Fear of Fire

Two twelve year old boys [1] jostled a box of chemicals down a steep hill and set up their lab on a deserted private beach. With the nonchalance of blissful ignorance they mixed a haphazard amalgam of charcoal powder, sulfur, potassium nitrate, potassium chlorate, zinc powder, and magnesium powder, pouring it into a thick-walled mortar. A match was lit and pointed toward the silver-black pile of chemicals. But while still inches away the match and its flame were instantaneously engulfed in a column of white-hot flame so intense that it split in two the mortar from which it rose. Upon realizing that they were uninjured, the boys’ bewildered wide-eyed expressions gave way to the embarrassed grin of those having just escaped a disaster of their own making. The carefree atmosphere of the boys’ descent was gone as they gingerly carried their box back up the hill. In the future they would be much more circumspect in their experiments.

The boys learned an indispensable life lesson: a right fear of the right things frees us to enjoy a long and healthy life. The corollary is also true: failing to fear the right things condemns us to live out the haphazard, deadly consequences of our own ill conceived amalgams. This is the lesson our people were to learn from their experience with fire at Mt. Sinai.

Fifty days after exiting Egypt, our people stood at the base of Mt. Sinai. [2] Looking up, transfixed and trembling, overwhelmed by deafening thunder, blinding flashes of lightening, billowing smoke and the blaring of an unseen trumpet, they cried out, “…do not have God speak to us or we will die!”  Just then Moses delivered the life lesson they desperately needed to hear, “Do not be afraid. God has come to test you so that the fear of God will be with you to keep you from sinning.” The right fear of the right thing would set our people on the path of a long and healthy life.

Each of us fears many things, which in turn control the quality of our lives. By nature, all of us fear the wrong things leaving us to experience the deadly consequences of our own amalgams. But, the good news is that the right fear of the right One sets us on the path of a well-lived, eternal life. May Shavuot find you living the life of reverence to which God calls each of us and for which Messiah died and rose to provide.

Praise the Lord! How blessed is the man who fears the Lord,
who greatly delights in His commandments. [3]
Therefore, having these promises, beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from all
defilement of flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God. [4]

Written by: Dan Strull,  Life in Messiah Board Member and Congregational Leader of Olive Tree Congregation in Chicago  


[1] Their names are withheld to protect the author’s reputation. [2]The feast of Shavuot, also known as the Feast of Weeks and Pentecost, takes place 50 days following Pesach, and celebrates the first of the grain harvests, and by tradition, Israel entering into covenant relationship with God, and the giving of the Torah. [3]Psalm 112:1 (NASB95) [4] 2Corinthians 7:1 (NASB95)