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29. Clouds

The same water which makes the streams and seas, also forms the clouds of the sky. Sometimes the clouds are dark, shutting out the sunshine; at other times they are piles of snowy whiteness, multiplying the light; and again they reflect the morning and evening sunbeams, and glow with tints of red and gold. Clouds are the source of rain, and they also temper for us the sun's heat and light.

We have already read: " My doctrine shall drop as the rain, my speech shall distil as the dew, as the small rain upon the tender herb, and as the showers upon the grass." (Deut. xxxii. 2) "As the rain cometh down, and the snow from heaven, . . . so shall my word be that goeth forth out of my mouth." (Isa.lv. 10, 11) Water on the earth is like truth about life in the world; water in the sky is like truth about the Lord and heaven, and about our own thoughts and feelings which form the heaven of our little world. The truths about the Lord and heaven, and the universal principles of life as they come to us in the letter of the Word, are like clouds; and these clouds descend as rain when we receive the truths and apply them to our life in the world. "Sing unto the LORD with thanksgiving: . . . who covereth the heaven with clouds, who prepareth rain for the earth, who maketh grass to grow upon the mountains." (Ps. cxlvii. 7, 8) It is an expression of gratitude to the Lord for His mercy in revealing Divine and heavenly truths in the letter of His Word, in such simple forms that we can receive them and apply them to our life in the world. The grass which grows upon the mountains, means the intelligence of a humble kind which is given us as we rise to a pure and noble life. (AE 405, 594, 507, 650)

Does the letter of the Word serve another use, corresponding to the use of clouds in shielding us from the heat and brightness of the sun? Plainly the simple truths of the Word in regard to heaven and the Lord are such a protection from the heat of evil passions; and this is evidently meant in the prophet where we read: "Thou hast been a strength to the poor, a strength to the needy in his distress, a refuge from the storm, a shadow from the heat. . . . Thou shalt bring down the noise of strangers, as the heat in a dry place; even the heat with the shadow of a cloud." (Isa. xxv. 4, 5; AE 481; AR 382)

But in another way the simple truths of the Word in regard to heaven and the Lord are like sheltering clouds which transmit the heat and light of the sun to us, but accommodated to our feeble eyes. The simple truths reveal the glory of the Lord, not in its infinite brightness, but as we are able to receive it; and sometimes they are so dark as wholly to conceal the Lord and heaven which are within them. The Lord spake the word unto the disciples as they were able to receive it, and His parables and simple precepts are a cloud revealing and yet concealing His Divine love and wisdom. (AC 10431; AR 24, 642; AE 594)

When the commandments were given to the children of Israel from Mount Sinai, we read: "It came to pass on the third day in the morning, that there were thunders and lightnings, and a thick cloud upon the mount, and the voice of the trumpet exceeding loud; so that all the people that was in the camp trembled." (Exod. xix. 16) What does the thick cloud show in regard to the openness of the people to the Lord, and their ability to receive His truth? It shows that their knowledge of Him was very obscure, and that His truth could be received only as stern, literal commandments which inspired fear and wholly concealed from them the Lord's tender love. (AC 8814; AE 594) Remember also that as the people journeyed "the LORD went before them by day in a pillar of cloud, to lead them the way; and by night in a pillar of fire to give them light; to go by day and by night." (Exod. xiii. 21) The cloud and fire represented the presence of the Lord with His wisdom and His love, but only obscurely perceived. So the truth that we receive from the letter of the Word is as a cloud, which, though it is obscure, still enlightens our dark states and leads us in the way to heaven. (AC 8106; AE 594)

We read in the Gospel that the apostles were "sore afraid " on account of the glory of the Lord on the mountain of transfiguration. "And there was a cloud that overshadowed them: and a voice came out of the cloud, saying, This is my beloved Son hear him. And suddenly when they had looked round about, they saw no man any more, save Jesus only with themselves." (Mark ix. 7, 8) The Lord's face shining as the sun, and His raiment white as the light, revealed something of the glory of His Divine love and wisdom, more than the disciples were able to bear. The cloud - a bright cloud, it is called in Matthew - represented the simple forms of truth in which the Lord accommodated His love and wisdom to their feeble comprehension. (AC 8106; AE 64, 594; SS 48) In the Revelation we read: "And I saw another mighty angel come down from heaven, clothed with a cloud: . . . and his face was as it were the sun." (Rev. x. 1) It was the Lord who so appeared in angel form, and the cloud represents the means by which He accommodates His Divine presence to men, especially the letter of His Word. (AR 466; AE 594)

"Bless the LORD . . . who maketh the clouds his chariot." (Ps. civ. 1, 3) The Lord uses such simple truths about Himself and heaven as we are able to receive, as means of coming with His blessing into our hearts and lives. "And I looked, and behold a white cloud, and upon the cloud one sat like unto the Son of man." (Rev. xiv. 14) And again: "Behold, the LORD rideth upon a swift cloud." (Isa. xix. 1) Such verses tell us that the Lord Himself comes to us in the simple, literal truths of His Word. (AE 36, 594; AR 24)

And now you do not need to be told the meaning of the Lord's prediction, "They shall see the Son of man corning in the clouds of heaven with power and great glory" (Matt. xxiv. 30; xxvi. 64); nor of these words in the Revelation: "Behold, he cometh with clouds; and every eye shall see him." (Rev. i. 7) The clouds are those of the letter of the Word which have brought the Lord to men, but very obscurely. These clouds are opened as the spiritual sense of the Word is revealed, everywhere teaching us truly and plainly of the Lord. (AC 4060, 10574; SS 112; TCR 271; EU 171)

In a glorious chapter predicting the Lord's coming we read: "Arise, shine; for thy light is come. . . . And Gentiles shall come to thy light. . . . Who are these that fly as a cloud, and as doves to their windows? Surely the isles shall wait for thee, and the ships of Tarshish first, to bring thy sons from far." (Isa. lx. 1-9) The natural picture is of the fleets of white sails bringing people from distant lands to serve the Lord. Spiritually the distant peoples are those in ignorant and Gentile states, among whom there were many at the Lord's first coming, and there are many today, who hear Him gladly. These are compared to doves and to a cloud; what is the meaning? They are as doves flying to their windows because of their gentle innocence of heart which turns to the Lord as to its home. They are as a cloud because they accept His truth about heavenly life, but only in obscure and simple forms adapted to their natural state. (PP; AE 406, 282)

"And God said, I do set my bow in the cloud, and it shall be for a token of a covenant between me and the earth. And it shall come to pass, when I bring a cloud over the earth, that the bow shall be seen in the cloud and I will remember my covenant, which is between me and you and every living creature of all flesh; and the waters shall no more become a flood to destroy all flesh." (Gen. ix. 14, 15) The rainbow with its lovely colors is made by the shining of the sunlight through falling rain, seen usually against dark clouds. The clouds of our mental sky are the obscure truths we hold in regard to the Lord and heaven; sometimes only appearances of truth, and sometimes falsities. There are many such clouds in all our minds. Yet if we are trying to do right, our obscure and imperfect thoughts are made by the Lord a means of bringing to us a sense of His presence; of revealing to us His love and wisdom, not in their fullness and perfection, but in such modified and partial ways as we are able to enjoy. This is the rainbow in the cloud. If our knowledge of heavenly things serves thus to unite us with the Lord, its obscurity and its errors will not endanger our spiritual life. (AC 1042-1051; AR 466; AE 595, 269) This gives us another beautiful thought in connection with those appearances of the Lord with clouds, where it is added that a rainbow was about His head or about His throne. The cloud represents the natural truth in which the Lord is accommodated to men; the rainbow is the token that through this simple truth His love and wisdom reach to men and unite them with Him. (Rev. iv. 3, x. 1; Ezek. i. 28)


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Language of Parable
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29. Clouds

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