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Remember... Depend on God

What clouds teach me, because of David's Psalm (video + article)

Nicole Hanson

5/14/20247 min read

Watch the video and/or read the transcript. Leave your comments below.

Psalm 18, Clouds, and Dependence on God

A Moment of Astonishment

It was the early 2000’s, at a time before I became someone who read scripture.

The Bible was unknown to me. I knew the popular stories, though I don’t remember reading the Bible much for myself.

This day, the day in question, I played in my grandparent’s finished basement with my cousins. One of my cousins picked up a Bible, flipped it open, and read a psalm at random. I don’t remember why, though perhaps it was because of a prompt from the Holy Spirit.

This was a pivotal moment for me.

The images jumped off the page and I felt astonished. I hadn’t realized the Bible could be so descriptive, dramatic, and full of so much happening.

David’s descriptions played vividly in my mind, and I could see it. The storm, God’s nearness, and my own dependence on God.

It was as if a whole new world had been opened to me, and everyone else seemed oblivious.

“If that’s what the Bible is like, I want to read it!”

So I did.

I don’t remember if I had a particular reading plan, or what my Bible reading looked like. I just know that, by the time I entered high school, it was a regular, important habit for me.

And at every thunderstorm, I would pull out my Bible, sit near a window, and read the beginning of that Psalm aloud once again.

The Lord Is My Rock and My Fortress

6 In my distress I called upon the Lord;

to my God I cried for help.

From his temple he heard my voice,

and my cry to him reached his ears.

7 Then the earth reeled and rocked;

the foundations also of the mountains trembled

and quaked, because he was angry.

8 Smoke went up from his nostrils,

and devouring fire from his mouth;

glowing coals flamed forth from him.

9 He bowed the heavens and came down;

thick darkness was under his feet.

10 He rode on a cherub and flew;

he came swiftly on the wings of the wind.

11 He made darkness his covering, his canopy around him,

thick clouds dark with water.

12 Out of the brightness before him

hailstones and coals of fire broke through his clouds.

13 The Lord also thundered in the heavens,

and the Most High uttered his voice,

hailstones and coals of fire.

14 And he sent out his arrows and scattered them;

he flashed forth lightnings and routed them.

15 Then the channels of the sea were seen,

and the foundations of the world were laid bare

at your rebuke, O Lord,

at the blast of the breath of your nostrils.

16 He sent from on high, he took me;

he drew me out of many waters.

17 He rescued me from my strong enemy

and from those who hated me,

for they were too mighty for me.

18 They confronted me in the day of my calamity,

but the Lord was my support.

19 He brought me out into a broad place;

he rescued me, because he delighted in me.

Psalm 18:1-19 and then continuing:

Comfort Because of the Storm

My heart was drawn to the idea that God Himself fights against my sins (my enemies are less flesh-and-blood than David’s) as fiercely as a storm when I call on him for that help.

I don’t remember being afraid of storms as a kid. I remember thunderstorms meaning we would sit on the deep front porch as a family, breathing in the fresh smell of rain and counting the distance between lightning and thunder.

I would occasionally cower from a particularly near, sharp, and loud whip of thunder, though now, even if I jump at the sound, I smile gleefully.

“LORD!” I would think in prayer, remembering verses 13-14 “Thunder from heaven, send your lightning arrows to scatter my sin! Cleanse and rescue me! Just like this storm, attack my sin and purify me!”

I had chosen Jesus as my savior at a young age, so I knew that Jesus had already saved me from my sins. This prayer was something else, something I would learn to call sanctification: learning to turn away from opportunities to sin, and becoming like Jesus.

When the Clouds Bow

In April, I saw the clouds David was talking about!

Basically, anyway.

I’m used to clouds that float in the sky like puffballs, or that look like lumps of blue-tinged mashed potatoes on a glass tabletop, with their bottoms uniformly flat. Or cloudy days where there’s no sky between the clouds, just gray, with no clues about what they look like from above.

But that day on my way to work, as I backed out of the driveway, I saw the clouds that the house had been hiding: some with wavy bottoms, and then, just to the right, lower clouds that slanted upwards to a higher plain where they bottomed out again.

Those clouds recalled David’s psalm. My first thought when I saw that formation was, “He bowed the heavens and came down; thick darkness was under his feet” (Psalm 18:9).

Familiarity with Scripture

If that’s not motivation to become familiar with scripture, I don’t know what is! I love it when a verse or idea from the Bible is my first thought. And since I used to read Psalm 18 during every thunderstorm, I had unknowingly set it up as a cue: when I see storms or storm clouds, David’s words jump to mind.

Since that’s how my mind works, I decided to hack it. I’m intentional, now, about pairing truths from scripture with visual cues. That way, whenever I see something that’s a cue, I remember scripture. I love how it draws my attention back to God and sets me meditating on His word again.

Dew Point

Weather is one of my favorite things. My browser home page takes me to a view of North America tracking the high and low-pressure systems, and often, with the low-pressure systems, expected rain.

Since “clouds form when air is cooled to its dewpoint” (source), those “mashed potatoes on a glass tabletop” clouds mean that the dew point in the atmosphere is all the same, and the clouds are as low as they can go.

To see a cloud that looks like it’s “bowing down” to bring God to earth, a cloud whose base is at different heights from one end to the other, would mean that the air temperature and dew point in the atmosphere differ. Then, the dew point would be a little lower on one end than the other, and different from the clouds in front compared to the clouds behind.

Knowing all this about clouds is great fun for me! I love knowing the reasons behind why things happen. It helps solidify the visual cue for me.

Now, when I see a cloud that is “bowing down” I can’t help but remember a few facts about dew point-- as well as what this visual brought to mind for David when he penned that psalm.

Imagining David

While the slanting of the clouds is very scientific, they still work as a visual cue. They still prompt me to draw my attention back to God and his nearness because it first pointed David’s attention back to God.

I imagine David sitting there, hiding in a cave, watching a storm pass, having recently escaped another of Saul's attempts on his life. I imagine him breathing in the fresh smell of rain, eyes on the clouds. Seeing the lightning, hearing the dramatic cracks of thunder, seeing the slant of the cloud.

I imagine him thinking, “LORD, this storm is just like how you rescued me from King Saul! You are so near to me, just like those clouds bending down.” I imagine him making the connections, grabbing something to write with, and scribbling out his first draft.

David’s Dependence on God

Psalm 18 absolutely drips with dependence.

From what I read in this psalm, David’s other psalms, and the stories recorded in 1 & 2 Samuel and 1 Chronicles, David depended on God.

He didn’t just say he relied on God, David did rely on God.

He knew he didn’t earn kingship. He knew he didn’t defeat Goliath alone, that he didn’t evade Saul alone, that he didn’t achieve battle victories on his own.

David knew it was God working through him.

Goodness, I could learn a lesson from David’s humility! What would it take to realize how dependent on God I truly am?

Perhaps David would be ashamed to realize how many of his victories we attribute to him when he was trying to point attention back to God.

Two Kind of Dependence

I see two kinds of dependence in David’s psalm (which is also recorded in 2 Samuel 22). First, when he depends on God for rescue, and second when God trains David to pursue the enemies.

When David needs God to rescue him, he recognizes his dependence on God. And when David is the one fighting the enemies, David still recognizes his dependence on God. I think this is important.

31 For who is God, but the LORD?

And who is a rock, except our God?—

32 the God who equipped me with strength

and made my way blameless.

33 He made my feet like the feet of a deer

and set me secure on the heights.

34 He trains my hands for war,

so that my arms can bend a bow of bronze.

35 You have given me the shield of your salvation,

and your right hand supported me,

and your gentleness made me great.

36 You gave a wide place for my steps under me,

and my feet did not slip.

37 I pursued my enemies and overtook them,

and did not turn back till they were consumed.

Psalm 18:31-37

David says, “God equipped me, made my feet like the feet of a deer, and trained my hands for war” so that he could pursue and overtake his enemies.

David recognized that even when he made choices and took action, he depended on God for the preparation and the outcome.

Being rescued and taking action both require trusting God and depending on him.

Depending on God while Taking Action

It bothered me for a long time that David attributed his success to God when David himself took action.

If my ability to take action and make choices are superseded by God’s will, it doesn’t feel much like “choice”. If God’s going to do what God’s going to do, why do my actions and choices matter?

While talking about this with some friends, it started to click.

This is the way I understand it, now:

“I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the growth” (1 Cor 3:6 https://biblehub.com/1_corinthians/3-6.htm)

It is still God who gives the growth, no seed will grow if no seed has been planted.

So I will watch for God’s direction, instead of taking the way that seems best to me (Proverbs 16:9 NASB, Proverbs 3:5-6 ESV). I will take action, and watch for God to use my action to accomplish God’s will on earth as it is in heaven. (Matthew 6:10)