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A grassy hillside, puffy clouds drifting across a blue sky, a lad watching for interesting shapes therein; and he spots a sheep, a butterfly, even Uncle Jake’s profile. All delightful and reasonable.

But there are some cloud formations that are hard to explain—except for experts on the Weather Channel. A few examples are feather clouds, roll clouds, spherical clouds (UFO shape), fluctus clouds (wave shape), wormhole clouds and mammatus clouds (udder shape clouds). They are not only interesting, but mysterious and glorious.

Even more beneficial is how God uses clouds to sustain life on earth. The whole cycle involves evaporation, condensation, and then precipitation to water the earth. No wonder the psalmist wrote, “The heavens declare the glory of God; and the firmament shows His handiwork.” (Psalm 19:1) Clouds in the first heaven declare the glory of God through beauty, life-preservation, and even chastisement and judgment via storm clouds.

Even more, the Old Testament Israelites saw God’s glory close up in the pillar of cloud which led them out of Egypt and also shaded them from the hot desert sun (Exodus 13:21-23).

Then, after the tabernacle was constructed, “the cloud covered the tabernacle of meeting, and the glory of the Lord filled the tabernacle.” (Exodus 40:34) Thereafter, this cloud of glory led Israel throughout all their journeys. What a comfort and incentive to worship, knowing the Lord Himself was present and dwelt among the people. No wonder the psalmist wrote, “Lord, I have loved the habitation of your house, and the place where your glory dwells.” (Psalm 26:8)

A visible cloud of glory may not fill our churches today, but we do have Jesus’ glorious promise: “For where two or three are gathered together in My name, I am there in the midst of them.” (Matthew 18:20)

We are also told of a cloud sighting at Jesus’ transfiguration. Not only did Jesus’ face shine as the sun, but “a bright cloud overshadowed them; and suddenly a voice came out of the cloud, saying, ‘This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased; hear Him!'” (Matthew 17:5) God used a cloud in testifying to Jesus’ divine identity.

That beloved Son of the Father would go on to face dark days indeed. He was reviled and rejected, beaten, scourged, and crucified. The bright cloud became a cloud of utter darkness over the land, as Jesus was forsaken by His own Father. But so it had to be. The now-rejected One suffered to pay for the sins of the world. But on the third day He rose again, as promised. Forty days later another cloud played its part in the verification that Jesus’ earthly mission had been accomplished. For in His ascension back to heaven, “a cloud received Him out of their sight.” (Acts 1:9) How the angels must have rejoiced to have the victorious Lord of Glory back in their midst!

Thereafter Saint John became a cloud-watcher. And what a sight he was given of heaven itself. “Then I looked, and behold, a white cloud, and on the cloud sat One like the Son of Man.” (Revelation 14: 14)

Finally, at the end of days, all the tribes of the earth “will see the Son of Man coming in the clouds of heaven with power and great glory.” (Matthew 24:30) After the dead in Christ have arisen first, “then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air; and so shall we ever be with the Lord.” (1 Thessalonians 4:17)

An old prospector might have said, “There’s gold in them thar hills.” We say, “God’s glory is revealed in the clouds.” It is a good reason to believe, rejoice, and watch.

David Fuerstenau is a retired pastor. He lives in Eau Claire, Wisconsin.