No. 8

Luke 9:34
While he thus spake, there came a cloud, and overshadowed them: and they feared as they entered into the cloud.
Peter and his companions awoke from their sleep but just in time to be eye-witnesses of their Lord's glory and of the appearance of Moses and Elias.  They were about to depart when he cried out, being struck with what he saw.  He cried out, It is good to be here;[1] presently after, the whole was withdrawn.  Some of the Lord's people have been witnesses to happy moments when the veil seemed to be removing, and they were upon the point, as it were, of getting a sight of things invisible, but they have hardly had time to recollect themselves, and raise their expectations, before a cloud comes between, and they are left at their former distance, convinced indeed that there were great realities, ready open to their view, but unable to recollect even to their own apprehensions what that wonderful impression was, which so affected them.  Something like this was the experience of the disciples – they were beginning to rejoice in what they saw, when a cloud overshadowed them and turned their joy into fear.
Here are two things:                     
1. The cloud
2.   The effect upon them – they feared as they entered into the cloud
1. [The Cloud]
Then came a cloud and overshadowed them.  Matthew [17:5] calls it a bright cloud. [2]  It was a token of God's presence and favour, as when the cloud filled the tabernacle. [3]  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.  The difference of these clouds out of which God spoke at different times to men, 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.  The ordinances and means by which the Lord converses with his people are answerable to this cloud.  They are bright compared with the dark things of this world, but they are dark and cloudy, with respect to that full knowledge and view of his glory which shall shine upon his people, when they are permitted to see his face.  While in one sense they reveal him to us, in another they hide him from us.  They are suited to our present state of weakness and imperfection, but we shall not be quite happy, the desires he has given us, will not be perfectly satisfied till we get above them all.  In the meantime we have cause to be thankful:
  1.1 For the superior light and liberty we enjoy by the Gospel, above what was vouchsafed to the servants of God under the Old Testament dispensation.  They saw our privileges afar off, and would have rejoiced to share in them (Matthew 13:17). [4]  
  1.2 For the assurances we have that the best we now enjoy, is exceedingly short of that full portion reserved for us hereafter.  It doth not yet appear what we shall be. [5]  There is not so much difference between a believer's darkest and brightest hours here, as between his sweetest enjoyments now, and the glory that awaits him hereafter.  
2. [The effect upon them]
The disciples feared as they entered the cloud.  From hence I would take occasion to observe, that the manifestations of the Lord's presence have a tendency to humble and abase the Lord's people, to convince them of their nothingness and unworthiness before him, and at the same time that they are comforted with a sense of his love, they are awed with the consideration of his glorious majesty.
  2.1 By this you may try your spirits
There is a confidence and liberty promised in the Gospel – they who have access to God by Christ may come with boldness – they may draw near as children to a father, they may use a holy importunity in prayer – yet when faith is indeed in lively exercise, and this liberty is most improved, there will be likewise great reverence and humiliation before God.  When God dealt familiarly with Abraham, and conversed with him as a friend, Abraham fell on his face before him.  When the Lord appeared to vindicate Job, and to comfort him after his sorrows, he abhorred himself in dust and ashes.  That we can often approach the Most High God, with a kind of indifference as if it were a thing of course, is a proof rather of the hardness of our hearts, than of the strength of our faith.  The angels are represented as hiding their faces before him; with what humility then should we poor sinful dust and ashes take his holy name upon our polluted lips.
  2.2 By this you may try your comforts
Many sincere souls are fearful lest their comforts are not of the right kind.  Such fears are often the fruit of unbelief.  Yet it is a good sign to be cautious and unwilling to be deceived.  There are such things as false comforts – one of the best marks of the true, is that they are of a humbling nature, and tend to fill our hearts with a fear and reverence of the great God from whom they proceed.  If people talk of the Lord's presence, and discover[display] a light, trifling, self-confident and careless frame of spirit, I confess I do not understand them.  The stony ground hearers had a joy, but it was not of the right sort – it was not accompanied with gracious fruits and soon came to nothing.  But if when you have most comfort, the sense of your sin is lively, and your heart is led to bemoan and abase yourself before the Lord, and to rejoice only in Christ, then you need not fear.  What thus leads us to him undoubtedly comes from him.
To conclude:
If the Lord's own people, who have a scriptural ground of hope in his mercy, feel their hearts awed before him – what have unrepentant sinners to fear?  If the disciples feared when overshadowed with a cloud which was a token of his love, how shall the wicked stand, when he will appear in terrible majesty, and a devouring flame shall go before him to burn up his enemies? [6]  O that this thought may impress them in time.  We are told that the storm is approaching, but there is yet a hiding place pointed out.  O seek to Jesus that your souls may live.

[1] Luke 9:33 And it came to pass, as they departed from him, Peter said unto Jesus, Master, it is good for us to be here: and let us make three tabernacles; one for thee, and one for Moses, and one for Elias: not knowing what he said.
[2] Matthew 17:5 While he yet spake, behold, a bright cloud overshadowed them: and behold a voice out of the cloud, which said, This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased; hear ye him.
[3] Exodus 24:16 and 40:34 And the glory of the Lord abode upon mount Sinai, and the cloud covered it six days: and the seventh day he called unto Moses out of the midst of the cloud and Then a cloud covered the tent of the congregation, and the glory of the Lord filled the tabernacle.
[4] Matthew 13:17 For verily I say unto you, That many prophets and righteous men have desired to see those things which ye see, and have not seen them; and to hear those things which ye hear, and have not heard them.
[5] 1 John 3:2 Beloved, now are we the sons of God, and it doth not yet appear what we shall be: but we know that, when he shall appear, we shall be like him; for we shall see him as he is.
[6] Psalm 97:3 A fire goeth before him, and burneth up his enemies round about.

Cowper & Newton Museum, 714(16), N40

Marylynn Rouse, 06/08/2020