God’s throne is dynamic and supernatural, and is as much in each believer as it is in heaven. Yet there is the truth that we cannot behold His glory and live. While He shields us in Christ, He also reveals His glory in the ‘cloud’ of each believer so His light reveals the surrounding darkness in ourselves and in the world.
Clouds and darkness surround Him; Righteousness and justice are the foundation of His throne. (Psalm 97:2)
We catch a glimpse of the incredible glory of God in a watch a sunrise or sunset, or when the sun emerges after a violent storm in luminous light and colour. Light can transform a panorama or our tiny garden landscape. As I woke to another day of grey and drizzle and no visible sunset – no, I’m not complaining but rejoicing along with my little garden at the desperately needed rain – today’s verse came to mind. A parallel emerged between the clouds around His throne and the way the clouds hide the sunrise. Not, of course, that the glory of the sun can ever compete with His glory, but the principle of ‘cloud cover’ is relevant when we consider the full reality of God’s throne. While we don’t, under normal circumstances, need a covering over the sun, God’s throne is and must be always viewed through His protective cloud.
God’s throne is where He reigns from.
While it must be true that God’s throne is in heaven because the Bible tells us this, He is Spirit and is therefore not limited to reigning only from this ‘fixed’ throne. He is able to presence Himself everywhere and anywhere. We can see this clearly when He led the Israelites out of Egypt. He presenced Himself among them as pillar of cloud and fire. It was from the midst of the pillars that He guided, directed, and taught them – He reigned from the pillars through His sovereign presence and direction. What this means is that the presence of God is always accompanied by rule and reign. Even when loving us and comforting us or showing compassion, He is still our God who reigns. Every response and action He takes is done in the truth that He is both almighty and sovereign. He rules in all things.
This doesn’t mean that His rule in us is somehow separate from that of His heavenly throne. God is never diluted by the fact that He reigns anywhere He pleases and can presence Himself with all of His people at any given time wherever we are. He does this individually and corporately, but His rule remains one single rule that extends or is directed form His throne in heaven. He does all this through the power of His Holy Spirit. It’s imperative that we understand that God’s throne is not a static, inanimate thing. It is a supernatural seat of power rather than a chair in a grand room such as worldly royalty uses as a symbolic indication of power. His throne is dynamic because it is made up of who He is. It’s an integral part of God that becomes active anywhere He rules and reigns.
Clouds surround God’s throne.
As I pondered this image, the Spirit reminded me of when Moses asked to see God’s glory. It’s easy to try to compartmentalise God into neat little boxes so we can understand Him better. But His glory cannot be separated from who He is. That glory is a visible manifestation of His power, holiness, sovereignty…it is the full reflection of the whole of the I AM. Given the magnitude and limitless nature of God we can never hope to measure, this glory is simply too much for frail humanity to witness in full. A good example is when Moses returned from this meeting with God. The people begged him to cover his face because the reflected – overflow – glory of God was so immense that they couldn’t look at him. If this is the reflected glory in simple man, what would the full glory of God do to us?
God knows that seeing His glory would, quite literally, kill us. For this reason, He undertakes to shield Moses. He hides him in a cleft in the rock and shields him with His own hand. It is only after God passes by that Moses can look on His back. What we need to take hold of here is that no one can see God’s face and live. The second truth is that God Himself puts the ‘cloud’ in place to shield us from the destruction that would come if we saw His full glory. This does not diminish the truth that His throne is present everywhere God reigns. It may be shielded to protect us but it’s neither invisible nor unrecognisable. The sovereign glory and power of God revealed in God’s throne are eternally present, real, and identifiable. The shield protects us. It doesn’t diminish His glory and reign.
Darkness around God’s throne.
The word darkness here doesn’t have an entirely negative connotation. It’s a simple result of the light of who God is. Anything that isn’t contained in the light is opposite to the light. His light extends as far as His will allows, and everything outside of that is darkness. Light will always highlight darkness. To understand this, consider a lighted candle in a room. The immediate glow brightens the immediate area. But the far edges of the room appear to seem darker than. On the one hand this does emphasise the separation between darkness and light that is ordained by God. At the same time, it reminds us that the way to the light is through the darkness. To reach God’s throne – who alone is pure light – we must press through the dark places towards Him. He is veiled in cloud, but even darkness cannot conceal Him from us.
The most significant truth regarding the darkness is that light always highlights darkness. It reveals all things that are not of God and hinder our relationship with Him. Anything ‘unholy’ will show as darkness in the light of God’s holiness and glory. It cannot hide or masquerade or anything else. This is the evidence of the sovereign rule of God. Where He reigns – establishes His throne – He will always reveal the things we need to push through and deal with. This does not diminish His grace, love, mercy, and compassion. These are and always will remain a vital part of the rule of God in our lives. God Himself assures Moses of this in this wonderful encounter. But if we desire to draw near to the God’s throne, we must be willing to allow His light to reveal the darkness. We must always push through the darkness of self.
God’s throne and righteousness and justice.
The passage from Moses – Exodus 33:17-23 – highlights a crucial truth that adds clarity to today’s verse. Moses asks to see God’s glory, and God responds that He will make His goodness pass before him. This provides an important insight into the nature of God’s throne and His glory. Goodness and righteousness are interchangeable. This isn’t the ‘goodness’ that we use to define human kindness, compassion, etc. It is goodness made up of God’s perfect righteousness – holiness – and His perfect justice. God is perfectly righteous, but we are not. Because He is righteous, He sent Jesus to make a way for us to approach His throne and not be destroyed. In a way, Jesus is the ‘cloud’ which shields us, the Rock in which we hide under the cover of His loving hand. Justice is met and righteousness obtained only through Christ who is our perfect, complete covering.
Today’s verse reminds us that this righteousness and justice are the foundation of God’s throne. They are, therefore, the source of His glory. Because God is utterly holy, His righteousness and justice are also holy. They manifest in the glory which surrounds God’s throne. What this means is that where God rules, He must do so in righteousness and justice because that is who and what He is. The light that surrounds God is that of perfect righteousness and justice from a holy God. Yet God desires to rule in us, to establish His throne in our lives. His purpose is not to destroy us but to transform us, and He has given Himself in His Son to protect us and make that possible. God has a glorious throne in heaven, but He extends that to each and every believer by His sovereign rule through Christ in us.
Living as God’s throne.
It’s an incredible privilege to have God’s throne established in us. This is what it means to live for His glory – to reveal the sovereign rule and reign of God in our lives. We have the assurance that He will shield us with the blood of the Lamb. He will protect us with His own hand while He reveals His glory in and through us. At the same time, we can be certain that He will reveal the darkness that surrounds His throne in us. His light will radiate and push at all the things that need attention, and our lives in Him will be a process of shaking off the darkness to reach deeper into Him. That light will also reflect the darkness of the world which is the critical purpose of God’s throne in us.
Those who do not know God are in darkness. His full light would destroy them, but we in Christ become the cloud that shields them. These frail human vessels are used by God to protect those He is drawing close. He wants to save them, not destroy them. To do so, the glory of God’s throne is revealed in us to reflect His light to the world.
Sovereign Lord, establish Your throne in us today in greater measure. Thank You for the assurance that we are covered and protected and kept safe in Your Son. Help us to face the darkness that hinders us and to push through to Your glory. Your will and purposes are sovereign. May Your perfect righteous and justice work in us to draw others to Your throne.