By: Dr. Ellet Waggoner | The Second Day
Clouds are the Dust of His Feet
“And God said, Let there be a firmament in the midst of the waters, and let it divide the waters from the waters. And God made the firmament, and divided the waters which were under the firmament from the waters which were above the firmament: and it was so. And God called the firmament heaven” (Genesis 1:6-8).
On first thought it seems as though the work of the second day was very meager; but man’s first thoughts of God’s work are always very limited. Wonderful lessons of hope and comfort are to be learned from this brief record. The work done on this day is often referred to in the Bible as an example of the mighty power of God, and it will be remembered that the power of God is the hope of man.
The book of Job contains some magnificent descriptions of the power and majesty of God. “He stretcheth out the north over the empty place, and hangeth the earth upon nothing. He bindeth up the waters in His thick clouds; and the cloud is not rent under them” (Job 26:7, 8). Who can ever tire of watching the clouds in their varying forms? They are a constant source of wonder. And then to think of the wonderful power that is represented by them. Think of the immense quantities of water that they hold, to pour out on the earth at the appointed time! For it is the direct personal power of the Lord that causes it to rain. Science may tell us, in part, what conditions must obtain before rain falls, and may predict its occurrence with considerable accuracy; but this does not disprove the fact that God Himself orders the rain.
There are many things that man has observed in regard to the working of God, and there are many more that might be observed. That is what God wants us to do. “He has made His wonderful works to be remembered” (Psalm 111:4). But He wants us to observe them only for the purpose of seeing Him in them. They who observe the works of God only to attribute them to a goddess called Nature, as though God Himself were not concerned in them, study to no profit whatever. What men call Nature is simply that which is observed of the ways of God. No better definition has ever been given than this, that “the laws of nature are the habits of God.” But after man has exhausted all his skill in observation and calculation concerning the ways of God, still he must remember that “these are but the outskirts of His ways; and how small a whisper do we hear of Him? but the thunder of His power who can understand?” (Job 26:14, R.V.). It is not possible for finite man to fathom all the ways of the infinite God, and therefore human science at its best is very limited.
We have said that it is the direct, personal power of the Lord that causes the rain. Read the following: “But the Lord is the true God; He is the living God, and an everlasting king: at His wrath the earth trembleth, and the nations are not able to abide His indignation. Thus shall ye say unto them, The gods that have not made the heavens and the earth, these shall perish from the earth, and from under the heavens. He hath made the earth by His power, He hath established the world by His wisdom, and by His understanding hath He stretched out the heavens; when He uttereth His voice, there is a tumult of waters in the heavens, and He causeth the vapors to ascend from the ends of the earth; He maketh lightnings for the rain, and bringeth forth the wind out of His treasuries” (Jeremiah 10:10-13, R.V.).
What is this designed to teach us? Always the power of the word of God. Not only the simple power of the word of the Lord, but the wisdom of God, and the power by which He breathes upon us that word of righteousness. Read again from the book of Job. The twenty-eighth chapter is one of the most perfect and sublime compositions ever known in any language, and from the latter part we quote these words:
“Whence then cometh wisdom? and where is the place of understanding? Seeing it is hid from the eyes of all living, and kept close from the fowls of the air. Destruction and death say, We have heard the fame thereof with our eyes. God understandeth the way thereof, and He knoweth the place thereof. For He looketh to the ends of the earth, and seeth under the whole heaven; to make the weight for the winds; and He weigheth the waters by measure. When He made a decree for the rain, and a way for the lightning of the thunder; then did He see it, and declare it; He prepared it, yea, and searched it out. And unto man He said, Behold, the fear of the Lord, that is wisdom; and to depart from evil is understanding” (Job 28:20-28).
The psalmist tells us that “the earth is full of the goodness of the Lord” (Psalm 33:5). From everything in nature God designs that we shall learn a lesson concerning Him and His love. God’s servants in every age have learned some of these lessons. Especially did those holy men who were moved by the Spirit of God to utter His words see God in His works. But in these days, even as it was among the philosophers of old, men in their own fancied wisdom have not liked to retain God in their knowledge, and so have left Him out of their calculations. Too many, as they study the things of the earth and the heavens, instead of being filled with wonder and praise at the mighty power of God that is therein displayed, become filled with wonder at their own marvelous attainments, until they almost fancy that they have created the things that they have discovered. Men forget that these things existed ages before they were born, and almost imagine that their discovery of them is the bringing of them into existence. They speak with contemptuous pity of the men who wrote the Bible, as men who lived in an age inferior to ours when “science” had not made any discoveries, and who were simple enough to think that these things which we see, and so readily account for, were the direct workings of God. Well, it is far better to be simple than to have so much wisdom that does not come from God, nor lead to Him.
But let us read the words of one who was no mean scientist; the words of one whose wisdom was the wonder of his day in the whole world. A man to whom God Himself said, “Lo, I have given thee a wise and an understanding heart; so that there was none like thee before thee” (1 Kings 3:12). A man of whom the inspired word of God says, “He was wiser than all men . . . and his fame was in all nations round about. And he spake three thousand proverbs; and his songs were a thousand and five. And he spake of trees, from the cedar tree that is in Lebanon even unto the hyssop that springeth out of the wall: he spake also of beasts, and of fowl, and of creeping things, and of fishes. And there came of all people to hear the wisdom of Solomon, from all kings of the earth, which had heard of his wisdom” (1 Kings 4:31-34).
In his proverbs he speaks much of the wonderful works of God, and in one of them he refers directly to the work that was done on the second day of creation week, and connects it with the word of God by which it was accomplished. Thus, “Who hath ascended up into heaven, or descended? who hath gathered the wind in His fists? who hath bound the waters in a garment? who hath established all the end of the earth? what is His name, and what is His Son’s name, if thou canst tell? Every word of God is pure: He is a shield unto them that put their trust in Him. Add thou not unto His words, lest He reprove thee, and thou be found a liar” Proverbs 30:4-6 (The Rabbinical tradition that Agur was a poetical name for Solomon has been taken for granted. Even if the tradition be groundless, the value and beauty of the quotation are not impaired).
The rain which God has bound up in His thick clouds, and which His voice–the same voice which speaks peace and righteousness–causes to fall upon the earth, is a pledge to us of God’s willingness to forgive. Listen to the holy boldness of the prophet Jeremiah: “We acknowledge, O Lord, our wickedness, and the iniquity of our fathers: for we have sinned against Thee. Do not abhor us, for Thy name’s sake, do not disgrace the throne of Thy glory: remember, break not Thy covenant with us. Are there any among the vanities of the Gentiles that can cause rain? or can the heavens give showers? art not Thou He, O Lord, our God? therefore we will wait upon Thee: for Thou hast made all these things” (Jeremiah 14:20-22). The Lord is the one who causes rain; therefore we will wait upon Him, in confidence that He will not abhor us, even though we have grievously sinned; but that He will for the sake of His own word, pardon our iniquity.
CLOUDS AND SHOWERS OF GRACE
Just as many people are frightened when they see clouds in the sky, so are many people needlessly troubled concerning clouds that arise before their minds. How often have we heard people say that they have known the blessing of the Lord and have rejoiced in it, but that clouds have arisen of late, and they have no peace! Well there are different ways of considering the clouds.
We may say that clouds are very unsubstantial things. The sun can dissipate them; and since the Sun of Righteousness is ever shining, we need not go on under clouds of doubt. There is such a thing as getting above the clouds, and those who have had that experience can testify that it is a most glorious place to be in. Never have I been able to imagine a scene of more wonderful glory than burst upon my view one evening after I had long been toiling up the eastern slope of a mountain. We gained the top just before the sun set, and the valley on the other side was filled with clouds, lighted up by the splendor of the setting sun. It was not only a glorious sight for the eyes, but it impressed a lesson that can never be forgotten.
But more still should we remember when the clouds arise, God dwells in the midst of them. “The Lord reigneth; let the earth rejoice; let the multitude of isles be glad thereof. Clouds and darkness are round about Him: righteousness and judgment are the habitation of His throne” (Psalm 97:1, 2). It was from the midst of the cloud that God’s law was given in love; and we know that “His commandment is life everlasting” (John 12:50). Yea, even though the clouds be thick and dark, we will yet be glad, for God is there still. “He made darkness His secret place; His pavilion round about Him were dark waters and thick clouds of the skies” (Psalm 18:11). The cloud that shuts out God from our sight is but the assurance to us of His presence.
From the clouds come rain, and this is a symbol of the free and abundant grace of God. When God calls us to buy of Him wine and milk, without money and without price–to come and find abundance of pardon–He gives us this assurance: “For as the rain cometh down, and the snow from heaven, and returneth not thither, but watereth the earth, and maketh it bring forth and bud, that it may give seed to the sower, and bread to the eater: so shall My word be that goeth forth out of My mouth: it shall not return unto Me void, but it shall accomplish that which I please, and it shall prosper in the thing whereto I sent it” (Isaiah 55:10, 11).
As the water bound up in the thick clouds is to remind us of the mighty power of God, so is it to remind us of His gospel of grace; for that is but the power of God unto salvation. The gospel is the good news of salvation from sin, and everything that speaks the power of God tells us of the power He has to give us righteousness. “Drop down, ye heavens, from above, and let the skies pour down righteousness; let the earth open, and let them bring forth salvation, and let righteousness spring up together; I the Lord have created it” (Isaiah 45:8). And carrying out the same figure, the prophet Hosea says: “Sow to yourselves in righteousness, reap in mercy: break up your fallow ground: for it is time to seek the Lord, till He come and rain righteousness upon you” (Hosea 10:12).
Thus from the power that is exhibited in the clouds that give rain upon the earth, may we learn the power of that grace that will visit those who accept it, and will bring “showers of blessing”:
O worship the King, all glorious above,
And gratefully sing His wonderful love;
Our shield and defender, the Ancient of Days,
Pavillioned in splendor, and girded with praise.
O tell of His might, and sing of His grace,
Whose robe is the light; whose canopy, space;
His chariots of wrath the deep thunder clouds form,
And dark is His path on the wings of the storm.
Thy bountiful care, what tongue can recite?
It breathes in the air, it shines in the light;
It streams from the hills, it descends to the plain,
And sweetly distills in the dew and the rain.
Frail children of dust, and feeble as frail,
In Thee do we trust, nor find Thee to fail;
Thy mercies, how tender! how firm to the end!
Our Maker, Defender, Redeemer, and Friend!
THE BOW OF PROMISE
There is a closer connection between the rain and the forgiveness of sins than many realize. When God made a covenant with Noah that He would no more destroy the world by a flood, He said: “This is the token of the covenant which I make between Me and you, and every living creature that is with you for perpetual generations: 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. And the bow shall be in the cloud; and I will look upon it, that I may remember the everlasting covenant between God and every living creature of all flesh that is upon the earth” (Genesis 9:12-16).
God said, “I do set My bow in the cloud.” The rainbow is in a special sense God’s bow, for it is that which encircles His throne. When John on the isle of Patmos, saw the throne of God in heaven, he saw that “there was a rainbow round about the throne, in sight like unto an emerald” (Revelation 4:3). The prophet Ezekiel also saw “visions of God.” He saw “the likeness of a throne, as the appearance of a sapphire stone; and upon the likeness of the throne was the likeness as the appearance of a man above upon it. And I saw as the color of amber, as the appearance of fire round about within it, from the appearance of His loins even upward, and from the appearance of His loins even downward. I saw as it were the appearance of fire, and it had brightness round about. As the appearance of the bow that is in the cloud in the day of rain, so was the appearance of the brightness round about. This was the appearance of the likeness of the glory of the Lord” (Ezekiel 1:26-28).
We learn, therefore, that when God sets His bow in the clouds, He puts there His own glory that is about His throne. It is the bow of promise, for He gave His word, and His word is His glory. Thus it was that the prophet Jeremiah, in pleading for forgiveness for the people of God, said, “Do not disgrace the throne of Thy glory” (Jeremiah 14:21). For God to break His word would be to make His glorious bow of no effect, and as that is some of the glory of His throne, it would be to disgrace the throne of His glory.
We learn from the prophecy that the bow in the cloud, which is the token of the steadfastness of God’s word, not only assures us that there will be no more flood, but that it is an assurance of the mercy of God in the forgiveness of sins. To His people God says: “For a small moment have I forsaken thee; but with great mercies will I gather thee. In a little wrath I hid My face from thee for a moment; but with everlasting kindness will I have mercy on thee, saith the Lord thy Redeemer. For this is as the waters of Noah unto Me: for as I have sworn that the waters of Noah should no more go over the earth; so have I sworn that I would not be wroth with thee, nor rebuke thee. For the mountains shall depart, and the hills be removed; but My kindness shall not depart from thee, neither shall the covenant of My peace be removed, saith the Lord that hath mercy on thee” (Isaiah 54:7- 10).
Let the cloud of sins be never so thick and threatening, the glory of God’s word of grace shining upon it will bring into full view the bow of promise, and we shall remember that there is forgiveness with Him, that He may be feared. So even the clouds of darkness that overshadow the earth may bear to us a message of comfort.
Ye fearful saints, fresh courage take;
The clouds ye so much dread
Are big with mercy, and shall break
In blessings o’er your head.