Monday, February 7, 2011

QQC--God in the Cloud

Quirks, Queries and Commentary—Exodus 24:15-18

 God's glory looked to the Israelites like a consuming fire (v.17) but the first description we have of it in this passage begins in verse 15: "When Moses went up on the mountain, the cloud covered it, and the glory of the Lord settled on Mount Sinai.  For six days the cloud covered the mountain."  On day seven, God called to Moses from inside the cloud and Moses entered the cloud, where he stayed for forty days and forty nights.

This reminds me of the transfiguration of Jesus.  "After six days Jesus took with him Peter, James and John the brother of James, and led them up a high mountain by themselves.... While [Peter] was still speaking, a bright cloud enveloped them, and a voice from the cloud said, 'This is my son, whom I love....'"  Matthew 17:1, 5)  

Notice that in both cases, there was a cloud on a mountain, God spoke from the cloud and six  particular days were noted before this event occurred.

Clouds figure strongly in people's encounters with God: 
  • God went ahead of the Israelites in a pillar of cloud to guide them from Egypt to the Promised Land (Ex. 13:21)
  • When the tabernacle was completed, a cloud covered it, the glory of the Lord filled it and Moses couldn't enter it because of the cloud and God's glory (Ex. 40:34, 35)
  • At the dedication of Solomon's temple,  the cloud filled the it and the priests couldn't do their jobs because of the cloud and the glory of the Lord present (1 Kings 8:10, 11)
  • In Ezekiel's first vision an immense cloud came from the north "with flashing lightning and surrounded by brilliant light.  The center of the fire looked like glowing metal...." (Ez. 1:4) The glowing metal matches John's description of He-Who-Sits-On-The-Throne in Revelation.  The four living creatures were in the fire (v.6) and in Revelation, John describes the four living creatures as being in the centre, around the throne with the 24 elders surrounding them. (Rev. 4:3-6)  
  • When Jesus was taken up into heaven, a cloud enveloped him and hid him from the disciples (Acts 1:9)
  • In Revelation 10, a mighty angel comes down from heaven, robed in a cloud; the two witnesses of Revelation 11 went up to heaven in a cloud; in chapter 14's vision of the throne room, John saw "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"
  • Jesus told his disciples that they would see him "coming in a cloud with power and great glory" (Luke 21:27) and after Jesus went up to heaven in a cloud, an angel told his disciples that he would "come back in the same way" they saw him go up into heaven. (Acts 1:11)

I find this pairing of God with a cloud very interesting.   I wonder what the significance is.  

It reminds me of The Cloud of Unknowing that was written anonymously in the fourteenth century.  It's full title is Here Beginneth A Book Of Contemplation, The Which Is Called The Cloud Of Unknowing, In The Which A Soul Is Oned With God.  It sounds intriguing.  Is there a connection?  I don't know enough about the book to say but you can find a summary of it here.

All quotes taken from the NIV 1984 edition
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