“Are you not thirsty?” said the Lion.
“I’m dying of thirst,” said Jill.
“Then drink,” said the Lion.
“May I—could I—would you mind going away while I do?” said Jill.
The Lion answered this only by a look and a very low growl. And as Jill gazed at its motionless bulk, she realized that she might as well have asked the whole mountain to move aside for her convenience.
The delicious rippling noise of the stream was driving her nearly frantic.
“Will you promise not to—do anything to me, if I do come?” said Jill.
“I make no promise,” said the Lion.
Jill was so thirsty now that, without noticing it, she had come a step nearer.
“Do you eat girls?” she said.
“I have swallowed up girls and boys, women and men, kings and emperors, cities and realms,” said the Lion.
“I daren’t come and drink,” said Jill.
“Then you will die of thirst,” said the Lion.
“Oh dear!” said Jill, coming another step nearer. “I suppose I must go and look for another stream then.”
“There is no other stream,” said the Lion. ~C.S. Lewis, The Silver Chair
This summer we are working through the life of Joshua. We are continually brought face to face with the majesty and holiness of God. This is a God we do not know today, One who is the mighty warrior of Israel, One who requires complete devotion, One who brings down walls and removes nations at his will. Yes, He is the One who swallows up whole realms.
Moses was warned that no one could see the Lord and live. He was permitted to gaze upon God’s backside, protected by God from seeing His face. I am reminded of the man who hid at SeaWorld in Orlando when the park closed one day in July of 1999. Apparently, this man had seen one of the shows during the day and thought it would be fun to swim with the killer whales that night. No surprise, the next morning he was found at the bottom of the pool. A marine biologist remarked:
Killer whales play. They are often seen tossing prey around for no apparent reason other than play.
The 12,000lb whale Tillikum mistook the man for a play toy. There is a reason they are called killer whales. (By the way, the name Tillikum means “Friend” in the Chinook language! This animal killed one of its trainers in 2010.)
In the same, we trivialize encounters with God. We speak of him as our buddy with the familiarity we would speak of the chap next door. Tamed in our imagination, we then wonder why we find it difficult to worship God. We wonder why we do not enjoy and glorify Him. We are the ones missing out
Ask Isaiah. He will tell you that you cannot stand in the presence of God without trembling. The burning angels announced God’s holiness and Isaiah felt the impurity of his sin. Jeremiah learned that the Lord does with the nations as he pleases. Paul praised:
Oh, the depth of the riches of the wisdom and knowledge of God!
How unsearchable his judgments,
and his paths beyond tracing out!
“Who has known the mind of the Lord?
Or who has been his counselor?”
“Who has ever given to God,
that God should repay them?”
For from him and through him and for him are all things.
To him be the glory forever! Amen. — Romans 11
It is from the observation tower of God’s holiness that we experience the terror of being out of our league, over our heads, and in the clouds. It is also the best vantage point from which to see the wonder of God’s grace. Here we stand awestruck at the wonder of God’s patience, His mercy, and yes, His love.
When I was a teenager, my mom took my two brothers and me on an adventure to the west coast of Florida. We had heard reports that the Peace River was an extraordinary place to find fossils and we were, at the time, collectors. We found a spot along the river to go into the water with masks and search the bottom. No sooner did we hit the water that we discovered a significant problem with our plan. Alligators were in residence there. “Mom, will you keep your eye on the alligators on the bank while we swim?” This is a question that a mom wants to answer both “yes” and “no.” Yes, I will watch the gators. But, no, you need to get out of the water. In other words, you need a degree of reverence in keeping with this situation. None of our explanations (They don’t look hungry. They are not in the water. We can get to shore before they can get to us. They are on the other side.) were acceptable, of course. The book of Hebrews says it this plainly:
It is a dreadful thing to fall into the hands of the living God. Hebrews 10:31
Yes. It is. It is when we glimpse God in his holiness that we begin to understand the marvel of grace…that God has come to us in Christ, and that he has come for us.