In Palestine, the land where Jesus lived, the weather is fairly even in temperature most of the year. This beautiful country has a desert to the east, and the Mediterranean Sea lies to the west. The wind, blowing in off the sea, brings moisture that forms majestic clouds. God caused the writers of the Bible to use these clouds as illustrations of some great spiritual truths. Let us think about some of these.
(1) Many times in the Old Testament, clouds are used figuratively to represent the glory and presence of God. “And the LORD said to Moses, ‘Behold, I come to you in the thick cloud, that the people may hear when I speak with you, and believe you forever’ ” (Exodus 19:9). When God gave the Hebrew people the Ten Commandments from Mount Sinai, He caused “thunderings and lightnings, and a thick cloud” to hover on the mountain. This revealed the awesome power of the Lord, and the people trembled. From this we learn that God is worthy of our respect.
(2) When the Israelite nation came forth out of its period of slavery in the land of Egypt, God led His people by a great cloud in the shape of a pillar. One of the Bible writers said: “The pillar of the cloud did not depart from them by day, To lead them on the road...” (Nehemiah 9:19). The lesson this cloud teaches is that we must follow God. He will ever be our faithful Guide through life.
(3) After the mighty Flood that came upon all the Earth in the days of Noah, the Lord caused a rainbow to appear in a cloud. Here is what He said about that: “I set My rainbow in the cloud, and it shall be for the sign of the covenant (agreement) between Me and the earth” (Genesis 9:13). In this case, God used this rainbow and cloud combination to provide a “sign” that He always keeps His promises. He never again will bring a worldwide flood upon the Earth. Someday, though, He will destroy this globe with fire (2 Peter 3:10-13). Of course the Lord’s faithful people already will have been removed before that happens.
(4) Sometimes God used clouds as symbols of the fact that He will completely cover over our sins when we obey Him. The prophet Isaiah spoke for the Lord to the Hebrew people: “I have blotted out, like a thick cloud, your transgressions, And like a cloud your sins. Return to Me, for I have redeemed you” (Isaiah 44:22). All people, when they reach an age of religious and moral responsibility, break God’s law. When we violate the law of God, this is called “sin” (1 John 3:4). However, because of the death of Jesus on the cross, our Heavenly Father is willing to pardon our sins. This occurs when we obey the plan that Jesus has provided (Hebrews 5:8-9). This forgiveness is so complete that it is like a thick cloud covering up our mistakes. What a comforting thought that is!
(5) In Palestine the clouds usually form in the early morning, and frequently are gone by the warm afternoon. This fact sometimes is used to illustrate how quickly things can pass by. Job, a man who faithfully served his Creator, had been a very wealthy person. But God allowed Satan to test him in several ways. One of these involved the loss of his entire fortune. He spoke about that event like this: “...my prosperity has passed like a cloud” (Job 30:15). It is best not to put too much confidence in material things. It is wiser to invest our lives in heavenly matters by faithfully serving our Maker (Matthew 6:19).
(6) Clouds sometimes are used to demonstrate the amazing skill of our Creator. A man once asked Job: “Do you know the balance of the clouds, Those wonders of Him who is perfect in knowledge?” (Job 37:16). Of course Job, who lived many centuries before Christ, did not understand how God balances the clouds. How can clouds remain suspended in the air when they contain so much water? They are held aloft by a “balance” among important things like gravity, the size of the water droplets, and the heaviness of the air. God’s wonders in nature are many!
Yes, our loving Father has taught many valuable lessons in the Scriptures by using clouds as symbols, or pictures, of great truths. Let us try to learn these lessons well.