There I was, sitting in the Glock Auditorium for an Old Testament Survey class with a mentor, a friend, and excellent Bible expositor, Dr. Jim Van Dine. It was like any other Monday morning – 8:00 am, I was rushing to get to class on time, just finishing my cream cheese bagel, and fighting the extreme urge to bring my coffee into the auditorium despite the “no drinks allowed” policy. We were at that time studying the book of Job, and we each were challenged as we studied the summary of Job’s life. We sat there in class soaking in wisdom, knowledge, and exposition from God’s Word – specifically examining the trials of God’s servant, Job. At the end of class that day, there was no reading due. No quiz to prepare for. No test to take. We were given one assignment for the next class: “observe the heavens.”
It was an astonishing assignment. Being “forced” to take a moment out of my “busy” day to enjoy God’s creation—that was right up my alley! I needed more assignments like this, you know, the easy ones where you can lay down on grass and look at the clouds, trying to figure out which ones looked like elephants, or ice cream cones. After a while of staring into the heavens, it hits you… He created it all – the sun, the moon, the stars. He is higher than we are. He is greater than we are. In Him all things consist and are held together. The cosmos was created by an almighty God, a personal God, who controls all things—and that God wants to have a relationship with his creation.
As we studied the summary of Job’s life, his eulogy is one that would make any man weep. Job (whose name literally means “hated” or “much persecuted”) was a righteous character in the Bible who went through severe trials (Constable, 2017, p. 1). In class, we came to Job 35:5, when Elihu (one of Job’s “friends”) was condemning Job when he said, “Look at the heavens, and see; and behold the clouds, which are higher than you.” No doubt, this is where the assignment came in. “Look at the heavens…and behold the clouds.” Even though Job was a righteous man, Elihu gave several reasons as to why Job’s prayers had not been heard by the Almighty. Yet, even under the danger of losing his own life, Job responds to God’s questioning with silence, confession, and repentance. Job answered the Lord and said, “I know that you can do all things, and that no purpose of yours can be thwarted” (Job 42:2).
It is interesting, as we are currently facing a global pandemic of epic proportions, the way our brothers and sisters in Christ have responded. Drive-in churches. Zoom meetings for small groups. Discipleship through Facetime. We are practicing the “new normal” of “social distancing.” But wouldn’t it be wise for us to use this time of social distancing to grow closer to the Lord? When was the last time we went outside, laid on the grass, and observed the heavens? When was the last time we went outside of the city at night to observe the cosmos? What habits are we forming in this time of renewal? Are they making us look more like Christ? Are we learning more about the One who desires to have a genuine, growing relationship with Him? Or are we more concerned about where our toilet paper is going to come from? Or what will happen if I get the coronavirus? Or where my next paycheck is going to come from? No doubt the Lord uses times like these for us to take a step back and practice putting our trust in HIM alone.
It is absolutely astonishing to see how the world is responding to this global pandemic. I wonder what would happen if we all prepared like this for the Lord’s second coming! Can you imagine the global change that could happen? Jesus is coming again…on clouds! Listen to what Revelation 1:7 has to say about the second coming of Christ: “Behold, he is coming with the clouds, and every eye will see him, even those who pierced him, and all tribes of the earth will wail on account of him. Even so. Amen.” We have so many people who have their eyes transfixed on this virus as if it were something that gives life and takes it away. And no doubt, we should not downplay the virus. But what should our eyes be transfixed upon? What if, at this very moment, millions of Christians around the world were awaiting the return of Christ, looking to the sky for their savior to return?
Let’s look at a few more verses about Christ and clouds. Luke 21:27-28 states, “And then they will see the Son of Man coming in a cloud with power and great glory. Now when these things begin to take place, straighten up and raise your heads, because your redemption is drawing near.” Jesus himself is commanding each one of us to “straighten up” and to “raise your head.” How many of us are practicing this? The prophetic verses in Daniel 7:13-14 state about Christ, “I saw in the night visions, and behold, with the clouds of heaven there came one like a son of man, and he came to the Ancient of Days and was presented before him. And to him was given dominion and glory and a kingdom, that all peoples, nations, and languages, should serve him; his dominion is an everlasting dominion, which shall not pass away, and his kingdom one that shall not be destroyed.” Once again, we see Jesus, the one who has authority and dominion over all things, coming “with the clouds of heaven.” There are other verses about the second coming of Christ, and Christ being revealed from heaven in blazing fire (2 Thessalonians 1).
When we take our eyes off of the One who controls all things, it is easy to become despondent, dejected, and downcast. We must remember and recall to mind the exact preeminence of Christ:
He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him. And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together. And he is the head of the body, the church. He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in everything he might be preeminent. For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of his cross. And you, who once were alienated and hostile in mind, doing evil deeds, he has now reconciled in his body of flesh by his death, in order to present you holy and blameless and above reproach before him, if indeed you continue in the faith, stable and steadfast, not shifting from the hope of the gospel that you heard, which has been proclaimed in all creation under heaven, and of which I, Paul, became a minister.
Colossians 1: 15-23
Christian, will you join me in saying with the Psalmist, “Why are you cast down, O my soul, and why are you in turmoil within me? Hope in God; for I shall again praise him, my salvation and my God” (Psalm 42:5-6a). When we “observe the heavens” we keep our focus on God, where it should be. When we “observe ourselves” we keep our focus on us, where it shouldn’t be. Hope in God. Praise God. He has made a way of salvation for you. Remember that truth. His death paid the full debt you owed. How can you be downcast in a time like this? Internally, respond to Christ like Job did, with silence, confession, and repentance. Externally, rejoice in God and tell of his wonderful mercy.
Seek him. Know him. Preach Christ. He is coming again…with clouds.