The Fire Next Time: A Meditation on the Glance of God from the Fiery Cloud

blog7-22As we read through the Book of Exodus in daily Mass at this time of year (16th Week of the year) there comes the passage about the crossing of the Red Sea. As God parted the waters, He went on ahead of the people in the fiery column of His presence. And describing the Egyptians pursuit of the Israelites is this passage:

In the night watch just before dawn
the LORD, through the column of the fiery cloud,
cast a glance upon the Egyptian force that threw it into a panic
; (Ex 14:25)

It’s quite a remarkable line, filled with drama and mystery. And though it is a matter of vindication for the Israelites and all who seek to follow God, we cannot fail to have a holy fear of the Lord, whose mere glance could send an ancient, powerful, and well-trained army into a panic.

What are we to make of this look of the Lord, this glance of God? It is a look that sees into the depths of the heart, discloses thoughts, lays bare guilt, and burns away rationalizations and pretensions. It is a look of truth that diffuses lies and error. And yes, it is a look of love, a look that offers the light of truth to those who will accept and endure its disclosing power and seek to acclimate themselves to its bright glory.

Perhaps some other Scriptures will help frame this glance of God.

  1. On the Lord’s Day I (John) was in the Spirit, and I heard behind me a loud voice like a trumpet … I turned around to see the voice that was speaking to me. And when I turned I saw seven golden lampstands, and among the lampstands was one like a Son of Man…The hair on his head was white like wool, as white as snow, and his eyes were like blazing fire….His face was like the sun shining in all its brilliance (Rev 1:12-18, selected).
  2. I lifted my eyes and looked, and behold, there was a certain man…his face had the appearance of lightning, his eyes were like flaming torches (Dan 10:6).
  3. And I saw heaven opened, and behold, a white horse, and He who sat on it is called Faithful and True, and in righteousness He judges and wages war. His eyes are a flame of fire, and on His head are many diadems; and He has a name written on Him which no one knows except Himself. He is clothed with a robe dipped in blood, and His name is called The Word of God (Rev 19:11-13).
  4. The Lord is in his holy temple, the Lord, whose throne is in heaven. His eyes look down on the world; his gaze tests mortal men (Psalm 11:4).
  5. For the word of God is living and active and sharper than any two-edged sword, and piercing as far as the division of soul and spirit, of both joints and marrow, and able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart. And there is no creature hidden from His sight, but all things are open and laid bare to the eyes of Him with whom we must render an account (Heb 4:12-14).
  6. For [The LORD] looks to the ends of the earth and sees everything under the heavens (Job 28:24).
  7. And the wicked say: “The Lord does not see; the God of Jacob pays no heed.” Mark this, most senseless of people; fools, when will you understand? Can he who made the ear, not hear? Can he who formed the eye, not see? Will he who trains nations not punish? Will he who instructs us not have knowledge The Lord knows the thoughts of men. He knows they are no more than a breath (Psalm 94:8-11).
  8. And Jesus looked at them and said … (Cited in dozens of places in all four gospels).

Yes, the look, the mere glance; the fiery eyes of God, which see but also give light.

And to those who love the light, his look can be that of love, even when that look must disclose our sins, hurts, resentments, or erroneous thoughts. Yet it is a look that can heal, even if it first wounds or convicts.

But to those who prefer the darkness (cf John 3:19), the look is blinding, disconcerting, and provokes a wrath in them that they project back on God, who is Love.

And thus from the pillar of fire the Lord cast a glance! In what condition does His glance find you and me? And how do you and I experience His glance?

10 Replies to “The Fire Next Time: A Meditation on the Glance of God from the Fiery Cloud”

  1. Father,
    Good words. Your conclusion calls to mind an observation I’ve heard that “God’s wrath” is how we experience His love when we are in sin.

  2. Thank you, Monsignor for this reminder. I was just feeling discouraged especially when I learned early in yesterday morning of how internal organs of children to be aborted in the wombs are being sold by a doctor haggling on price so she can have a Lamborghini. Totally calloused and insensitive woman and a doctor at that who is suppose to protect lives. Another lady doctor while eating, graphically discussing how to crush the child taking care not to crush the organs. How must these children felt the terrible pain in the womb where these children are suppose to be safest. Yet none of the leading networks ever covered this news except in EWTN evening news and partly in FOX. My GOD, My GOD forgive them even though they know what they do. Let them realize and they themselves feel the pain of what they are doing. LORD please cast a glance over these so called doctors. LORD, let YOUR seven thousand go down on their knees and cry out, for the blood of these innocents are crying out from the grounds and are asking for justice. JESUS, KING of Mercy graciously hear us.

  3. Look not at me, Lord–not yet? For there abound in me worldly maggots, which, with your grace,merciful Lord, I need to get rid of. UIOGD

  4. As for me, Oh LORD, look at me with pity for I am weak, sinful, lazy and loathsome. Have mercy on me, Oh GOD, according to YOUR great compassion blot out my many transgressions, cleanse me from sin, that I may stand in behalf of those who cries for mercy as well.

  5. The revelation of God beginning in the Garden marches through time with his presence in the midst of his people. Sometimes the presence will
    be in silence, sometimes with great power and might, sometimes with an inspiration or word, a convenant that would have God tabernacling
    amongst his people. Such a convenant would bring ultimate victory over death and destruction of sin. The Love of God would be his greatest and
    highest manifestation of himself and his Convenant. We proceed forward with a Love that has shaken Heaven and Earth, beyond all that we
    could imagine. God’s Convenant has risen to the throne of God and will forever dwell.

    1. Yeah every now and then It might be nice to have a pillar of fire, in times like these!

      1. You would think after what Israel witness it would be a holy, thankful people but freewill can say, my will. You would think after Our Lord and Savior came we would be a holy, thankful people with the highest of morals but freewill still says, my will. My will conquers all signs, gifts, blessings, love that God can offer, he is defeated from being my God. God is proceeding with his Kingdom with those who haven’t defeated him.

  6. I think, when the Lord glances at me, most times I see a twinkle in His eye as he bursts into a broad smile. He finds me “adorable,” because I am His child.

    But there were times when I “saw” the fiery flashing eyes of anger in Him, and immediately shrunk in terror, knowing I was in trouble.

    Often I ask Him to let me know what about me displeases Him, so I can fix it. And though I get no direct answer, I become much more aware of my unkindnesses, or selfishness, or words I said (or thought) that did not need to be said (or thought).

    Merciful, slow to anger, rich in compassion. That is He.

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