“I kept looking in the night visions,
And behold, with the clouds of heaven
One like a Son of Man was coming,
And He came up to the Ancient of Days
And was presented before Him.
Sometimes, and lately in particular, when I am reading the Bible or just sitting and puzzling over a text, something catches the corner of my eye, a glimmer, a spark. I can’t describe it, exactly. A thought suddenly appears in a corner of my mind. I turn to look at it, but I have only the memory of the thing. And yet, it’s a beautiful memory.
And today, it was about CLOUDS.
As Christians we are not just observers in the redemptive story of Scripture. Nope, not even. We are active participants. The story of the Bible is the story of God’s saving work of His people. It’s the story of US.
This means we don’t have to bridge a gap between ourselves and the text. We don’t have to figure out how on earth this “ancient text” applies to our “modern lives”. Rather, we enter into the story of the text. And what text but Hebrews 12:1 can we go to for a more perfect example of this?
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.
Ah yes. That famous cloud of witnesses. But what does that even mean, “a great cloud”?
One of the first signs we get of God and the clouds is of course in the story of the judgement and salvation of the flood and the rainbow that God puts in the clouds (Gen. 9:13).
15 Then Moses went up to the mountain, and the cloud covered the mountain.
16 The glory of the Lord rested on Mount Sinai, and the cloud covered it for six days; and on the seventh day He called to Moses from the midst of the cloud.
In the clouds, God guides His people and is present with them in the Temple (1 Kings 8:10-11). He shows them favour by bringing them rain (1 Kings 18, Prov. 16:5). And yet He is also hidden, for who can behold His Glory (Ps. 97:2)! And finally, God in the Clouds brings the True Water of Christ Himself (Daniel 7:13-14, Luke 9:35). And who appeared as witnesses? Moses and Elijah, who appeared in glory (Luke 9:30-31).
The cloud of witnesses in Hebrews 12 is therefore no passive audience, far away in the realms of heaven. And, stay with me here, these witnesses are not even in our past. Not really.
Rather, this is a cloud of witnesses that is present with us, that occupies EVEN THE SAME SPACE that we do. They are an active presence, bearing witness to us of God’s permanent memory of His promises.
We have already come to Mount Zion, to the church of the firstborn, to that cloud of witnesses (Heb. 12:22-23). And ….
We will one day be fully together again, when Jesus Himself comes again, with the Cloud of Glory and of God’s people.
This, then, is part of God’s great mystery, that an infinite, eternal God, not bound by His own creation (2 Pet. 3:8), works outside of space and time to bring His people together. Already and not yet.
Behold, He is coming with the clouds,
and every eye will see Him, even those who pierced Him;
and all the tribes of the earth will mourn over Him.
So it is to be. Amen.