I love the Joni Mitchell song ‘Both Sides Now’ (although I prefer the Judy Collins version). The song begins with thoughts about clouds:Bows and flows of angel hair And ice cream castles in the air And feather canyons everywhere I’ve looked at clouds that way But now they only block the sun They rain and snow on everyone So many things I would have done But clouds got in my way I’ve looked at clouds from both sides now From up and down and still somehow It’s cloud’s illusions I recall I really don’t know clouds at all
I am guessing that most of us have reclined on the lawn at some point and gazed at the clouds. Shapes appear and disappear, but what begins as a source of pleasure can become an annoyance when the clouds join together to block the sun, or darken and start to deposit rain or worse.
I learned about clouds in meteorology classes at marine school. The purpose was to be able to gain an understanding of the weather by identifying different types of cloud. When you are in the middle of the ocean it is important to know what the weather is going to do, particularly if there is a storm ahead. Somehow, and despite the danger, even storm clouds can be spectacular; especially when the sun peeps through the gaps and illuminates the towering angry pillars.
God uses clouds. He made a pillar of cloud to guide the Israelites as they escaped from Egypt, and to conceal the Israelites from the army of Egyptians who were chasing them (Exodus 13:21-22 and 14:19-24). In the desert the glory of the Lord appeared in the cloud (Exodus 16:10) as God spoke with Moses. Then at Mount Sinai God covered the mountain in cloud when he met with Moses (Exodus 19:9, 16 and Exodus 24:15-18). God continued to cover Himself in cloud as the Israelites journeyed through Exodus towards the Promised Land. I wonder if the Israelites would have empathised with Joni Mitchell when she sang “I really don’t know clouds at all,” and perhaps even more so when Solomon’s Temple was completed many years later and the glory of the Lord filled the Holy of Holies (1 Kings 8:10-11). We should have no such problem understanding God because He has given us an insight into His character through the life of Jesus.
While Jesus was never hidden in the clouds, we are told that clouds will feature when He reappears in person. For me the clouds are a reminder of God, and they remind me of Jesus and His promise that He would return. How are you looking at the clouds? Expectantly?
And then at last, the sign that the Son of Man is coming will appear in the heavens, and there will be deep mourning among all the peoples of the earth. And they will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven with power and great glory. And he will send out his angels with the mighty blast of a trumpet, and they will gather his chosen ones from all over the world – from the farthest ends of the earth and heaven. (Matthew 24:30-31 NIV)