Summary: MY God Rides the Clouds 1) To save me; 2) To empower me
“MY dad rides a Harley.” You’ll probably never hear my daughters say that. Mr. Stuht’s boys, on the other hand, can make that boast. What is it about Harley bikes that makes many ooh and aah when they find out that the person they are talking to is an owner of one those growly beasts of the road? It’s an image thing, isn’t it? The perception among many is that if you own a Harley, you must be one tough dude. What boy doesn’t want his friends to think that about his dad?
Your dad may ride a Harley, but have you ever considered what your God rides? In Japan many believe that their gods get around in ornate little palace-like temples called mikoshi. Mikoshis look great but they’re powered by humans. They can’t travel very far or very fast making one wonder just how powerful the god is who is supposedly riding inside. The Viking god, Odin, on the other hand allegedly rode an eight-legged horse called Slepner. Dear Christian, what about your God? What does he ride and what does it matter? In the Gospel lesson for the Festival of Ascension we heard how, 40 days after his resurrection, Jesus rose up to heaven until the clouds covered him. Angels then told his disciples that Jesus would return the same way – riding on the clouds. Yes, MY God rides the clouds and, according to our sermon text from the Old Testament book of Deuteronomy, he does so to save me and to empower me.
Now when I say that the God of the Bible rides the clouds, I don’t want you to think that if you look this afternoon, you can catch a glimpse of the Almighty cruising atop a cumulus. While Jesus will descend on the clouds of heaven when he returns to judge the world, he doesn’t need the clouds to get around. Jesus is everywhere at once. Our text, however, uses the imagery of God riding on the clouds to poetically convey how powerful and glorious the true God is. The Israelites needed to be reminded of this truth because they were going to be losing Moses, their leader for 40 years. They were still in good hands, however, because their true leader was and would remain God - and what a God he is! Listen to the words of our text again: “There is no one like the God of Jeshurun, (a nickname for Israel meaning “upright one”) who rides on the heavens to help you and on the clouds in his majesty. 27 The eternal God is your refuge, and underneath are the everlasting arms. He will drive out your enemy before you, saying, ‘Destroy him!’ 28 So Israel will live in safety alone; Jacob’s spring is secure in a land of grain and new wine, where the heavens drop dew. 29 Blessed are you, O Israel! Who is like you, a people saved by the LORD? He is your shield and helper and your glorious sword. Your enemies will cower before you, and you will trample down their high places” (Deuteronomy 33:26-29).
I think the ancient Greeks believed that their gods too rode on the clouds of heaven. They did so, however, to spy and to meddle. Greek gods were not beloved but tolerated and feared. Do you see how different the God of the Bible is? According to Moses he is a God who rides on the clouds to help and to save. Moses described him as a refuge above his people and underneath he held them with everlasting arms. Think back to the last time you nursed a child back to health. How long were you able to hold the child before your arms started to give out and you had to put her down or hand her to someone else? God’s arms which are holding you never tire or grow weak. Those arms are so big that there is room for the whole world including you. So why is life so tough right now? Could it be that God had to put you down because he is too busy holding others? No, Moses said that he is an eternal refuge. You may be suffering but your God is limiting the hurt and he’s using it for your benefit – like a physical therapist who, under his watchful care, gives you weights to lift to strengthen that weak shoulder of yours.
Moses invites us to marvel at how blessed we are. He said: “Who is like you, a people saved by the LORD?” (Deuteronomy 33:29b) A couple of weeks ago there was an article about a Londoner saved by the actor Dustin Hoffman. What did Hoffman do? Dive into the Thames to rescue a drowning child? Fight off a gang of thugs attacking a senior citizen? No. He called an ambulance when he noticed a man keel over in an apparent heart attack. That’s news? That makes Hoffman a savior? Compare Dustin Hoffman to Jesus. Jesus didn’t dial 911 when he saw us drowning in our sins and then stand by as paramedic angels risked their lives to save us. No, he himself rolled up his sleeves and gave his blood for us. He stood between us and God the Father’s wrath over our sins when he died on the cross. Appropriately Moses called God a shield. How blessed we are! How blessed the world is for Jesus paid for everyone’s sins. Let them know about this awesome God, for without faith in him now they will have to face him as an enemy come Judgment Day!