19 NOVEMBER (PREACHED 1770)
Under a cloud
‘While he thus spake, there came a cloud, and overshadowed them: and they feared as they entered into the cloud.’ Luke 9:34
SUGGESTED FURTHER READING: Exodus 20:18–21; Hebrews 12:18–24
There came a cloud and overshadowed them. Matthew [17:5] calls it a bright cloud. It was a token of God’s presence and favour, as when the cloud filled the tabernacle [Exodus 24:16; 40:34]. It was not filled with blackness, darkness and tempest, like that from which the Lord spoke from Sinai, when he would impress Israel with the awe of his holy majesty and law, but suited to the voice which soon proceeded from it, bearing testimony to Jesus and his acceptance of sinners in the beloved. Consider the difference of these clouds out of which God spoke at different times to men: they are emblems of the different spirit of the law and the gospel. When the Lord first speaks to the sinner’s conscience to convince him of his lost estate, it is as if he was brought to the foot of Mount Sinai; he speaks in thunder, his majesty is awful and terrible, and the poor worm trembles before him. But when he speaks peace by the blood of Jesus, though the majesty and authority are the same, and produces a holy awe and reverence upon the spirit, it is different from the former—light and comfort and peace by the voice which directs and enables the soul to fix by faith upon Jesus, the Beloved, in whom the Father is well pleased. Yet still it was a cloud, though a bright one. In all divine communications in this mortal state, the Lord, who knows our frame, softens his majesty with a cloud. We are not able to bear his presence without the interposition of a cloud.
FOR MEDITATION: I have been praying that tomorrow may be a day of power with you and with us, and with all that love Jesus in sincerity, that we may see his glory and taste his love in the sanctuary … For this I sigh and long, and cry to the Lord to rend the veil of unbelief, scatter the clouds of ignorance and break down the walls which sin is daily building up to hide him from my eyes. I hope I can say, My soul is athirst for God [Psalm 42:2], and nothing less than the light of his countenance can satisfy me.
John Newton to Hannah Wilberforce, Saturday 9 June 1770
SERMON SERIES: ON THE TRANSFIGURATION, NO. 8 [2/5], LUKE 9:34