in place.)
4. Exodus 13:21-22 shows clouds providing direction. Moses moved Israel through the wilderness only as the cloud moved.
5. Exodus 33:9 uses clouds to indicate God’s presence. “As Moses went into the tent, the pillar of cloud would come down and stay at the entrance, while the LORD spoke with Moses.” (16:10; 19:16; 24:15-16; 34:5; Numbers 9:15-22).
6. Hebrews 12:1 correlates clouds with departed Saints. “Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us.”
7. Revelation 1:7 and 10:1 shows God’s judgment emanates from clouds.
8. Revelation 14:14 identifies clouds as Christ’s seat of authority. “I looked, and there before me was a white cloud, and seated on the cloud was one “like a son of man” with a crown of gold on his head and a sharp sickle in his hand.” (Also Matthew 24:30; Luke 21:27.)
9. Clouds symbolize a place where God conceals Himself. In Exodus 19 and 20 a cloud enveloped Mount Sinai where Moses met with God and secured the Decalogue. In the New Testament Christ hid Peter, James, and John inside a cloud on the Mount of Transfiguration, where He conversed with Moses and Elijah.
10. Clouds indicate the irretrievability of confessed sins. Isaiah 44:22 says: “I have swept away your offenses like a cloud, your sins like the morning mist.”
11. Finally, Clouds often represent Christ’s Second Coming. Jesus prophesied in Mark 13:26: “At that time men will see the Son of Man coming in clouds with great power and glory.”
(Transition) Valuable lessons are contained in the typology of clouds. However, time permits me to mention only three. First, let’s discuss clouds as they forecast divine visitation.
I. Clouds Forecast Divine Visitation
Jesus said in Luke 12:54: “When you see a cloud rising in the west, immediately you say, `It’s going to rain,’ and it does.” (55) And when the south wind blows, you say, `It’s going to be hot,’ and it is. (56) Hypocrites! You know how to interpret the appearance of the earth and the sky. How is it that you don’t know how to interpret this present time?”
(Example) This was a simple but profound illustration because Palestine’s climate was uncomplicated. The four seasons were almost identical every year. Mainly because of their geography. The Mediterranean was westward and the desert was southward and eastward. That meant when clouds rolled in from the Mediterranean people predicted rain and when arid southerly winds whisked in they forecasted heat.
In terms everyone understood Jesus used clouds to illustrate the Pharisees’ duplicity. The masters of the Law could forecast the weather but they couldn’t discern the obvious signs of their spiritual season. Christ, symbolic of a cloud from heaven filled with goodness, refreshment, and glory, had appeared with a deluge of blessing that soaked the land. But the religionists remained hardened, crusty, and dry as they huddled under the umbrella of the Law.
When God sends a divine visitation of His presence it’s time to embrace it! It’s time to depart the Tabernacle and enter the Upper Room. It’s time to abandon legalism and accept grace. It’s time to discard the old wineskin and fill the new one.
Let me remind you what welcoming this divine visitation means. It means you’re willing to take a risk. Welcoming Christ and the Spirit’s moving risks making you a target for ridicule, insults, and even hostility. That’s why the Pharisees rejected Christ and remained in their comfort zone.
They enjoyed the security Rome provided. They relished the luxuries the priesthood offered. They delighted in interpreting the Law and legislating tradition. They reveled in being chieftains among the commonfolk. Had they welcomed Christ’s visitation that meant the surrender of self, pride, and position, and that was unquestionable.
I have a question: Is welcoming Christ’s divine presence worth it? Is it worth the risk? . . . I have a cousin, Mike Leonard, that’s a cartoonist and writer for a couple of Tennessee newspapers. I want to read a recent article that helps illustrate this. You’ll wonder how this anecdote can possibly relate, but I’ll do my best to connect the dots. Mike writes:
(Illustration) When I was eight years old my grandfather kept a yellow-head hog in a shed down in Jacksonville, Florida. One day aunt Martha and I were alone at the house when the hog broke loose and began mangling the neighbor’s garden. Martha quickly retrieved a burlap sack and we began the chase. As I raced toward the neighbor’s garden the hog bolted off. I tried to corner him against the house but he ran into the front yard. From there it was zigzagging down the road, stumbling through a ditch, squeezing under barb wire, and then playing grab and dodge around the pasture. Finally, I cornered him at a barn. That’s when the hog turned on me–growling and showing his teeth. The hog chased me into a front-yard where several men were drinking iced-tea. I pleaded for assistance: “Please help me catch my granddaddy’s pig, he’s trying to bite me.” One of the men responded: “Why is your granddaddy trying to bite you?” And they all had a good laugh. Eventually two men grabbed the hog and sacked him. I dragged that squealing, helpless hog back over every bumpy inch of ground he had dragged me, including the barbed wire, and then dumped him back in the shed, still tied in the sack. He had made me a fool! (Moral) By telling this story, I hope to have made my peace with that hog!
Do you know what the Pharisees were doing when they rejected Christ and then went their own way? They were hog-chasing, and making fools of themselves! Here they were rejecting a visitation from the King of kings and Lord of lords! And I honestly haven’t exaggerated with this illustration. Jesus used similar language in the parable of the Prodigal Son. The son rejected the safety and provisions of his father’s house and eventually landed in the pigpen. And that’s where everyone will ultimately land that rejects Christ.
Now let’s answer the question. Yes, it’s worth the risk of ridicule, rejection, and even loss of position to welcome a divine visitation from Christ and His Spirit. Everybody is somebody’s fool! If we must be fools, let it be for Christ. That’s why Paul said in 1 Corinthians 1:25: “For the foolishness of God is wiser than man’s wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than man’s strength.”
I want a divine, heaven-sent visitation from Almighty God:
A visitation that transforms nominal worship services into phenomenal worship services.
A visitation that softens the hardened, crusty hearts of sinners with irresistible love.
A visitation that duplicates Christ’s miracles and wonders and sets the captives free.
A visitation that’s from God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit.
When you discern the clouds of a divine visitation have appeared, don’t ignore them. Christ has drawn near to renew and refresh your relationship! Are you willing to expel anything that hinders a divine visitation from breaking upon you? Is Jesus trying to visit your life? If so remove the obstructions.
(Transition) Secondly, clouds not only forecast divine visitation, they declare and share God’s glory.
II. Clouds Declare God’s Glory
Psalm 18:9-12 says God: “parted the heavens and came down; dark clouds were under his feet. (10) He mounted the cherubim and flew; he soared on the wings of the wind. (11) He made darkness his covering, his canopy around him‑‑ the dark rain clouds of the sky. (12) Out of the brightness of his presence clouds advanced, with hailstones and bolts of lightning.”
Clouds do two things: They visibly declare their glory and they share the contents of their glory–whether it’s rain, snow, sleet, or hail. We’re beneficiaries of clouds.
(Illustration) Some years back I spoke with a small aircraft pilot. While flying he spotted a fluffy cloud hovering several hundred yards away and thought he would glide through it. It was a frightening experience because when he flew through it the fragile plane was pounded by turbulence. He found that clouds possessed enormous strength.
That somewhat describes our perception and approach to God. As we understand Him from Scripture we realize His infinite majesty, but entering that majesty overwhelms our fragile flesh. His holiness, power, and divinity leave us immeasurably unprepared. That’s why Heaven offers an incorruptible, glorified body—so we can move closer to Him and fully worship Him. In Heaven there’s nothing to hinder the worship experience. It’s glorified saints worshiping the glorious God.
God desires to share His glory with man. That may sound contrary to what you’ve heard so let me repeat it: God desires to share His glory with man.
Some people have misinterpreted Isaiah 42:8 that says: “I will not give my glory to another or my praise to idols.” They interpret it to mean God never shares His glory, and that’s not what’s said. This verse is repeated in chapter 48 and in both instances it identifies God’s glory permanently resting upon Israel and not upon another idolatrous nation that knew nothing about worshiping God. God’s glory rests upon those who’s worship is undiluted from worldly idols. That’s why Isaiah said:
“Arise, shine, for your light has come, and the glory of the LORD rises upon you. (2) See, darkness covers the earth and thick darkness is over the peoples, but the LORD rises upon you and his glory appears over you” (ISA 60:1-2).
That’s why Haggai prophesied: “I will shake all nations, and the desired of all nations will come, and I will fill this house with glory,’ says the LORD Almighty” (HAG 2:7).
1 Peter 4:14 says: “If you are insulted because of the name of Christ, you are blessed, for the Spirit of glory and of God rests on you.”
Paul taught the process of glorification in 1 Corinthians 3:18 when he said we: “are being transformed into his likeness with ever‑increasing glory, which comes from the Lord. . . .”
God shares His glory, but why? What’s the purpose of God revealing His glory to man? God’s glory is shared to convince others of the true and living way. It was the reason for Christ’s miracles, His transformation, and His resurrection—to convince the world of His Lordship.
(Example) Do you recall how the Bible described the countenance of Moses after he communed with God forty days on the mountain? When Moses entered the camp with the Stone Tablets his face so radiated God’s glory Israel couldn’t look at him. He was forced to veil it until the glory subsided. The glory convinced Israel Moses had been with Jehovah. It demonstrated that Moses possessed something Israel needed. That was the purpose of Stephen’s glowing visage when the Pharisees stoned him. Divine glory is extended to convince others of the true and living God’s presence among men.
(Transition) Fourth, Clouds typify catastrophe.
III. Clouds Typify Catastrophe
Ezekiel 30:3 correlates clouds with calamity when he said:
“For . . . the day of the LORD is near—a day of clouds, a time of doom for the nations.”
Revelation 1:7 and 10:1 picture Christ and angels pouring out wrath from clouds.
And Job illustrated his calamity as a dreadful cloud hovering over him (JOB 3:3-5).
There are several ways clouds portend judgment: By the effects of lightning, through hail (that devastated Egypt), by turning light into darkness, and finally by means of flooding.
Catastrophic flooding is one significant way God conveys His displeasure with man. The clearest illustration of this displeasure occurred in Noah’s day when the earth’s subterranean fountains were uncapped, the floods descended, and the world was deluged and destroyed.
Several years ago, during the floods of 1993, the Holy Spirit stirred me to investigate the spiritual significance of catastrophic floods. What the Lord showed me is amazing. There is a recurring residual affect from catastrophic floods. It’s recurred since Noah’s day:
There is significant government change that follows catastrophic flooding. The ruling powers before major floods have been replaced with a distinctly different administration. It’s as though an old administration is washed away and another administration surges to power. And the cleansing-reshaping political process generally occurs within several years of the flood. For example:
Earth’s entire governmental system was inundated and restructured after Noah’s Flood.
Ahab and Jezebel’s administration were overthrown shortly after Elijah prayed down the floodwater.
Grolier’s encyclopedia reported the ancient and great Indus civilization deteriorated after a series of devastating floods.
In 1972 hurricane Agnes pounded the eastern United States killing 132 and leaving 250,000 homeless. The same month a South Dakota cloudburst took 242 lives. In February a West Virginia dam collapsed and drowned 118 workers. What followed in 1974 was the impeachment of America’s President.
In 1993 America was again hit with torrential flooding. From the southeast to the Midwest. The following year Congress was totally reshaped with one party claiming fifty-one congressional seats.
I’m not an alarmist, but if God is speaking, I want to listen!
(Author’s notation: This message is incomplete and additional insights will be added.)