“I will display wonders in the sky and on the earth, Blood, fire and columns of smoke” ~ Joel 2:30.
Smoke: Cloud. The steam rising above one of our local fuel or fertilizer plants; the plume from some distant fire; the trail left by some long gone jet: it all draws my attention and begs the taking of a picture for posterity. God, getting my attention?
It happens most when I am praying around the city, seeking His hand of healing for family, friends, church, and nation. Does God want me to discern something about smoke? These questions have hit my heart several times, thus I pause to see how smoke might link with God in scripture. My findings?
First, smoke in the following passages and many more like them are a symbol of God’s presence, His touch (work) among us, His glory all around us. Smoke represents the revelation of God who is with us: it signifies who He is, what He does, His praiseworthiness.
“Now Mount Sinai was all in smoke because the Lord descended upon it in fire; and its smoke ascended like the smoke of a furnace, and the whole mountain quaked violently” ~ Exodus 19:18.
“He looks at the earth, and it trembles; He touches the mountains, and they smoke” ~ Psalm 104:32.
“… I saw the Lord sitting on a throne, lofty and exalted, with the train of His robe filling the temple. Seraphim stood above Him, each having six wings: with two he covered his face, and with two he covered his feet, and with two he flew. And one called out to another and said, ‘Holy, Holy, Holy, is the Lord of hosts, The whole earth is full of His glory.’ And the foundations of the thresholds trembled at the voice of him who called out, while the temple was filling with smoke.” ~ Isaiah 6:1-4.
Please permit me a little side note here, before pressing on to the second important reason for God’s revealed Presence in smoke and cloud. This is important for us to realize as we seek Him.
Note all that is going on in the Presence of God’s glory. The Seraphim are in the positions of God’s choosing, standing, for God is able to make His servants stand, doing all that they are called to do in this scene. They are gifted with six wings that give a picture I believe to be a vital message for all who stand in the Smoke or Cloud of God’s Presence.
First we are told that, with two wings they covered their faces. I believe this is because we cannot look upon the Lord to see His face and live. This is the reason that God put Moses in the cleft of the rock and covered him with His hand until He passed by, to protect Moses’ life (Exodus 33). Such reverence for God is a weapon of warfare that protects our lives.
Next we are told that two wings covered their feet. I believe this is a picture of humility, because where God is, that place is HOLY GROUND. Realizing that, apart from Christ, we are unholy and unworthy to enter into the Presence of God is a vital weapon of warfare, for apart from Him we can do nothing. Only those covered by Jesus can enter through the veil removed by Him, granting us full access to the very Presence of the Holy One: Holy, Holy, Holy, is the Lord of hosts, The whole earth is full of His glory.
Also note in the picture presented us, that, as the angels stood before God in humble reverence and awe, worshiping His Holiness, the temple filled with Smoke. We are the temple of God in the earth today, and His Spirit fills us with His glory. Wherever we are is Holy Ground, because where we are, He is. Behaving accordingly is vital to our victory.
Finally, with two wings, they flew. Why? I believe it signifies the fact that reverence for and awe of God produces movements that glorify Him as God: we do what He calls us to, fulfilling our good purpose, because we reverence God and hold Him in awe as Holy and worthy of full and complete commitment to Him. In this way we surrender ourselves to Him as sanctified vessels, set apart for service.
“HOLY, HOLY, HOLY is THE LORD GOD, THE ALMIGHTY, WHO WAS AND WHO IS AND WHO IS TO COME” ~ Revelation 4:8.
On with the Smoke or Cloud of God we go…
The second thing noted is that smoke represents God’s judgment: God’s hand in the wrath to come against the sons of disobedience. All who refuse to bow to His Lordship will meet the smoke of His wrath as death (eternal separation from God) swallows up the sons of disobedience.
“He opened the bottomless pit, and smoke went up out of the pit, like the smoke of a great furnace; and the sun and the air were darkened by the smoke of the pit” ~ Revelation 9:2.
Note also that the smoke of His judgment includes those times when His people cry out for Him to rescue us from the accusations and attack of enemy forces that come to condemn us or stop our successful following after the Lord. He judges between us and our accusers, and He rescues us.
“In my distress I called upon the Lord, Yes, I cried to my God; And from His temple He heard my voice, And my cry for help came into His ears. Then the earth shook and quaked, The foundations of heaven were trembling And were shaken, because He was angry. Smoke went up out of His nostrils, Fire from His mouth devoured; Coals were kindled by it. He bowed the heavens also, and came down With thick darkness under His feet. And He rode on a cherub and flew; And He appeared on the wings of the wind. And He made darkness canopies around Him, A mass of waters, thick clouds of the sky. From the brightness before Him Coals of fire were kindled. The Lord thundered from heaven, And the Most High uttered His voice. And He sent out arrows, and scattered them, Lightning, and routed them” ~ Psalm 18:7-15
Before leaving this thought, I am struck by the fact in the previous passage, that as God comes against those who come against us, “coals are kindled!” Coals, believers that have gone cold because of hearts melted within them; or because of discouragement due to over-worked lives that have grown weary. God will kindle and set aflame the discouraged people around us, as they see the work of the Lord on our behalf, and are encouraged that God is still with us and for us.
Who can stand against us?
Third, smoke is seen in warfare, especially as a city is overtaken and possessed by the people in victory.
“Now the appointed sign between the men of Israel and the men in ambush was that they would make a great cloud of smoke rise from the city. Then the men of Israel turned in the battle, and Benjamin began to strike and kill about thirty men of Israel, for they said, ‘Surely they are defeated before us, as in the first battle.’ But when the cloud began to rise from the city in a column of smoke, Benjamin looked behind them; and behold, the whole city was going up in smoke to heaven.” ~ Judges 20:38-40 (also Joshua 8:20-21).
In the Spirit, as we are praying over our city and making full use of every spiritual weapon at our disposal, the victory will reveal itself as smoke going up to the Lord. We will see God’s reality, His Presence made clear. We will see His glory assert itself, making His holiness evident in ways that humble us and press us on in the work at hand. The revelation of His Holiness will work to reveal sin, righteousness, and judgment in the earth, the work of the Spirit in our midst. We will see enemy strongholds crumble and the tongues of our accusers hushed, as the righteous judgment of the Lord becomes clear to all.
“For I have become like a bottle – a wineskin, blackened and shriveled in the smoke in which it hangs, yet do I not forget Your statutes.” ~ Psalm 119:83, AMPC.
Over and over, as I traveled the outskirts of our city, my eye was caught with awe at the strange beauty of the blackened carbon black plants, their smoke column wafting above. Now, as I read this verse, I understand why God is highlighting these plays as something that is beautiful. It is this picture of a wineskin, blackened and shriveled in the Smoke.
We are wineskins, made new in Christ and filled with the wine of His presence. And we are surrounded by Him at all times, experiencing the Smoke of His Presence with us.
Apparently, wineskins that hang constantly in the presence of smoke become blackened – covered with its soot, and they shrivel. What does this mean for us as wineskins that hold the Living Wine of God’s presence and power? Two things about this blacken and shrivel us:
The realization of His glory humbles and shrivels us to size as we learn to not think more highly of ourselves than we ought; surrendering fully to His Lordship.
The smoke of His judgments humble and shrivel us as we are transformed and made new by our surrender to His opinion of us: both bringing us to repentance in the areas of sin, and lifting us up in the areas of our confident hope.
Just as these pipes and brackets are blackened by their constant exposure to the billowing smoke of carbon black production, the blanket caused by standing in His presence covers us completely, our flesh-being, hidden from view, so that His holy eyes only see the sacrificial covering of Christ’s image in us.
Beloved, the “soot” of God’s smoke is His glory. The nearer to Him we stay, He takes us from glory to ever greater depths of His glory.
The Power of God is among us, prayer warriors. So keep seeking the Lord, standing in His presence fully clothed, bowed down in complete surrendered trust of Him, assured of His work in our midst that will reveal itself in smoke for many days to come.
“The trumpeters and singers performed together in unison to praise and give thanks to the Lord. Accompanied by trumpets, cymbals, and other instruments, they raised their voices and praised the Lord with these words: ‘He is good! His faithful love endures forever!’ At that moment a thick cloud filled the Temple of the Lord. The priests could not continue their service because of the cloud, for the glorious presence of the Lord filled the Temple of God.” ~ 2 Chronicles 5:13-14.
“Do you not know that you are a temple of God and that the Spirit of God dwells in you?” ~ 1 Corinthians 3:16.
“IF THEN you have been raised with Christ [to a new life, thus sharing His resurrection from the dead], aim at and seek the [rich, eternal treasures] that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. [Ps. 110:1.] And set your minds and keep them set on what is above (the higher things), not on the things that are on the earth. For [as far as this world is concerned] you have died, and your [new, real] life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ, Who is our life, appears, then you also will appear with Him in [the splendor of His] glory.” Colossians 3:1-4 AMPC