Last time we looked at the Ark of the Covenant and found that the glory of God is mixed in with God in us. He is with us and among us. Today I want to look again at clouds and darkness; this time going into a little more detail.
We looked at this a little bit in part 1. We find in various places that God is found in clouds darkness (Psalm 97:3, Exodus 20, Deuteronomy 4:11, 2 Samuel 22:12). Jesus is coming on the clouds. I know that the statement was made by the angels that He will return the same way He went. But I think that the Bible seems to use clouds and darkness in reference to God as a symbol.
What is it that clouds represent? It is almost always clouds and thick darkness. It is rarely only clouds. I wonder if they are a symbol of suffering and bereavement. Suffering of what kind, though? I can throw out the word suffering, and we many times think of genocide and war and famine. That isn’t necessarily what I’m talking about. The suffering that I’m describing is more of a birthing.
When we’re talking about the clouds, we’re talking about the very thing that is cloaking the glory of God. These are the very things that God is within, but He is hidden. China suffered at the hands of Japan during World War 2. There was one act in particular that got called the rape of Nanking. Many of the ways that the Chinese people were murdered could only be called bestial.
Where was God?
Where was God when the bombs were dropped on Japan?
Where was God in the Holocaust?
Where was God when my grandfather died?
Where was God when my friend committed suicide at the age of 16?
Where was God when there is suffering in the world? It is the same question asked so many times. “If God is all powerful, then why do bad things happen to good people?” The question itself is absurd. “There is none good, no not even one.” Jesus even asked the man, “Why do you call me good?” Yet, here is the question…
I think that when we look into the trouble and suffering of mankind, we are hit with two great options: God is real or God is not real. If we search and probe, we will either find God in the midst of it or we must conclude that there cannot be a God at all. This is true for any level of suffering. We all know how suffering comes about, but what is the nature of suffering itself?
Maybe I should rephrase that: what is it about suffering that reveals truth?
It seems like suffering reveals character. Absolute suffering reveals character absolutely. When people are faced with being dehumanized to such extent that you are being hung by your tongue (like in the Rape of Nanking) or being pulled out of your home or business by your beard to be beaten or shot (such as in the Holocaust) or being forced to hike a 2,200 miles on the trail of tears while watching many of your people die all around you (like the Cherokee American Indians were forced to), people show the core of who they are. You will either become embittered or empowered.
We find many cases where people were martyred for their faith, and yet they die rejoicing. After being beaten, stripped, and imprisoned, Paul and Silas sang within their cells hymns to God. Tradition says that Isaiah the prophet was cut in half while hanging upside-down. He continued prophesying to the people all the way until he could no longer speak.
What is it about suffering that reveals?
I think that suffering strikes us to the core. It opens up the discussion in ways that would not have otherwise opened. God brings this kind of suffering before revealing Himself. The clouds represent suffering and bereavement, but what comes out from those clouds and that darkness is a revelation of God. God spoke from the darkness in Exodus. The clouds and darkness are contrasted as similar to God’s righteousness and justice in Psalm 97.
When we’re talking about the clouds and darkness, we’re talking about the kind of suffering that brings us to face reality. If we have not the character to endure this suffering and hardship, then all of the character flaws will come to the surface. We will curse; we will yell; we will kick and scream. It is becoming increasingly more popular to go into a public place and go on a shooting spree, then end it by committing suicide. The shooter wants to kill and not be held accountable.
Suffering reveals. The ultimate moment reveals the ultimate depths of our hearts. It is in the midst of that kind of suffering that we are faced with God. It is in that moment (and in reflecting back on those moments) that we find God in the most glorious and straightforward ways. This is the revelation of God. And revelation comes in two forms: God among us (Jesus) and God in us (Holy Spirit).
The first has been revealed and continues to reveal. Jesus is called the Word of God in John 1. We find God in reading the the Bible. Yet, the Bible is not the word of God alone. God does continue to speak. He continues to reveal Himself. He continues to have an opinion. The Bible is our standard and our plumb line. To ignore that God might speak to our hearts and convict or lead or reveal is a shame.
The second kind of revelation comes from God in us. This kind of revelation might come from living along side of other believers (such as we discussed in The Glory of God part 4), or it might come by God speaking to us in prayer. It might come in God speaking through us. However it comes, it is from within, and not from outside.
We’re getting closer to talking about God’s glory every time. Here we have reached the last bit of information before we examine the glory of God. Before continuing next week, let us examine one last prospect of the clouds and darkness.
In Proverbs, we are told time and time again to seek wisdom. I think that Wisdom (as spoken of in Proverbs) is the Holy Spirit. But it is a certain aspect. Wisdom is only this true kind of wisdom when it is a direct revelation or word from God. Wisdom cannot be the wisdom of God if it does not communicate to us the character and fullness of God. It must reveal God as He is, and not as we consider Him to be.
This kind of Wisdom only comes within the context of a few guidelines. We must be humble. We need to acknowledge that we have not arrived. There are deeper things to learn. There are more details that we do not know. The second thing is that we must be open. This is especially true for anyone who has been to Bible School or gotten their Masters/Doctorate in religion. This goes hand-in-hand with being humble, but is a slightly different take on it. God might speak to us something that is completely alternative to what we have supposed to be true. He might reveal to us that the way we have perceived the faith is on a false ground. This leads me to the third guideline: willingness. We must be willing to receive such words. We need to be open to the consideration, and we need to be willing to accept it.
Only those who have these characteristics will gain wisdom. God doesn’t speak and reveal Himself to those who are simply not going to listen. He doesn’t try to teach those who are going to reject His teaching because they have it figured out. He isn’t going to waste the words when someone will only get offended. This might lead you to ask questions like, “Why did God send the prophets, then?” This is a different thing altogether. The prophet isn’t speaking to an individual; the prophet is speaking to a people or nation.
Thus we have all the pieces formed to receive what God might have to say. What are the aspects of God’s glory? What has He revealed about Himself? What would He say today when asked, “show me your glory…”