All is quiet, save for slowly stretching tentacles of hissing lava nipping at the edges of the tropical foliage. Residents stand grim-faced yet amazed. Most days they call this “paradise.” On this day, however, the fiery fissures in Hawaii’s Puna district reminded everyone that God forged these islands via untamable volcanic power.
The ancient Israelites encountered an untamable power too. When King David recaptured the ark of the covenant (2 Samuel 6:1–4), a celebration broke out (v. 5)—until a man died suddenly when he grabbed hold of the ark to steady it (vv. 6–7).
This may tempt us to think of God as being as unpredictable as a volcano, just as likely to create as He is to destroy. However, it helps to remember that God had given Israel specific instructions for how to handle the things set apart for worshiping Him (see Numbers 4). Israel had the privilege of drawing near to God, but His presence was too overwhelming for them to approach Him carelessly.
Hebrews 12 recalls a mountain “burning with fire,” where God gave Moses the Ten Commandments. That mountain terrified everyone (vv. 18–21). But the writer contrasts that scene with this: “You have come to . . . Jesus the mediator of a new covenant” (vv. 22–24). Jesus—God’s very Son—made the way for us to draw near to His untamable yet loving Father.
How often am I tempted to think of God’s love without considering His power? Why is His power a crucial aspect of His character?
The book of Revelation is one of the most mysterious portions of the Bible. It’s filled with symbolism, metaphors, word pictures, and sweeping action. For centuries, scholars have disagreed about the meanings of these prophetic portraits. Several things are clear, however. First, the book is more about Jesus than about the events described. Revelation begins by calling itself “The revelation from Jesus Christ” (1:1). Revelation means an unveiling, so the book of Revelation is about Jesus unveiling these things. Second, it was written to real churches facing real challenges and was intended to comfort and encourage them in those trials (chs. 2–3). Third, the story of Revelation is about reversing the effects of our first parents’ fall into sin. They were separated from God and His perfect garden and these good things are restored by Christ’s victory (chs. 21–22).