Do you remember the Wizard’s great appearance in The Wizard of Oz? Of course you do, everybody remembers that scene. Dorothy, the Scarecrow, the Tin Man and our comrade the Cowardly Lion defeat the great Wicked Witch of the West and report back to the great and powerful Oz. Their first encounter with him inspired an almost debilitating fright that left them happy to fight witches and flying monkey-things so long as they could escape his presence. But their second encounter was different.
Here, refresh your memory:
If you were a great wizard, you would keep your promises.
The brainless scarecrow figures out that Oz is not all he is cracked up to be. The Tin Man, although he has no heart to speak of, still feels the sting of a useless ruler. In fact, even the annoying little dog is so disillusioned by the scene that he investigates the matter. Maybe it is important, maybe it is not, but everyone but the lion scolds the not-so “great and powerful” Oz. In the words of Elvis, all he can do is stand there paralyzed.
There is no powerful ruler. There is no “lord’ of Oz. There is nobody in the heavens calling the shots. There is only a sad little man standing behind a curtain and apparently working a massive flame-thrower and a microphone.
Does that scene in the film remind you of the scene of Moses and the burning bush in Exodus? Moses is wandering around, minding his own business, tending his flocks- and all of a sudden, fire! A burning bush! A voice claiming to be God speaks from out of the midst of a great fire (which, incidentally, does not burn a little bush). We have the first appearance of God directly to a man since the days of Jacob, some 400 years beforehand.
Of course that frightened him. After all, Moses was a member of an ancient near eastern community that was not accustomed to pyrotechnics- seriously, AC/DC come maybe ten thousand years after Moses! Hey, who knows, Moses may have even run into an ancestor of Tim the Enchanter. watch?v=aZJZK6rzjns.
We really are funny creatures. Our whole life we go on searching for scientific theories that absolve us from living under the rule of God but our real problem with him is not intellectual but experiential dissatisfaction. We would much rather believe a professor explain away our need for God than come to admit the plain, honest truth. We feel like God has not kept his promises.
If God is really as great and good as he says he is, why am I single again at sixty years old? If God is really as loving and powerful as he says he is, why do I feel I am just starting my life over again at forty? If God really is a loving Father, why have I gone through the abuse I suffered as a child?
You see, our main objection to God is not that we think floating axe-heads or God becoming man is absurd, it is more simple and much more difficult than all that.
We feel that God has failed to keep his end of the bargain. How can we really fear God when we feel he has let us down? This is our real struggle.
This link between the fear of God and trust in God is absolutely essential. We can give lip service to fearing and trusting God but if we are convinced he is out to get us, we will neither trust nor fear him.
And it is precisely because we do not fear God that we are afraid of the world around us. We make our jobs, our spouses, our drugs, our liquor, our food, our sex-life, our education or our social standing the ultimate concern in our world. Is it any wonder, then, that we face daily life, of which we can control very little, with fear around every corner?
We are told by well-meaning friends to “just believe” that God, the universe, karma, whatever, will work out on our behalf- but our experience seems to tell us another story. Having faith is useless, absolutely useless, unless the object of our faith is worth believing.
The really good news is that there is real hope on the other of belief in Jesus. Right after Jesus tells us to only fear his Father, he tells us that God himself knows how many hairs are on our head. He tells us that we are valued in the eyes of his Father. He tells us to stop being afraid of the world around us. Go to Matthew 10:26-33, check and see if I am wrong.
Let us end with a word from our friend, Dietrich. As a result of learning to rightly fear God, he wrote:
Don’t take it seriously, so deadly seriously; don’t be consume in your hatred or zeal, for it is all so temporary; so temporary- it is no longer the least bit important; but entirely different things are important- remain steadfast in faith, cling to Christ, listen to the voice of God the omnipotent who says: remain untouched by Babylon; stay sober, and don’t let fear overcome you; it is fallen, Babylon the great. That alone is important, that alone leads to life.
Here’s to experiencing this kind of freedom.