November 1, 2020
Recently, my husband and I hiked the banks of Coldwater Lake near Mt. St. Helens. The day was glorious—sun shining, blue water shimmering in the rays of light, the mountain’s volcanic crater looming in a cloudless, azure sky.
We trekked across trickling brooks, waved at kayakers on the lake, and breathed in the pine-like aroma of fir trees.
Along the trail we stopped to delight in a small waterfall cascading down a stream of rocks. Without warning, I felt a sharp sting on my ankle. I looked down and chased away the offending yellow jacket, minimalizing the insect’s message that I hadn’t respected its territory.
Of course the sting hurt, but since I’d been bitten by the little buggers before and had only endured itch and a swollen area, I didn’t think much more about it. Instead, I focused on scenery to take my mind off the pain.
However, soon my hands were red and swollen and my neck and chest bumpy with hives. During the hour’s walk back to the car, more hives appeared, their burning itchiness growing beyond annoying.
Arriving at the parking lot, I still had no cell service to Google danger signs of the attack. The scarlet ring expanding around the site of the bite, along with the heat and hardness of it, alarmed me. But even scarier were the marble-size lumps erupting on my neck and head.
My husband raced down the mountainous terrain. Two hours after the sting, we pulled into a roadside market for antihistamine tablets. While my husband was inside the store, I searched “yellow jacket stings” on my phone internet service. Yikes, I had the symptoms of a severe reaction—all except restricted breathing, the next step to death!
I called my daughter to join me in prayer because by this time 80% of my body was burning, swollen, and itching.
Before this incident I had no fear of yellow jackets.
This morning when I stepped outside, one of the little zingers zoomed in on me. I respected his territory and moved quickly with a fresh, healthy fear of what the creature could do. Next time I might not be so fortunate to survive its powerful poison. Just in case, I now carry an epinephrine injector.
Fear is a God-given response to danger designed to protect us from harm.
When you hear the word “fear”, what images come to mind? Someone who is . . .
- Fleeing for her or his life?
- Cowering in a corner?
- Paralyzed in the situation?
- Shaking uncontrollably?
- Standing firm, facing fear?
- Moving resolutely out of the way of danger?
While each of these responses is valid to imminent threat, there is another fear mentioned in the Bible—the fear of God.
Does this mean we are to flee from our Creator, cower, freeze, or boldly have a face-off with God?
The answer is NO, not when we understand fully what it is to fear God.
To fear God is to revere Him, be in awe of Him, to worship Him. To respect His almighty power.
In order to do these things, we must know God, understand who He is, His nature. When we grasp this, we then can respect His might and sovereignty.
“The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge, but fools despise wisdom and discipline.”—Proverbs 1:7 (NIV)
The fear of the Lord starts with understanding God is love, and because of His passionate love for us, He is just.
Our Heavenly Father wants us to embrace His love.
To fully experience God’s love, it is vital (as in . . . it is life and death) for us to respect the Lord’s power and His response to sin.
He lovingly disciplines us. Thank heavens, for without correction, how wayward would we become? The answer to that is obvious in the lives of murderers, thieves, and abusers.
“The fear of the Lord leads to life: Then one rests content, untouched by trouble.”—Proverbs 19:23—Proverbs 19:23 (NIV)
“He who fears the Lord has a secure fortress, and for his children it will be a refuge. The fear of the Lord is a fountain of life, turning a man from the snares of death.”—Proverbs 14:26-27 (NIV)
God is love. God is just. And, Hebrews 12:29 tells us God is a consuming fire.
What does it mean that God is a consuming fire? How can a loving and merciful Father also be a consuming fire that utterly destroys?
Moses referred to God as a consuming (or devouring) fire who would go ahead of the Israelites into the Promised Land, destroying and subduing their enemies before them. The Bible reveals again and again how much the Lord loves His children and wants only the best for us.
Which is why when we refuse to remain in His care, He does what it takes to encourage us back under His protection. God does not tolerate evil. When we turn away from Him, we step into dangerous territory where harm can come to us.
One example of this is shown in the story of Sodom and Gomorrah. God destroyed the cities, raining down fire and brimstone because the people had abandoned their relationship with God and sunk deep into sin.
“Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, let us be thankful, and so worship God acceptably with reverence and awe, for our ‘God is a consuming fire.’”—Hebrews 12:28-29 (NIV)
Can any one of us completely grasp the immense power of our Creator? We can only draw near to an understanding of it when we consider that He parted the Red Sea, raised Lazarus from the dead, made Elisha’s iron axe head float to the surface of the Jordan River, among other biblical accounts of miracles. Any one of these ought to lead one to fear God.
Having experienced what yellow jackets can do, I will no longer minimalize their ability to deal a death blow.
On the grandest scale of all, nor will I minimalize who God is and what He is capable of. I marvel at His power. Perhaps this is how I fear God, knowing and understanding that He will use His might in righteousness. For as Matthew 10:28 forewarns: “Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather, be afraid of the One who can destroy both soul and body in hell.” (NIV)
I am thankful for a safe-driving husband, a praying daughter, medication, but more than anything for my Father God who loves me and takes good care of me.
PRAYER: Precious, loving Father, may the following verses from Proverbs be my prayer, my desire, that I would fear You (worship and respect your power) all my days:
“My son, if you accept my words and store up my commands within you, turning your ear to wisdom and applying your heart to understanding, and if you call out for insight and cry aloud for understanding, and if you look for it as for silver and search for it as for hidden treasure, then you will understand the fear of the Lord and find the knowledge of God.”—Proverbs 2:1-5 (NIV)
THOUGHT FOR THE DAY:
Consider how mighty God is to have orchestrated the removal of the top of Mt. St. Helens in the photo above. (Taken the day of my hike.)