In my distress I called upon the Lord,
Yes, I cried to my God;
And from His temple He heard my voice,
And my cry for help came into His ears.
Then the earth shook and quaked,
The foundations of heaven were trembling
And were shaken, because He was angry.
Smoke went up out of His nostrils,
Fire from His mouth devoured;
Coals were kindled by it.
He bowed the heavens also, and came down
With thick darkness under His feet.
And He rode on a cherub and flew;
And He appeared on the wings of the wind.
And He made darkness canopies around Him,
A mass of waters, thick clouds of the sky.
From the brightness before Him
Coals of fire were kindled.
The Lord thundered from heaven,
And the Most High uttered His voice.
And He sent out arrows, and scattered them,
Lightning, and routed them.
Then the channels of the sea appeared,
The foundations of the world were laid bare
By the rebuke of the Lord,
At the blast of the breath of His nostrils.
(2 Samuel 22:7-16 NASB)
Let’s sing another ‘hymn’ or ‘praise song’ to our Lord! Raise your hands to our loving father! And of course, tremble in absolute utter inability to think a rational thought completely overwhelmed by what His glory truly looks like…
We say glib and trite things like we want God to be close, we want Him to hold us close, and so on. But really what Jesus said and what Paul repeats is that we can call Him ‘daddy’, the intimate term for our fathers on earth. Neither Jesus nor Paul ever asserts that this one we can refer to as our intimate Parent is any different than the terrifying images previously described. We tend to forget that.
The above passage occurs in 2 Samuel 22 and also in Psalm 18. There are trivial differences between these editions of this poem of David, but this section is remarkably free from these differences. I think it’s very important that they both agree about this description, and that the Psalm may be considered a ‘hymn’ for worship. It obviously was different worship back then.
When God Gets Angry
Consider the imagery used here. God is on His throne, and hears the cry of His servant, David in his distress; David’s about to die. David’s ‘Daddy’ in heaven goes OFF! Just the emotional response while still on His throne causes mountains (or the heavens) to tremble (earth quake?), and ignites coal fires. He hasn’t even stood up yet. This is the part of the story where you look at the antagonist and think, ‘oh, now you’re in trouble’.
So what does He do? He bows heaven to the earth with thick darkness, He rides a cherub (one of the shockingly frightening 4 creatures – not the cute baby angel) and rides the wind. He surrounds Himself with all the trappings of storms that terrify people and remind them of the chaos so close ready to destroy. He sends out arrows and lightning scattering David’s enemies. And then the deeps that threaten David with drowning are laid bare just from Him blowing on them.
Sounds poetic, but now, go back and imagine you’re seeing this. Not even that you’re involved as either an friend or foe, just imagine you’re observing from one of the hillsides. You see God’s response, see Him ‘show up’, see how He shows up. Now, what do you think? Don’t be afraid of the emotion tied to what you see, that’s part of what this ‘hymn’ is about. If you sort of feel like you’d have to change your shorts, you’re getting close to the desired effect.
A Dangerous Frightening Battlefield Medevac
Yes, God rescues; and yes, He hears our cries; and you bet He is interested in saving His beloved ones. But don’t fool yourself that when He shows up there will suddenly be all tranquility, quiet, and little birdies singing. When you look on your ‘enemies’ pity them. When you are attacked, pray for your attackers. Because they have no idea what’s about to happen. The storm is coming. In fact, if we truly believed in this God described in this psalm, we might be a little hesitant to call on Him to rescue us just because it’s somewhat like using a massive fuel-air-explosive to get rid of mosquitoes.
But seriously, if you are being attacked, in a dire, life-threatening situation; then call on your Heavenly Daddy. He hates evil, and all the works of His adversary, the devil. If you are confronted by something of that nature, engage. He has your back (see my previous post), and, if you are overcome, get ready for the storm.
Just to balance that last paragraph, keep in mind the middle section of this psalm, that God dealt with David according to his obedience. In part, that means that David was obedient in character, and in part, it means David only picked the fights of his God. In other words, let’s not assume that we deserve any of this. Keep in mind who serves Whom. In that mindset, go forth boldly and fearlessly engage in the work of our Master.
What’s your view through the knothole?