‘They Trembled and Stood at a Distance’


It is growing. It is out of control. The California fire rages. As the title of this post suggests, “trembling and standing at a distance,” is a natural way to react to raging fire.

I can’t imagine what it would be like to evacuate my home, fill my car with a few things, and later see my world go up in flames via television. It would be devastating. My heart spills over with compassion for those who are suffering great loss right now. 

My culture would consider me a “radical, even fanatical Christian.” They would say I am a Bible-beating, southern conservative. That’s okay. Those names are not important. What is important is my worldview and how that influences my life. Even with the foundations of faith in my life, I would not quickly say, “God is judging the people of California,” as some may say before the fire storm is quenched.

With that understood, I do want to say that God is always speaking–in every circumstance of life–He is speaking. What concerns all of us is that He has something to say. It is just that society is less tuned into His voice during the good times. We do not feel a need to listen to God or try to please Him when life is sunny and fair. When the bad times happen, we are quick to blame God for the pain or injustice. And that is another subject entirely and worthy of a few posts sometime in the future.

God is speaking now through the fire that rages in California. And if He is judging, then that is between Him and the individuals who are experiencing this trial.

 The Ten Commandments, the code that has shaped most of the societies of the world, was delivered from a fiery, smoky mountain top. The people of Israel’s attention was riveted on the fire and smoke coming from the mountain that Moses ascended. They feared God and preferred to hear from Moses.

“All the people perceived the thunder and lightening flashes and the sound of the trumpet and the mountain smoking, and when the people saw it, they trembled and stood at a distance” (Exodus 20:18).

Maybe they should have “trembled and drew near.” But their sin had separated them from their God. They didn’t know how to “draw near.”

God rewards those who seek Him with their whole hearts. Through the blood of Jesus, anyone can draw near; and times of suffering are the perfect time to come close to God.

God is a holy God. He is called a “consuming fire.” A good dose of “trembling” is healthy for us, before we “draw near” to hear His voice. He is the fire that we should fear. Once the blood of Jesus is applied, we understand and react intuitively that we can “draw near” with confidence, even boldness.

I don’t presume to know what God is saying. I just know He is speaking, and His track record gives me hope for all who call out to Him in the midst of the fire.

Jesus is near.

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