Today a storm rolls through, darkening the midday sky with ominous, angry-looking clouds. Thunder rumbles long and low in the distance. The wind kicks up, tugging at the branches as it passes. The pines bend and bow to the gale’s superior power. Rain pummels the parched earth, sending sandy splatters into the nearby grass. The large raindrops resound as they dive-bomb the granary’s metal roof. Lightning cuts through the curtain, followed almost immediately by a brilliant blue-white flash and an earth-shaking crack of thunder. That one was close! Nearby, splinters from the struck tree trunk litter the road.
I watch the storm unfold from the safety of my basement, spellbound by equal measures of fear and fascination. At first, fear keeps me indoors. Conventional wisdom mandates seeking shelter during such storms. But sometimes conventional wisdom is sort of boring. I throw caution to the wind (quite literally) and let the storm’s reckless abandon lure me outside. Bright flashes of light leave crooked streaks in my vision. Thunder makes my inner core tremor. Raindrops pelt my uplifted face and hands. Sudden gusts grab me with determined resolve to carry me along. I’m drawn to the very power that could kill me.
I’m no theologian, but it seems thunder and lightning in scripture signify both God’s holiness and God’s judgment. When God gave Moses the law on Mount Sinai, His holy presence hung over the mountain as a cloud, complete with lightning and thunder. John, during his heavenly visit, saw lightning and thunder proceed from God’s heavenly throne (Revelation 4:5). And the witnesses of Jesus’ transfiguration said Jesus and His garments had the appearance of lightning (Matthew 28:3, Luke 9:29).
And they were also part of God’s judgment against Egypt, and against David’s enemies (Exodus 9:23-24, Psalm 18). It all makes sense, really. God’s holiness and judgment do go hand in hand. His intent, His power, to intervene in human history is unveiled in every powerful display; in every hurricane, every tornado, every earthquake, every wildfire, and every flood. Every natural catastrophe should be a humbling reminder to humanity that the Holy Lord always executes perfect justice. Anything else would be a contradiction of His divine character. It’s sad so few are paying attention.
As I stand outside, simultaneously fearing and loving the storm, I listen for God’s voice in the thunder. I cower at this demonstration of His great power. Yet I can’t tear myself away from it. As the storm rages, God softly says, “This is what it is to love and fear Me.” Perhaps I’m drawn by the storm because God reveals Himself in it. Yes, His raging power makes me tremble. But the rain on my face and the wind in my hair are like the touch and breath of God falling on me.
The storm’s over. I step inside with a new insight into the terrible beauty of God’s holiness.