Clouds in the sky

Clouds are always present but we rarely give them much thought. Yet clouds hold symbolic and literal significance in a number of biblical stories.


I feel as though I have been living in cloud today. Every time I glance out the window the misty rain is swirling around and when I look out over the valley, the usual view of green hills is obscured by the rain blowing horizontally across it. Apart from the pale green tinge of new leaves on the deciduous trees, the bluebells in bloom and the brave tulips standing with buds ready to burst open, you could be forgiven for thinking it is mid-winter.

It’s hard to believe that in a short time the air will be warm, the sky blue and only a few white fluffy clouds will be drifting lazily across the sky. When the sun sets they will turn pink and slowly assume shades of purple, then grey as the light recedes.

There are a number of references to cloud or clouds in the Bible.

Ever since I was a child, when I would lie on my back in the grass with my sister looking at the shapes of the clouds, I have been fascinated by them. Their ever-changing shapes and colours have enhanced many a photographer’s photo, while the potential to give shade, life-giving rain or devastating floods means they affect each of our lives in one way or another.

There are a number of references to cloud or clouds in the Bible. Some are in the context of God’s overarching control of our natural world. “He covers the sky with clouds; he supplies the earth with rain and makes grass grow on the hills” (Psalms 147:8*). Then there is the story of Elijah at Mt Carmel, when after a three-year drought the first sign of rain was a small cloud on the horizon. “The seventh time the servant reported, ‘A cloud as small as a man’s hand is rising from the sea’” (1 Kings 18:44).

At other times cloud represents God’s presence. Think of the Israelites in the desert where God’s presence was evidenced by the pillar of cloud that protected them from their enemies: “Then the angel of God, who had been travelling in front of Israel’s army, withdrew and went behind them. The pillar of cloud also moved from in front and stood behind them, coming between the armies of Egypt and Israel. Throughout the night the cloud brought darkness to the one side and light to the other side; so neither went near the other all night long” (Exodus 14:19,20).

When Moses ascended Mt Sinai to receive the Ten Commandments God told him He would come in a dense cloud (Exodus 19:9) and after the tabernacle was completed God once again showed His presence in the form of a cloud: “Then the cloud covered the Tent of Meeting, and the glory of the Lord filled the tabernacle. Moses could not enter the Tent of Meeting because the cloud had settled upon it, and the glory of the Lord filled the tabernacle” (Exodus 40:34,35).

When Jesus comes again to this earth we are told He will be surrounded by clouds. “In my vision at night I looked, and there before me was one like a son of man, coming with the clouds of heaven” (Daniel 7:13) and ” . . . men will see the Son of Man coming in clouds with great power and glory” (Mark 13:26).

Next time you see a beautiful sunset where the clouds are filled with golden light, think of Christ’s return and its magnificence, and what an amazing event that it will be.

* All texts taken from the NIV translation.

Carolyn Hankins writes from Adelaide, South Australia. She wrote this piece after the recent storms that lashed the state.