More things ... 21 (2)

Sermon Tone Analysis
View more →

The Rider of the Clouds

A few of the fundamental elements of the Old Testament mosaic are familiar and we will not take the time to analyze those. One of these is kingship. The Israelite kingship had a quasi-divine flavor, which was common in the Near East - civilizations believed kingship was instituted by the gods. In Israel’s case, the human king was chosen or adopted into the role of the “son of God” to carry out Yahweh’s rule. This official status was legitimized to only one dynasty in Israel - the line of David.
Although it is clear how that would be important to the messianic claim, it leaves us with an important question: Would the messiah be truly divine — Yahweh incarnate - or would he be merely thought to be divine, by adoption? By the time of Jesus’ birth - as God incarnate - Jews were intellectually acclimated to the idea of Yahweh being (at least) in human form, including being embodied. The incarnation takes that notion another step. There is indeed clear indication from the Old Testament that Israel’s final Davidic rule would be God become man — an idea reinforced by the New Testament - particularly in one telling scene.

The Divine Council Meeting of Daniel 7

All roads seem to intersect with the divine council idea somewhere. The divine nature of the messiah is no exception. The idea derives from a divine council scene in Daniel 7. The scene begins with an odd vision. Daniel sees four beasts coming out of the sea. The fourth beast is the most terrifying and imposing. We learn that the four beasts represent four empires, as had been the case with Nebuchadnezzar’s dream in Daniel 2. Then we read
Daniel 7:9–10 ESV
“As I looked, thrones were placed, and the Ancient of Days took his seat; his clothing was white as snow, and the hair of his head like pure wool; his throne was fiery flames; its wheels were burning fire. A stream of fire issued and came out from before him; a thousand thousands served him, and ten thousand times ten thousand stood before him; the court sat in judgment, and the books were opened.
Several things jump out at us right away. First, we know that the Ancient of Days is the God of Israel because the description of his throne as fiery and having wheels matches that of the vision of Ezekiel 1. Ezekiel’s vision also included a human figure on the throne of God. Second, there are many thrones in heaven, not just one (throne were placed). These thrones mark the presence of the divine council. Third the council is called to session to decide the fate of the beasts - national empires. The decision of the council is to slay (11-12) the fourth beast and removed the dominion of all the beasts is important for eschatology, but that’s peripheral to our focus here. We are searching for a divine messiah
Daniel 7:13–14 ESV
“I saw in the night visions, and behold, with the clouds of heaven there came one like a son of man, and he came to the Ancient of Days and was presented before him. And to him was given dominion and glory and a kingdom, that all peoples, nations, and languages should serve him; his dominion is an everlasting dominion, which shall not pass away, and his kingdom one that shall not be destroyed.
There is a lot to unpack here. It is clear from the text that the Ancient of Days (the God of Israel) and the “one like a son of man” are different characters in the scene. “Son of Man” is a fairly common phrase in the Old Testament. Ezekiel, for example, is called “son of man” dozens of times in the Book. The phrase simply means “human one,” and so Daniel describes someone who appeared human coming on or with the clouds to the Ancient of Days. It it that description that points in the direction of a second deity figure in the scene. We are back to the concept of two Yahweh figures we saw earlier in the Old Testament.

The Cloud Rider

The first thing we need to understand is the wider ancient context for this description. We’ve mentioned other ancient literature often as we have talked about this topic and this will not be an exception. In the Ugarit texts (close neighbor to the north), the god Baal is called :the one who rides in the clouds.” The description became an official title of Baal, whom the entire Near Eastern realm considered a deity of rank. To ancient people all over the Mediterranean, Israelite or not, the “one who rides the clouds” was a deity — his status as a god unquestioned. Consequently, any figure to whom the title was attributed was a god.
Old Testament writers were aware of this language and assigned the “cloud rider” to Yahweh.
Deuteronomy 33:26 ESV
“There is none like God, O Jeshurun, who rides through the heavens to your help, through the skies in his majesty.
Psalm 68:23–33 ESV
that you may strike your feet in their blood, that the tongues of your dogs may have their portion from the foe.” Your procession is seen, O God, the procession of my God, my King, into the sanctuary— the singers in front, the musicians last, between them virgins playing tambourines: “Bless God in the great congregation, the Lord, O you who are of Israel’s fountain!” There is Benjamin, the least of them, in the lead, the princes of Judah in their throng, the princes of Zebulun, the princes of Naphtali. Summon your power, O God, the power, O God, by which you have worked for us. Because of your temple at Jerusalem kings shall bear gifts to you. Rebuke the beasts that dwell among the reeds, the herd of bulls with the calves of the peoples. Trample underfoot those who lust after tribute; scatter the peoples who delight in war. Nobles shall come from Egypt; Cush shall hasten to stretch out her hands to God. O kingdoms of the earth, sing to God; sing praises to the Lord, Selah to him who rides in the heavens, the ancient heavens; behold, he sends out his voice, his mighty voice.
Psalm 104:1–4 ESV
Bless the Lord, O my soul! O Lord my God, you are very great! You are clothed with splendor and majesty, covering yourself with light as with a garment, stretching out the heavens like a tent. He lays the beams of his chambers on the waters; he makes the clouds his chariot; he rides on the wings of the wind; he makes his messengers winds, his ministers a flaming fire.
Isaiah 19:1 ESV
An oracle concerning Egypt. Behold, the Lord is riding on a swift cloud and comes to Egypt; and the idols of Egypt will tremble at his presence, and the heart of the Egyptians will melt within them.
The literary tactic made a theological statement. The effect was to displace or snub Baal and hold up Yahweh as the deity who legitimately rode through the heavens surveying and governing the world.
Daniel 7:13 ESV
“I saw in the night visions, and behold, with the clouds of heaven there came one like a son of man, and he came to the Ancient of Days and was presented before him.
This is the lone exception to the pattern of using this title for the God of Israel. There is a second figure — a human figure — that receives this description. Dan 7 describes two powers in heaven - two Yahweh figures, since, in all other places in the Old Testament the cloud rider is Yahweh.
Just as importantly, the one who rides the clouds receives everlasting kingship from the Ancient of Days. Everlasting kingship belongs only to the son of David. This is some of the messianic mosaic. The ultimate son of David, the messianic king, will be both human (son of man) and God (the rider of the clouds) And that is just what we see in the NT.

Jesus as Daniel’s Son of Man, the Cloud Rider

With respect to New Testament studies, the phrase “son of man” is hotly debated. Since is means “human one” and was a title used of prophets in the OT — many see no divine status attached to it. That is likely the case in most occurrences of Jesus (fully man, fully God). In Dan. 7:13 above is it declaration of deity. There is no wiggle room there.
Two texts in Luke make a transparent connection between the profile of the suffering Messiah (anointed one - -christos) and the son of man phrase.
Luke 17:24–25 ESV
For as the lightning flashes and lights up the sky from one side to the other, so will the Son of Man be in his day. But first he must suffer many things and be rejected by this generation.
Luke 24:26 ESV
Was it not necessary that the Christ should suffer these things and enter into his glory?”
But the most dramatic passage in regard to Jesus as the divine son of man is Matthew 26. In this scene Jesus is standing before Caiphas prior to his condemnation and crucifixion.
Matthew 26:57–66 ESV
Then those who had seized Jesus led him to Caiaphas the high priest, where the scribes and the elders had gathered. And Peter was following him at a distance, as far as the courtyard of the high priest, and going inside he sat with the guards to see the end. Now the chief priests and the whole council were seeking false testimony against Jesus that they might put him to death, but they found none, though many false witnesses came forward. At last two came forward and said, “This man said, ‘I am able to destroy the temple of God, and to rebuild it in three days.’ ” And the high priest stood up and said, “Have you no answer to make? What is it that these men testify against you?” But Jesus remained silent. And the high priest said to him, “I adjure you by the living God, tell us if you are the Christ, the Son of God.” Jesus said to him, “You have said so. But I tell you, from now on you will see the Son of Man seated at the right hand of Power and coming on the clouds of heaven.” Then the high priest tore his robes and said, “He has uttered blasphemy. What further witnesses do we need? You have now heard his blasphemy. What is your judgment?” They answered, “He deserves death.”
In what seems like a cryptic answer to a clear question Jesus quotes Dan 7: 13 to answer Caiaphas. The reaction is swift and unyielding, Caiaphas understood that Jesus was claiming to be the second Yahweh figure of Daniel 7:13 and that was an intolerable blasphemy. This is what the priest needed for a death sentence, but it also give clear testimony of Jesus as the final son of David, God incarnate, through whom the disinhereited nations would be reclaimed.
As with the ancient conquest under Joshua, that dominion isn’t going to come without conflict. But this time, there will be no failure at the end of the campaign. God’s message of the messianic mosaic to those hostile gods opposing his global Edenic vision was, “You’ll never know what hit you.” One more thing to say to them — you can try and stop this but you will die like men,
Related Media
See more
Related Sermons
See more