Thursday, 17th Week in Ordinary Time—Year I

In the daytime, the Hebrews saw the cloud of the Lord over the meeting tent. But at night, fire was seen in the cloud. In the daytime, the cloud above the meeting tent seemed to invite communion. But at night, the cloud seemed to threaten.

Was there always fire in the cloud, night and day? I suspect that there was, even though it could only be seen in the night, for God appeared to Moses in the burning bush as fire, and as the letter to the Hebrews says, “our God is a consuming fire.” The cloud itself did not change. The difference was one of perspective, whether you looked at the presence of God from within the light, or in darkness.

The same thing may apply for vastly different experiences of heaven and hell. In the parable about the end of this age, Jesus describes how the good and bad fish will be sorted out, as Wisconsin fishermen separate carp from bass, muskie, & trout. The bad will be separated from the good.  In this way, after the judgment, the wicked will no long be able to cause harm to the saints. The good will be gathered together. The bad will be widely scattered.

For the saints, God’s presence will be as the welcoming, mysterious cloud; but for the condemned, even the outermost reaches of God’s presence will be a fiery furnace. There will be no escaping Him, for nowhere in the universe is there a perfect hiding place from God. Our God is a consuming fire of goodness, truth, justice, and love.

Forever frustrated and angry, the wicked will long to be farther and farther from Him, for this movement away from Him has defined their lives on Earth. But for the saints, the goodness, truth, justice, and love belonging to God will be like home. For in their lives, the saints, like the psalmist, prefer the house of God to dwelling in the tents of the wicked.

So Christian disciples, yearn and pine for the courts of the Lord. Continue to follow the cloud of His presence, and He will lead to your promised home.

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