The earth trembled and quaked, the foundations of the heavens shook; they trembled because he was angry. Smoke rose from his nostrils; consuming fire came from his mouth, burning coals blazed out of it. He parted the heavens and came down; dark clouds were under his feet. He mounted the cherubim and flew; he soared on the wings of the wind. He made darkness his canopy around him— the dark rain clouds of the sky. Out of the brightness of his presence bolts of lightning blazed forth. The Lord thundered from heaven; the voice of the Most High resounded. – 2 Samuel 22:8-14
This message is a continuation of the song of David which we started learning about in yesterday’s post. I have read through the song of David several times over the last couple of days and I must admit it is very much like “turbulent water” to me.
It is almost as if different parts of the song refer to different times in the life of David, or even different Davids. There are also statements made in the song which seem just plain wrong, like when David says “I am not guilty of turning from my God”. I did a quick count of the number of times David refers to himself (uses me, my, I, etc.)…94 times! I will reflect on this more in tomorrow or the next day’s posts, but for now we will focus on the water in this passage.
After praying and thinking about this passage it seems like it could have a subtitle “God is my howitzer”. David is invoking an incredibly powerful vision of God who can show up and vanquish his enemies. I am not sure whether this image is something that God has conveyed to David; or if David is imposing his own image upon God. Either way the description of God’s arrival has more in common with Mad Max than Mother Theresa.
The picture being painted here is awe inspiring — something the special effects crowd in Hollywood would probably enjoy creating. God arrives with dark rain clouds. This is quite different than the description of God arriving as a godly condensate or a consuming fire or permeating cloud up to this point in the Bible. In this passage God and the clouds are clearly separate and God is being conveyed by, and through, the clouds. Almost as if the Godly condensate has been disconnected from the Israelites for so long that it has built up moisture, become a dark rain cloud, and is prepared the send God’s rain on the Israelites and their enemies alike.
I have spent plenty of afternoons in Haiti and the desert southwest. Clouds build in the afternoon and eventually mature into thunderstorms and heavy rains fall from dark grey clouds. The arrival of dark clouds can be somewhat menacing and scary. I remember one time in Haiti when had driven about 1 1/2 hours up a very sketchy road then hiked 45 minutes to a remote village. We knew that if it rained we would not be able to navigate the road or the river crossing to return home. Our position, and distance from the car, made the dark clouds much more menacing that they would have had we been safe and sound in our guest house down the mountain.
The lightning and thunder that arrive with the dark clouds are also dangerous, especially if you find yourself on a high mountain. It seems to me that that David has placed himself on a “high mountain” in relation to both the Israelites, and in some ways, in relation to God. Perhaps that is why the tone in the Song of David is somewhat odd. It almost seems that David is trying to convince both himself and God that he really does have confidence in God’s ability to forgive him from his past actions and the liberties he has taken from his view from the top. David, perhaps more than most people, realizes the muddy mire of sin we can find ourselves stuck in; and the critical need we have for God’s forgiveness.
Prayer: God you know the ways we have failed to faithfully follow You, and have trespassed against others. Thank You for forgiving us.