Counting Clouds

The next time you encounter a beautiful, blue-sky, partly cloudy day, I challenge you to find an obstruction-free location where you can see the open sky, look up, and count how many clouds you see. As you can no doubt imagine, this is an incredible task! There are numerous complexities that oppose an accurate count. Some of these include...

1. The nebulousness of your survey area. How far north, south, east, and west will you count clouds? It is difficult to put boundaries on the open sky, as any Midwesterner or Montanan will tell you.

2. The ever-changing nature of clouds. Clouds are always changing shape, dividing, combining, forming, and evaporating to create new patterns in the sky. You could never complete the counting process without the total number of clouds changing.

3. The horizon. Obviously, you cannot count clouds over the horizon.

4. Your limited perspective. Although it might be relatively easy to count clouds directly over your head, as your angle of observation (i.e., view angle) decreases from the vertical, more and more cloud bases will begin to obscure adjacent or distant cloud tops, making it impossible to tell where one cloud ends and another cloud begins. In other words, clouds at low view angles will start to "run together."

5. The presence of thin clouds. Some clouds are extremely thin or "wispy," and if they are at high altitudes or great horizontal distances from you, then you may not detect them.

6. The fact that clouds are always moving. Moving objects are a challenge to count, as any Kindergarten teacher on a school field trip can attest.

7. The likelihood that you'll lose count in the process. And when you do lose count, complexities #2 and #6 (above) will preclude an accurate recount.

In truth, then, my challenge to you is an exercise in futility! No matter your level of mathematical expertise or the precision with which you approach life's endeavors, you will never be able to count the clouds...accurately, that is.

So, it is no surprise that in Job 38:37, God admonishes Job with these words of correction in the form of a rhetorical question: "Who has the wisdom to count the clouds?" The clear message that God is sending Job is that he (Job) is unable to accomplish this task because of his finite wisdom. However, as we all know, God is not burdened with such human frailties as lack of wisdom. God possesses infinite and inscrutable wisdom (see Job 12:13, Isaiah 40:28, Romans 11:33); thus, the sensible reader is to presume that He (God) can count the clouds. That is to say, God can do what we mere humans cannot do, namely, the impossible.

You know, we so often live our lives like we must deal with all of our problems alone--as if we have what it takes in and of ourselves to handle life's exigencies. Yet, just as God corrects Job, He also corrects us. We are merely finite beings who possess very little ability on our own. We have severe limitations! Fortunately, we serve a God who can do anything, including such impossibilities as cloud counting! You might ask, "Who would want to count the clouds anyway? What's the point?" Well, I've never seriously considered moving mountains, creating galaxies, flooding an entire planet, or counting the hairs on my head either, but when I consider a God who can do these sorts of things, I stand in awe. And who can put a number on awe? I certainly cannot...but I still want it!

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