A Great Cloud of Witnesses
Wherefore seeing we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses.…
Do you see the word “cloud” in the verse above? It is taken from the Greek word nephos. It describes clouds — just like the clouds you see in the sky. When most people read this verse, they imagine big, fluffy white clouds with Old Testament saints scattered mystically throughout the glorious white billows. But is this really the picture that Hebrews 12:1 means to convey to us?
The Greek word nephos, translated “clouds,” has an additional meaning that is very exciting when understood in this context. In ancient, classical Greek times, the word “clouds” was used to describe the highest seats in the bleachers of a stadium. The seats at the very top of the stadium were called the clouds because they were so high up in the air. If you had gone to a sports competition with a ticket for one of these seats, your usher might have said, “Your seat is in the clouds today.” This meant you’d be seated in the highest row available in the bleachers.
We have seen before (see January 24) that the phrase “compassed about” is taken from the word peikeimenai, which is a compound of the words peri and keimai. The word peri means around, as to be completely encircled by something. The second part of the word, keimai, means to lie down. When these two words are compounded into one word, they mean to lie around, as if something has been piled high and is lying all around you on every side. This portrays the idea of being completely encircled by something that is stacked high on every side.
Thus, this verse carries the following idea: “Wherefore seeing we have lying all around us on every side.…” or “Wherefore seeing these biblical examples who are piled up and lying all around us….” But to make this point even stronger, the Holy Spirit uses the word “clouds.” Why is this so vital?
In Hebrews 12:1, the Holy Spirit is emphasizing:
“You’re not alone! The grandstands of Heaven all the way up to the ‘clouds,’ the highest seats in the bleachers, are piled high with people who stood the test of time and eventually saw their faith manifested….”
Let me stress again that the Greek word nephos (“clouds”) depicted the highest seats in a sports stadium. This is a powerful image because it jogs our memory to the fact that our walk of faith will remove us from the spectator sections and will put us right in the middle of the fight!
The devil hates it when people take a stand of faith or when they do something that benefits the Kingdom of God and drives back darkness. Like an opponent would do in a natural fight, Satan may try to wrestle you, pin you down, or even try to knock you out of the race altogether.
So when you have become illuminated with direction for your life, business, family, or ministry, you need to know that the contest has just begun. You are on the field. All eyes are on you. The fight of faith is on! But if you’ll look up into the bleachers of Heaven for just a moment, you’ll see that they are stacked all the way to the “clouds” with people just like you!
Just as you are taking steps of obedience now, the bleachers of Heaven are filled with people who have already faced the enemy and won their fight. They faced the impossible; they accomplished the unthinkable; and they stand as proof that you can make it too. They’re all cheering you on to victory! Just listen with the ears of faith, and you’ll hear them saying, “Go for it! You can do it! Your faith will carry you through!”
My Prayer for Today
Lord, thank You for reminding me that I am not the first to walk by faith. Others have walked this walk before me, and they did it with power and with grace. If they were able to do it, I know I can do it too, but I must have Your assistance to make it all the way through. So today I look to You to give me everything I inwardly need to keep marching ahead in order to achieve the things You have ordained for me!
I pray this in Jesus’ name!
My Confession for Today
I confess that I can do whatever God asks me to do! He wouldn’t ask me if He didn’t think I could do it. Rather than doubt my abilities, I confess that His ability is working inside me. I lean on the Holy Spirit — His mind, His power, and His grace — and these divine forces enable me to successfully achieve the things He has designed for me to do today
I declare this by faith in Jesus’ name!
Questions to Answer
1. How has your life changed since God spoke to you and gave you a specific assignment?
2. What should you do to stir yourself up and get encouraged when you are in the middle of a battle?
3. Who are your favorite Old Testament characters? Can you say why they are your favorites or why you find yourself relating to them so much?