Words of encouragement
Bro. George Williams
On Behalf of the Leadership
"Thank God for the Cloud Over Your Head" May 7, 2020
Perhaps you’ve heard me talk about my days of picking cotton in the hot summer heat in my grandfather’s cotton fields in Kendleton, Texas. If you’ve never had the “privilege” of such blissful “fun” – just imagine pulling a long cotton sack behind you, between two rows of cotton in black land – either on your knees, or bent over, or a combination of both. Imagine doing this for 8 to 10 hours a day with a 100 plus degrees sun beaming down on you. What’s worse, there were no shade trees in the middle of the cotton fields to take refuge under. The goal was to make it to the trailer, because there we could empty our sacks, get water, and have a brief respite. However, immediately thereafter it was back to the grind.
Needless to say, the hot Texas sun, the heat rising from the black soil (you could literally see the heat waves), and the hot humid air mixed together – made the conditions almost unbearable. In our efforts to mitigate the impact of the sun we wore wide brim straw hats, and sometimes we poured water into our hats to help keep our heads cool. In the grand scheme of things our efforts were minimal at best. However, I can vividly remember that there were those precious rare moments when clouds would blow in and hover over our heads – shielding us from the intense heat of the searing sun. What a refreshing moment that was! We could immediately feel the difference, and we never wanted the clouds to leave. It was a blessing to have a cloud hanging over our heads.
Often when we speak of a cloud hanging over someone’s head, we are using figurative language to indicate something negative. However, as indicated above, there are times that a cloud hanging over your head can be a blessing. Sometimes having a cloud over your head can be comforting, refreshing, pleasant, and rejuvenating. Such was the case for Israel. As Israel departed from Egypt, the Bible says – “By day the Lord went ahead of them in a pillar of cloud to guide them on their way and by night in a pillar of fire to give them light, so that they could travel by day or night. 22 Neither the pillar of cloud by day nor the pillar of fire by night left its place in front of the people” (Exodus 13:21-22 NIV). Moses said that the cloud was in front of the people, but we also learn in Scripture that the cloud was above the people. The psalmist said, “Egypt was glad when they left, because dread of Israel had fallen on them. 39 He spread out a cloud as a covering, and a fire to give light at night” (Psalm 105:38-39 NIV).
Israel left Egypt and entered into a vast harsh unforgiving desert with a cloud over their heads. But their cloud was no ordinary water vapor cloud formed through the process of evaporation. Their cloud was the Lord! “The Lord is your keeper; the Lord is your shade at your right hand. 6 The sun shall not strike you by day, nor the moon by night” (Psalm 121:5-6 NKJV).
The cloud was a theophany – meaning that it was a visible appearance of God in a perceptible form. Of course, God is more than a cloud; nevertheless, the cloud was God’s tangible presence with His people as they left Egypt and entered the desert. God wanted His peopleto know without a doubt that He was with them, and His presence was the cloud.
What a blessing it was for Israel to have a “Cloud” hanging over their heads. According to Scripture, that “Cloud” served three primary purposes – it represented God’s presence, God’s protection, and God’s direction. Not only was God with His people, the “Cloud” served to provided protection from the searing heat of the desert sun, and guidance through the darkness of the desert night (Exodus 13:20-22). The Levites (while leading the people in praise to God) said to the Lord: “You divided the sea before them, so that they passed through it on dry ground, but You hurled their pursuers into the depths, like a stone into mighty waters. 12 By day You led them with a pillar of cloud, and by night with a pillar of fire to give them light on the way they were to take” (Nehemiah 9:11-12 NIV). What an amazing God we serve; not only did He protect and lead His people by day – by night He showed them the way by leading them through the impenetrable darkness of the desert night.
Furthermore, the Bible apprises us of the fact that sometimes the “Cloud” would remain in place above the Tabernacle for extended periods of time – which meant that the people had to remain in place until the “Cloud” moved. Moses said, “Whenever the cloud was taken up from above the tabernacle, the children of Israel would go onward in all their journeys. 37 But if the cloud was not taken up, then they did not journey till the day that it was taken up. 38 For the cloud of the Lord was above the tabernacle by day, and fire was over it by night, in the sight of all the house of Israel, throughout all their journeys” (Exodus 40:36-38 NKJV).
Therefore, church, having a cloud over our heads is not always a bad thing, especially when that “Cloud” represents the presence, protection, and guidance of the Lord. The question is, have you looked up lately to see the “Cloud” over your head? If not, why not? Furthermore, have you experienced God’s protection in these scary times? Has God provided guidance for you through the darkness of the night? The answer is an emphatic yes! Our “Cloud” is still over our heads. Our “Cloud” is still with us even when we fail to look up and recognize His presence.
Brothers and sisters, God guided His people through the hot desert and the dangerous dark nights then, and He’s doing the same thing for us now. Some people may see this pandemic as the most dreadful thing that could have happened to us, but maybe this is the “Cloud” standing still over His “Tabernacle” to keep us in place long enough for personal reflection, realignment, rededication, reprioritizing, devotion, and meditation. Maybe this is God’s way of saying to us – “be still and know that I am God” (Psalm 46:10). Maybe, this is God’s way of saying to us as He said to Hezekiah – “…Set your house in order” (Isaiah 38:1).
Is your spiritual house in order? Has the “Cloud” hovered in place long enough to give you the opportunity to put things right with God, your family, and with others? Just know that God never makes a mistake. He is still with us; He continues to protect us; He continues to guide us. Thank God for the “Cloud” over our heads – God’s presence with us is His assurance that when all is said and done – all will be well.