According to the Bible, not only did God create light before anything else (Genesis 1:3-4), but he is light (1 John 1:5) and he lives in unapproachable light (1 Timothy 6:15-16). Jesus had called himself the light of the world (John 8:12). It is therefore difficult to imagine the Father of lights (James 1:17) to be surrounded by clouds and darkness, but the Bible tells us that he is (Psalm 97:2). In fact, one can find numerous references in the Bible in which God is associated with black clouds and deep darkness as well as bright clouds and light.

During the journey of the Israelites to the promised land, the Lord went ahead of them in a pillar of cloud to guide them in the day and in a pillar of fire to give them light at night. During the crossing of the Red Sea, the pillar of cloud moved from the front and stood behind them, protecting them from the Egyptian army. 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 13-14).

Later on we read (Exodus 33-34) that Moses used to take a tent and pitch it outside the Israelites’ camp, calling it the tent of meeting. As Moses went into the tent, the pillar of cloud would come down and stay at the entrance while the Lord spoke with Moses. Then the Lord called Moses to Mount Sinai, where the Lord came down in the cloud and stood there with him. When Moses came down with the two tablets of the Ten Commandments, his face was so radiant that people were afraid of him and he had to cover his face with a veil.

The Bible tells the story of the great and wise King Solomon who built a magnificent temple in Jerusalem on Mount Moriah (2 Chronicles 5-7). When his work was finally over and the temple was to be consecrated, Solomon wondered if the God of heaven who “dwells in a dark cloud”, would dwell in his temple. He only prayed that the Lord may look upon his people and hear their cry. God answered his prayer and the temple was filled with cloud signifying the presence and the glory of the Lord.

In Psalm 18, David speaks of the darkness as well as brightness of God’s clouds, their rain, hail, lightning and thunder; a sure analogy to what we call today the cumulonimbus cloud:
In my distress I called to the Lord; I cried to my God for help.
From his temple he heard my voice; my cry came before him, into his ears.
He parted the heavens and came down; dark clouds were under his feet.
He made darkness his covering, his canopy around him, the dark rain clouds of the sky.
Out of the brightness of his presence clouds advanced, with hailstones and bolts of lightning.

The Lord thundered from heaven; the voice of the Most High resounded.

Psalm 97 speaks of darkness:
The Lord reigns,
Clouds and thick darkness surround him;
Righteousness and justice are the foundation of his throne.
Fire goes before him. His lightning lights up the world.

Psalm 104 speaks of light:
The Lord wraps himself in light as with a garment;
He makes the clouds his chariot, flames of fire his servants.

The prophet Nahum says about God: His way is in the whirlwind and the storm, and clouds are the dust of his feet. (Nahum 1:3)

During the transfiguration of Jesus, he and three of his disciples were on a mountaintop when a bright cloud covered them and God spoke through the cloud. Jesus’ face appeared bright and shining and his clothes were dazzling white like a flash of lightning. But the disciples were terrified by the glory of the cloud and fell upon their face (Matthew 17, Mark 9, Luke 9).

In reality, a cloud can be dark or bright depending upon where the observer is situated relative to the cloud. The cloud top reflects the light from the sun back to space and the thicker the cloud greater is the reflection. The same cloud that would appear the brightest to an astronaut in space looking towards earth, would in fact look the darkest to a person standing on earth below the cloud. For the same reason, when bright white clouds are spotted in satellite cloud imagery they can be safely interpreted as the thick and tall cumulonimbus thunderclouds.

Oswald Chambers’ 1927 classic My Utmost for His Highest is available on the internet and is still widely read as a daily devotional. His devotional for today, 29 July, asks the question: “Do you see Jesus in your clouds?” to which his answer is: “Clouds are the sorrows, sufferings, or providential circumstances, within or without our personal lives, which actually seem to contradict the sovereignty of God. Yet it is through these very clouds that the Spirit of God is teaching us how to walk by faith. If there were never any clouds in our lives, we would have no faith.”

Clouds are indeed an important element of the landscape of life. They add beauty and variety to a life that would otherwise be like a monotonous blue sky. Clouds represent the darker and brighter sides of life. They can hide as well as reveal. They can be benign as well as violent. They can perhaps obscure our vision of God, but only to strengthen our belief that God is still there.

See also: The Clouds of the Bible (1)   The Clouds of the Bible (3)

Download: “Bible Meteorology” eBook