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Why should we fear?

by Tim Banyard

For as long as I can remember I have had a natural obsession with the weather. Whether it was spending hours outside playing in the snow as it fell heavily like a cascade of prawn crackers, holding up my gloves to the soft glow of a street light to inspect the delicate dendritic structure of each flake. Or maybe huddling up under the duvet and watching through the window with amazement and awe as the sky lit up with bright flashes of lightning, counting the seconds meticulously until that ominous rumble of thunder shook the house and sent a shiver of exhilaration down my spine.

One particular event that stands out to me occurred on Saturday 25th January 2014. I had been cycling home from my weekly tennis training session and positioned myself at the crest of a hill to watch an incoming shower rattle through the suburbs of Wolverhampton, where I grew up. No sooner had I arrived than I realised this was not merely some miniature ‘flash in the pan’ rain shower, but in fact a very active line of intense thunderstorms. This was clarified very abruptly by a sudden bolt of forked lightning that landed somewhere on the next hill along from mine. Realising my predicament, (an exposed hill is not the best place to endure a thunderstorm), I began a 3-minute-long race back down the hill towards my house where I could find shelter.

It was with barely 200 metres to go that I realised I could no longer see the line of trees at the edge of the field, it was obscured by a thick wall of hail which was now charging towards me at breakneck pace! I cycled as fast as I could, and just as I arrived home, the wall of marble-sized hail slammed into my back, with another lightning bolt striking a large tree at the end of my street for good measure. Yet somehow I had made it… just.

In the Bible, we often read of God’s power and authority over creation. From the storm that hit Jonah’s ship en-route to Tarshish, to the east wind that parted the Red Sea for Moses and the Israelites, God’s sovereignty is absolute. As I experienced so often growing up, so David finds himself extolling the majesty of God’s creation:

“The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands.” - Psalm 19:1 NIV

Such is my fascination with the weather that I now find myself at the half-way point of a PhD in meteorology! I never tire of the multifarious nature of the British weather, and that there are still many complexities out of reach of our finite human understanding is something which humbles me every time I study it. Yet there is more than the pure awe and wonder I so often experience when confronted with God’s beautiful creation, as important as that is. Thinking back, I experienced this when at the top of that hill in January 2014.

The bible speaks often about the ‘fear of the Lord’:

“The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom; all those who practise it have a good understanding. His praise endures for ever!” - Psalm 111:10 ESV

One thing that studying the weather gives you is a sense of the magnitude of the power and might of God; and whether it was standing on that hill or huddling up under the duvet, I had a true taste of that fear. Once again, David perfectly encapsulates this harmony between the awe and fear of God in his Psalms:

“For great is the Lord and most worthy of praise; he is to be feared above all gods.” - Psalm 96:4 NIV

How much more fearful is it then, when we realise that one day we will all stand before God to give an account of ourselves to him, for all the things we have done? If the story ends here, then the stark predicament of our own standing before the creator of the universe, in all his holiness and perfection, is clear:

“If you, Lord, kept a record of sins, Lord who could stand?” - Psalm 130:3 NIV

Praise the Lord therefore, that God himself with all his power and might, and the authority over creation that we have seen, took on our sin in Jesus, on the cross! At a time when fears brought on by the pandemic may still be ever present in our lives, what a joy and peace we have knowing that Jesus is our comfort and shelter, our tower of refuge and strength. In fact, one of my favourite Christian contemporary songs, ‘Shout to the Lord’, is about exactly that; and one of my favourite quotes sums it up perfectly:

“He who fears God has nothing else to fear.” - Charles Spurgeon

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