You could hear it coming for about an hour, thunder in the distance, black clouds boiling in an increasing breeze that brought the smell of rain and ozone. Finally the bottom fell out. You could hardly see the bushes right outside the windows it was raining so hard. Afterward, checks on the clock and the rain gauge would show that it rained 1.9 inches in 20 minutes. Before long, we saw the fruit of Keith’s hours and hours of backbreaking labor, hauling dirt with a shovel and a wheelbarrow, creating a berm around the house. It looked like we were on an island in the middle of a river, its strong current at least four inches deep as the water rushed down the slope, around the house, and toward the run to the east of us. It would keep running nearly two hours after the rain stopped, and we drained just fine, but meanwhile I found myself humming, “The rains came down and the floods came up…”
Suddenly lightning struck in the trees just across the fence to the north. The clap was so loud I screamed, and even Keith, out in the shed without his hearing aids, heard it, and saw a ball of fire at the top of a pine at the same time. He said Magdi shot out from her favorite place under the porch, eyes wide as saucers, circling here and there in the pouring rain looking for someplace safe. He called her into the shed, normally a forbidden place, and petted her dripping and quivering sides until she calmed down. We never saw Chloe until after the storm, but when we did, her tail was plastered down hard between her legs, the end of it curled up under her belly. It didn’t come back up for two days.
That reminded me of the Israelites’ reaction to God at Mt Sinai. They were so terrified of the darkness, thunder, and lightning that they begged Moses that God would no longer speak to them. I find Moses’ reply interesting: Do not fear, for God has come to test you, that the fear of him may be before you that you may not sin, Ex 20:20.
I think that might just be our problem. We aren’t afraid enough any more.
I can remember when a certain phrase was not only forbidden in polite society, it was certainly never said on television or radio. It was considered “taking the Lord’s name in vain.” Now I hear it all the time, even from children. When ten-year-olds have an abbreviation for it in their text messages, “omg,” something has been lost in our reverence for God.
The Word of God is called a book of myths, even by people who claim to live by it, even by some who claim to be its ministers. Religious people are pictured in fiction and drama as bigots, fanatics, hypocrites or maniacs. God, Jesus, Satan, and the struggle against sin are used as comic foils by entertainers. When I start thinking about how far we have gone down this road, it’s a wonder to me that lightning isn’t popping around us constantly.
We, the people of God, have even taken the concept of “the fear of God” and watered it down to the point that it means nothing more than the respect we might show our own fathers. Isaiah, when he had seen merely a vision of God said, Woe is me, for I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips, for my eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts, 6:5. Isaiah was feeling a whole lot more than simple respect. If there was ever a time when he could overcome sin more easily, it was probably in the weeks and months after that vision.
I have a feeling that if we ever stood in the presence of God we would finally understand what the fear of God is all about. Some day we will. I just hope it is not too late.
Any one who has set aside the Law of Moses dies without mercy on the evidence of two or three witnesses. How much worse punishment, do you think, will be deserved by the one who has spurned the Son of God and has profaned the blood of the covenant by which he was sanctified, and has outraged the Spirit of grace? For we know him who said, “Vengeance is mine. I will repay,” and again, “The Lord will judge his people.” It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God, Heb 10:28-31.