Hebrews 12:1 “…since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses…”

cloud-04The other morning when I woke up, I tried to be still and acknowledge God. And it was difficult. And I asked myself why. And I concluded the reason was (1) I can’t see God and (2) it seems so few people believe in God. It seems as though there is a cowardly part of my soul, afraid to assert what I find true, namely, that God exists and has spoken to us through nature, prophets, and his Son. I have a hard time believing that I would have some truth missing by mainstream media. Honestly, I am more shaken by the disbelief of my own culture than I am by the plurality of religions. Within the framework of faith in God, I have explanations for religious pluralism. But there is something about my own materialistic culture that retards and paralyzes my faith.

My doubt these days is a subtle influence. I rarely consider myself to have doubt. Faith in God is a habit of my mind, but somewhere within the half-mansion-half-shack of my soul there flits the question of whether “God” is simply an accustomed way of thinking or a living reality who hears me and cares for me.

Anyway, that morning I asked myself (again) whether or not it was possible to believe in a being who could not be seen or materially located. And I gave an internal nod once more to God being a possibility.

Then I remembered the many people who do believe in a higher spiritual power, from Hindus and Muslims to Jews and Christians to tribal faiths and generic post-modern idealists who want it all to be true. I am not the latter, but I have to say, I was encouraged and emboldened by the many people who do believe in a being(s) who cannot be seen with the physical eye.

Technically, both my doubt and my arsenal of the morning were based on logical fallacies. Truth is not proved by majority opinion. I could bunny-trail off into questions of knowing and perceiving. Do we all see the same colors, and how do we know we all have a shared existence, or is the “crazy” person the one who sees the truth? Without delving into these questions and issues of authority of individuals or a group, I merely conclude this non-bunny trail with an appreciation of Hebrews 12:1 referring to the many people who had faith in the past as “witnesses” rather than merely citing numbers or using them as an authority.

Hebrews 11 reviews many people who had faith in God. Some of the stories highlight God’s provision, and other tidbits highlight faith in persecution and suffering. The author of Hebrews calls all these people a “cloud of witnesses.” I think the author is referring to the cloud that represented the presence of God, leading Israel in the desert (Ex. 13:21 and Num. 9:15-23). Their collective faith in God is like a cloud pointing to his presence in the hot wilderness.

The cloud provided relief from the sun and direction. But it was not the same as actually seeing God. And I do not see God. But I do see other people who believe in God. And I appreciate their witness. It is fills me with awe to consider the presence of God.

The fumbling appreciation of the reality of God reminds me of one of my favorite books: The Cloud of Unknowing. The author is unknown, which is quite fitting because he or she describes the mystery of God as this known yet unknown presence.





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