“So I am to them like a lion; like a leopard I will lurk beside the way” (Heb 13:7 ESV).
In the 8th century BC Israel was in a very tight spot. There were powerful neighbours to the north and to the south and Israel often got caught in between. Their situation was somewhat analogous to that of Poland in the 20th century. I knew a man several years ago who was born in Poland and who and had held citizenship in 3 different countries despite never having left his tiny village! As a result of two world wars, the place where he lived had belonged variously to Poland, Germany, and the USSR.
That was Israel’s situation precisely.
In order to manage this difficulty, Israel became skilled at diplomacy. He was always making deals with the neighbours and always trying to play one ally off against another.
And all without ever reaching out to the Lord.
They became skilled in lies and deceit but lost their faith in God entirely.
Finally, God got tired of watching them going up and down the countryside to one ally and then down and back again to another ally. This time – like a lion – he would pounce upon them and savage them terribly and leave them bleeding on the side of the road.
This was God’s way of saying that Israel had been fearing the wrong things. Israel ought to have feared the Lord. He was the one that they should have been most worried about offending.
Jesus said something remarkably similar. He said:
“And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell.” (Matthew 10:28 ESV)
Sometimes we spend far too much time fearing in the wrong direction.
We fear people, situations, disasters, and changes over which we have ultimately no influence, power, or control.
We ought to fear the Lord.
The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom. It is the beginning of faith and it is the beginning of peace. God was going to teach Israel who they ought to fear so that they could stop being afraid of everyone else.
To do that – he was going to become like a lion.
Not to kill them ultimately – but to save them. Because fearing the wrong thing can make you do the wrong thing. It can cause you to make decisions that will lead you down the short road to hell.
It’s good to fear the right things and so when he has to be – the Lord is like a lion.
Fierce. Strong. And good.
Thanks be to God!
To listen to the most recent episodes of Pastor Paul’s Into The Word devotional podcast on the TGC Canada website see here. You can also find it on iTunes. To access the entire library of available episodes see here.
N.B. The author released an earlier version of this article as a devotional for Promise Keepers’ Canada.