One of the strangest (yet obvious) facts to discover in Scripture is that the Spirit hovering over the waters in Genesis 2 at creation is the same as the pillar of cloud and fire that led Israel through the Red Sea on dry ground. That theophany occurs several times in Scripture, and is identified with Jesus’ own body.
The Spirit/Cloud manifestation led Israel to Sinai where it touched down. And one of the components of this cloud was the heavenly host–an army of angels. We’re told so unambiguously in Psalm 68:15-17.
A mountain of God is the mountain of Bashan; a mountain of many peaks is the mountain of Bashan. Why do you look with envy, O mountains with many peaks, at the mountain which God has desired for His abode? Surely the LORD will dwell there forever. The chariots of God are myriads, thousands upon thousands; the LORD is among them as at Sinai, in holiness (NASB).
The Psalm is referring to Jerusalem where David has located the Ark of the Covenant and where Solomon will later build a Temple. He is comparing that mountain to Mount Sinai, saying that God is just as much present in Jerusalem as he was on Sinai. And to fill out that description, he affirms that, just as there were thousands of angels surrounding God’s presence in glory at Sinai, so there are thousands of unseen angels now in Jerusalem surrounding God’s presence.
It will help us to understand all this, if we remember how the cloud appeared in Mount Sinai and then where it went and where else it appeared in Scripture. I tried to explain this to a High School Sunday School class once, and they had no idea what I was talking about because they had never seen “Close Encounters of the Third Kind.” But if any of you have seen that movie, you remember that the touchpoint between the UFOs and the earth was Devil’s Tower, the steep mountain with the plateau on top of it. And this vast luminous, nebulously-shaped mother ship came down right above it, between heaven and earth, and communicated with the people waiting there.
That image of this huge ship full of lights touching down just at the top of Devil’s Tower is quite close to what we find happening in Exodus 19. This dark cloud full of flashing fire, comes down on Mount Sinai as a midpoint between heaven and earth. Moses goes up the mountain in the cloud to talk to God and then comes back down from the cloud to tell the people God’s commands.
One of the major things God commanded from the cloud was for a Tabernacle to be built so that God could live among His people. After the Tabernacle was built, with the golden representations of angels which overshadowed the mercy seat, then the cloud moves to its new home, as described in Exodus 40, verses 34 and 35:
Then the cloud covered the tent of meeting, and the glory of the LORD filled the tabernacle. Moses was not able to enter the tent of meeting because the cloud had settled on it, and the glory of the LORD filled the tabernacle. [NASB]
That cloud which had led them out of Egypt as a pillar by day and a fire by night, settled down on the Tabernacle, filling it with God’s glory. The same thing happens when Solomon finished building the Temple, which, in addition to angels on the Mercy Seat of the Ark of the Covenant, had giant golden angels overshadowing the sanctuary, and engravings of angels carved into its walls and doors. When the priest put the Ark into the Holy of Holies something happened:
It happened that when the priests came from the holy place, the cloud filled the house of the LORD, so that the priests could not stand to minister because of the cloud, for the glory of the LORD filled the house of the LORD (1 Kings 8.10 – 11; NASB).
The writer of 1 Kings simply introduces us to “the cloud,” without explaining what it means or where it comes from. He doesn’t need to. No Biblically literate Hebrew reader could possibly miss it.
So all these angels in the architecture reflect how God manifests himself in a cloud of angels. In the New Testament, with humans brought back into God’s presence, it become also “so great a cloud of [human] witnesses” (Hebrews 12:1).
But if Kline is right that Adam and Eve were modeled on the glory cloud and made “in the image of God,” and that Jesus is shown to be transfigured into a kind of glory cloud in his own person, that would explain some of the psychosomatic assumptions in Proverbs.
In the Glory Cloud, God takes counsel with angels of gives them orders (for example, Isaiah 6). And the most basic growth a person experiences in life is getting control of his own body parts.
To review what I’ve written before, Solomon speaks of evil deeds often as undomesticated body parts:
There are six things that the LORD hates,
seven that are an abomination to him:
haughty eyes, a lying tongue,
and hands that shed innocent blood,
a heart that devises wicked plans,
feet that make haste to run to evil,
a false witness who breathes out lies,
and one who sows discord among brothers (Proverbs 6:16–19; ESV).
Notice that the sixth and seventh listed items are kinds of persons, but the previous five are body parts. And the list is redundant if taken as separate items. What is the distinction between “a lying tongue” and “a false witness who breathes out lies”? Perhaps it is the difference between an initial vice and what happens when you don’t root it out. You thoroughly become what you were letting your tongue do. Perhaps we should say you decay into it.
my son, do not walk in the way with them;
hold back your foot from their paths,
for their feet run to evil,
and they make haste to shed blood (Proverbs 1:15–16; ESV).
A fool’s lips walk into a fight,
and his mouth invites a beating.
A fool’s mouth is his ruin,
and his lips are a snare to his soul (Proverbs 18:6–7; ESV)
A slack hand causes poverty,
but the hand of the diligent makes rich (Proverbs 10:4; ESV)
The desire of the sluggard kills him,
for his hands refuse to labor (Proverbs 21:25; ESV).
This way of describing human behavior may help explain some other Scriptural passages.
And if your hand causes you to sin, cut it off. It is better for you to enter life crippled than with two hands to go to hell, to the unquenchable fire. And if your foot causes you to sin, cut it off. It is better for you to enter life lame than with two feet to be thrown into hell. And if your eye causes you to sin, tear it out. It is better for you to enter the kingdom of God with one eye than with two eyes to be thrown into hell, ‘where their worm does not die and the fire is not quenched.’ (Mark 9:43-48; ESV).
I feel compelled to note I don’t think Jesus was being literal here and I don’t think his advice would work if taken literally. (So don’t!)
Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal body, to make you obey its passions. Do not present your members to sin as instruments for unrighteousness, but present yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life, and your members to God as instruments for righteousness. For sin will have no dominion over you, since you are not under law but under grace… For just as you once presented your members as slaves to impurity and to lawlessness leading to more lawlessness, so now present your members as slaves to righteousness leading to sanctification (Romans 6:12–14, 19b; ESV).
And then there is James who describes a person’s tongue as a wild animal that needs to be domesticated:
For we all stumble in many ways. And if anyone does not stumble in what he says, he is a perfect man, able also to bridle his whole body. If we put bits into the mouths of horses so that they obey us, we guide their whole bodies as well… For every kind of beast and bird, of reptile and sea creature, can be tamed and has been tamed by mankind, but no human being can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison. (James 3:2-3, 7-8; ESV)
If we have been created in the image of God, and that image is shown us in the Bible as God assembled among his courts and his army, that may be why we are made to be people who gain command over our own “courts.” We are to learn to take command of our bodies like an officer should have command of his troops. Then our actions and words can be trusted as faithful messengers (the literal meaning of “angels”) of who we are supposed to be.