Shadow of a Cloud

You have been a refuge for the poor, a refuge for the needy in their distress, a shelter from the storm and a shade from the heat. For the breath of the ruthless is like a storm driving against a wall and like the heat of the desert. You silence the uproar of foreigners [or enemies]; as heat is reduced by the shadow of a cloud, so the song of the ruthless is stilled. Isaiah 25:4-5 

That last image in the above verse has always arrested me – as heat is reduced by the shadow of a cloud, so the song of the ruthless is stilled. It is so silent and even peaceful. No big warfare and sounding of trumpets and going into battle. Just a cloud quietly moving between those struggling on the ground in the heat of the desert and the source of the life-sucking, deadly heat.  

It is something that God does easily. The searing breath, the storm, the uproar, the mocking, the seemingly victorious song of the ruthless is stilled. It seems impossible, this situation. It appears as a huge mountain. It seems that the enemy is winning. But it is easy for God. Like a cloud moving silently to block out the sun. 

He stilled the storm to a whisper; the waves of the sea were hushed. Psalm 107:29 

When Jesus woke up, he rebuked the wind and said to the waves, “Silence! Be still!” Suddenly the wind stopped, and there was a great calm. Mark 4:39 (NLT) 

I am the LORD, the God of all mankind. Is anything too hard for me? Jeremiah 32:27 

Image, Cloud by Peter O’Connor https://flic.kr/p/8Dupzn  

Unchanging

Do you see how one-track God is?

The angel answered, “The Holy Spirit will come on you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the holy one to be born will be called the Son of God. Luke 1:35 

The two phrases in this verse – “come on you” and “overshadow you” – tell an amazing story. 

The phrase “come on you” is the Greek word epercomai (ἐπέρχομαι) which means to come upon, come to, arrive, come on. But more than just arriving, what comes upon “comes and leaves its appropriate, inevitable effects that build on the particular coming. (Note the prefix epi, showing the action as the ‘epi-center’ of what happens.)”i 

“Overshadow you” is the word episkiazó (ἐπισκιάζω) which means overshadow, envelop, to cast a shadow on, and leave “a natural (apt) result.” The word is “used in the NT of God’s over-shadowing presence – which always brings His boulē-plan to pass.” God’s boulḗ is “God’s immutable will for physical circumstances.” 

God’s coming causes something to happen! His coming upon and overshadowing of Mary was the epicenter of a history-splitting event, an inevitable effect, the natural result of the Most High God touching His creation and bringing His plan and purpose to pass. And the writer of Hebrews says that this plan and purpose of God is unchanging. 

Because God wanted to make the unchanging nature of his purpose (boulḗ) very clear to the heirs of what was promised, he confirmed it with an oath. Hebrews 6:17 

When God overshadows something or someone His unchangeable, immutable, unalterable purpose is accomplished. This overshadowing, purposeful, building Presence calls to mind Genesis. In the beginning God overshadowed, hovered over, the world to accomplish this purpose. 

Now the earth was formless and empty, darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters. Genesis 1:2 

What was God’s original plan and purpose? To have relationship; to have sons and daughters to communicate Himself to and to love. And so, He created the first man and woman, Adam and Eve. They were unfaithful to Him and rejected Him. But His purpose remained unchanged. So just as God hovered over the earth in the beginning and created the first Adam, he hovered over Mary to create the last Adam, Jesus Christ Son of God, who would bring God’s boulē-plan to pass. 

So it is written: “The first man Adam became a living being”; the last Adam, a life-giving spirit. 1 Corinthians 15:45 

In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace that he lavished on us. With all wisdom and understanding, he made known to us the mystery of his will according to his good pleasure, which he purposed in Christ, to be put into effect when the times reach their fulfillment—to bring unity to all things in heaven and on earth under Christ. Ephesians 1:7-10 

For I have come down from heaven, not to do my own will but the will of him who sent me. And this is the will of him who sent me, that I should lose nothing of all that he has given me, but raise it up on the last day. For this is the will of my Father, that everyone who looks on the Son and believes in him should have eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day. John 6:38-40 (ESV) 

“The Lord was never a passive or unconcerned God; rather, He was always actively intervening, even invading the affairs of men. His incarnation as one of us is the most spectacular example of the Lord’s lovesick and purposeful involvement in the earthly realm.” — Jill Shannon, A Prophetic Calendar 

Do you see how one-track God is? His purpose has always been to love us and to be loved back. And if we cooperate by turning towards Him, with even the feeblest opening of our hearts, He is there. When we crawl under the shadow of His wings, and let God overshadow us; when we hide ourselves in and cling to Him, then we put ourselves at the epicenter of His life-giving and creating and redeeming power. We allow Him to complete His passionate purpose in our lives. And nothing can come between us and God’s passionate, one-track, love and purpose for us. No matter the circumstance. No matter the storm. No matter the attack of the enemy. No matter even our own rebellious, struggling, wavering hearts – for even a faintly burning wick he will not snuff out (Isaiah 42: 3). God will fulfill His purpose for us. 

Be merciful to me, O God, be merciful to me, for in you my soul takes refuge; in the shadow of your wings I will take refuge, till the storms of destruction pass by. I cry out to God Most High, to God who fulfills his purpose for me. Psalm 57:1-2 (ESV) 

And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ. Philippians 1:6 (ESV) 

So now I live with the confidence that there is nothing in the universe with the power to separate us from God’s love. I’m convinced that his love will triumph over death, life’s troubles, fallen angels, or dark rulers in the heavens. There is nothing in our present or future circumstances that can weaken his love. There is no power above us or beneath us—no power that could ever be found in the universe that can distance us from God’s passionate love, which is lavished upon us through our Lord Jesus, the Anointed One! Romans 8:38-39 (The Passion Translation) 

iAll definitions from HELPS Word-studies, Discovery Bible (2021), and Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible. 

Image copyright by Derek Bair

Taking Refuge

Taking refuge is crucial in these times we are in, but it must be beyond mere head knowledge. It must become part of my very being, like breathing.

O taste and see that the LORD is good; How blessed is the man who takes refuge in Him! Psalm 34:8 (NASB) 

When God highlights something to me that I have been blithely skipping over for 48 years I know he wants me to dig deeper. In this case it was the phrase “takes refuge” that stopped me. To “take refuge” implies action, something I do. I am beginning to see that I have been standing outside the refuge in the malevolent, pummeling storm holding my flimsy umbrella, recognizing correctly that there is a refuge, understanding and believing in the refuge, even memorizing all the verses about the refuge. But, most of the time, not actually doing the effort to “take refuge” – get under His wings, crawl up on His lap. So, my head knowledge, or even my faith in the refuge, does me no good.  

The Hebrew word translated “takes refuge” above is chacah. It means to seek refuge, flee for protection, to put trust in God, confide or hope in God. A related word is batah – to trust in, rely on, take refuge in. A commentator notes that chacah “is probably to be distinguished from batah ‘rely on,’ ‘take refuge in’ as denoting more precipitate action.” [emphasis mine]i

To do something precipitately is to do it in a way that is “sudden and done without thinking” (Cambridge Dictionary). This definition reminds me of kids jumping into the parents’ bed at a house-shaking crack of thunder. It is done without thinking because in their subconscious level that is where safety and security is; where their trust is.

Is trusting in the Lord something we do “without thinking” almost by instinct? Do we jump into his arms when the earth shakes and the storm roars? God is showing me that this only happens when we have made putting our trust in him a long discipline, so that it has become a habit. We have tasted and seen his goodness many times, over and over without fail. The struggle between God and us is over. We have surrendered to Him and experienced his love. Deep down below the level of thinking and logic and reasons we know – we know Him.

Since God showed me this, I have started practicing this taking refuge action against my almost constant fear and regret and self-condemnation and complaining against God. It takes determined effort and is hard, like stopping a train and reversing the direction. But it is making a huge difference. What does that look like? 

When I find myself floundering, when a condemning thought comes into my mind, I remember the Cross of Jesus Christ and make the decision and effort to take refuge in his Word.  

Therefore there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.  Romans 8:1 

As the Scripture says, “Anyone who trusts in him will never be put to shame.” Romans 10:11 

When fear oppresses me, I cling to the promise.  

So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand. Isaiah 41:10 

When I am afraid, I will trust in you. Psalm 56:3

When, in my rebellious self-life, I start with the complaints, even resentment, against God, I look around for something to be grateful for. I offer up a sacrifice of praise. 

I will sacrifice a thank-offering to you and call on the name of the LORD. Psalm 116:17 

Taking refuge, trusting in God, is crucial in these times we are in, when philosophers and politicians and journalists and marketers clamor for my trust. But it must come from beyond mere head knowledge – I must get out from under my leaky umbrella. My trust in Him must become part of my very being, like breathing. Like the pumping of my heart. I must “do” taking refuge, until I abide there, always leaning against his chest, feeling his sweet breath on the top of my head, listening to the eternal, unstoppable, vehement, passionate, fierce, zealous beating of his mighty heart. 

Let me dwell in Your tent forever; Let me take refuge in the shelter of Your wings. Selah. Psalm 61:5 (NASB) 

Have mercy on me, O God, have mercy on me, for in you my soul takes refuge. I will take refuge in the shadow of your wings until the disaster has passed. Psalm 57:1

It is better to take refuge in the LORD than to trust in man. It is better to take refuge in the LORD than to trust in princes. Psalm 118:8-9

Photo by lars_o_matic on flickr.com https://flic.kr/p/e9V5ZM  

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