Out of the Whirlwind

Old Man in the Clouds?

In church last week we had the best reading I’ve ever heard of the Old Testament account of God answering Job out of the whirlwind:

Who is this that darkens counsel by words without knowledge?

Gird up your loins like a man,

I will question you and you shall declare to me.

It was brilliant. Poor old Job! I could just see him there, trying desperately to get a word in in the face of this torrent of Godly verbiage; mouth opening and closing like a stranded guppy: “Yes but… Hold on a…I only meant to say…If you can just let me get a word in sideways…

Whilst God continues thundering from his cloud, looking not unlike his famous image from Michelangelo’s The Creation of Adam in the Sistine Chapel.

Or picture it another way – the Almighty reclining on a cloud, cigar in hand, surrounded by his groupies, declaring “Come on now…man up, please! “ in laconic tones.

It’s weird the images of God that we pick up along the way, isn’t it?

Even if our espoused theology , (the way we profess to view our relationship with the Divine ) changes over the years, at an emotional level we so often tend to retain those first impressions, laid down during childhood. Especially in times of stress and trauma.

So Sunday’s reading and my accompanying imaginings made me smile. I’ve blogged before on how Thomas Merton’s reflections on ‘unknowing’ God have connected with me in a way that’s helped deepen my concept of the Almighty (actually, I’m not always comfortable with the latter term). Yet here I am – back to the theological and spiritual ‘nursery.’

Or am I? Isn’t part of our learning the realisation of paradox; that it’s possible to hold opposing notions in tension; to come to see that God, the Spirit, Higher Power, whatever you call her/him/it , simply ‘is’, defies description, even as we, in our humanity attribute the worst and the best of all that we are and have been to our conceptualisation of that that gives us life.

And yet as Bishop John Robinson found nearly 60 years ago,God is to be found not ‘out there,’ on a cloud, but in our everyday lives.

4 thoughts on “Out of the Whirlwind”

  1. Isn’t it so? I’ve said in sermons many a time that EVERY image we have of God comes from our finite human imaginations/wisdom/thoughts/circumstances and none of them are completely right, but probably none of them are completely wrong either. We just cannot imagine the entirety. Nor can we really conceive what “Almighty” or “Omnipresent” or “infinite” mean. Because we reflect onto God what we want God to be.

  2. Absolutely. God is beyond our imaginings and yet in our imaginings we reflect our own ‘stuff,’ good, bad and inbetween on to God. I well remember my shock during one retreat when I drew a picture of a stern, forbidding creature, clutching a clipboard, (presumably on which to record all my shortcomings). I really wouldn’t have owned to that image back then, yet there is was!

  3. When someone says “I don’t believe in God” it’s always worth while asking, “Which god don’t you believe in?” Very often, we can agree with the so-called atheist whose image of the divine is so distorted that nobody would want to believe in it. Sometimes, a good discussion can come out of this.
    Jane, I hope this comment is accepted! Love your blog.

    • I’m so glad you braved the tech gremlins and got through, Catterel. Yes, I agree absolutely and your question is one that I often ask people or along similar lines, say to them “‘You know – I don’t believe in a God like that either!” The retreat image of the clipboard-wielding God was so exaggerated as to be ridiculous, but it served its purpose in a strange kind of way.


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