During my scuba diving years in seas off the coasts of Florida, barracuda had a constant presence. They are large and fearsome-looking. But surprisingly those experiences with barracuda left me with a favorable impression of the fish, belying the negative impressions most non-divers have.
Merriam-Webster’s definition of barracuda:
1: any of a genus (Sphyraena of the family Sphyraenidae) of elongate predaceous often large bony fishes of warm seas that includes food and sport fishes as well as some forms frequently causing ciguatera poisoninghttp://unabridged.merriam-webster.com/collegiate/barracuda
2: one that uses aggressive, selfish, and sometimes unethical methods to obtain a goal especially in business
Barracuda are curious and often appear when scuba divers are active. One time while standing with another diver in waist-deep water in the Gulf of Mexico off Anna Maria Island, I noticed a large shape under water moving slowly toward me. About six feet long and 16 inches wide, the creature nearly bumped into me before turning and leisurely swimming away.
Pointing at the dark shape, I demanded of my friend, “What is that?!”
He quickly put on his diving mask and went under. Coming back up moments later, he blurted out, “It‘s a barracuda!” The fish seemed unaggressive; neither of us felt threatened.
Months later while diving on a coral reef off Key Largo, I saw another side of this animal. I noticed a four-foot barracuda hovering about 15 feet away, watching me intently. I began to swim slowly toward it to get a closer look.
The very moment I turned toward the barracuda, he turned directly at me, poised to attack. I was looking directly at his teeth, which would tear me apart if he were to charge.
I immediately withdrew, and the fish resumed his previous stance. I felt that the barracuda had disciplined me. I was humbled. We were eye to eye, and I was the one who blinked.
Looking back on these experiences, I see in the barracuda the nature of God. He too has sharp teeth as it were, and won’t hesitate to use them against persons who violate certain parameters—even the elect.
As one biblical author summed it up:
It is a terrifying thing to fall into the hands of the living God!Hebrews 10:31 CJB
Indeed, the Scriptures offer storied examples of those who paid the ultimate price for violating those parameters. Let us take a look at a few of those examples.
But Nadav and Avihu, sons of Aharon, each took his censer, put fire in it, laid incense on it, and offered unauthorized fire before ADONAI, something He had not ordered them to do. At this, fire came forth from the presence of ADONAI and consumed them, so that they died in the presence of ADONAI. Moshe said to Aharon, ‘This is what ADONAI said: “Through those who are near Me I will be consecrated, and before all the people I will be glorified.”’ Aharon kept silent.Leviticus 10:1-3
HaShem made clear it isn’t safe to live and work in close proximity to the Almighty. He ordered that unauthorized people stay away from the Tabernacle so they would not be struck down. (Numbers 1:51)
But the L’vi’im are to camp around the Tabernacle of the Testimony, so that no anger will come upon the assembly of the people of Israel. The L’vi’im are to be in charge of the Tabernacle of the Testimony.Numbers 1:53
HaShem was still very dangerous hundreds of years later, while David was Israel’s King. David had arranged that a new cart pulled by oxen would transport the Ark of God to Yerushalayim. However God many years before had mandated that L’vi’im carry the Ark on their shoulders when it was necessary to transport it (Exodus 25:13-14).
When they arrived at Nakhon’s threshing–floor, the oxen stumbled; and ‘Uzah put out his hand to steady the Ark of God. But ADONAI’ s anger blazed up against ‘Uzah, and God struck him down on the spot for his offense, so that he died there by the Ark of God...David was frightened of ADONAI that day; he asked, ‘How can the Ark of ADONAI come to me?’2 Samuel 6:6-7, 9
Danger was still apparent in the days of the New Covenant. Hananyah (Ananias) and Shappirah (Sapphira) sold property and presented a portion of the proceeds to the emissaries to help those in need. But they lied, saying they donated the full amount of the sale.
Then Kefa [Peter] said, ‘Why has the Adversary so filled your heart that you lie to the Ruach HaKodesh and keep back some of the money you received for the land? Before you sold it, the property was yours; and after you sold it, the money was yours to use as you pleased. So what made you decide to do such a thing? You have lied not to human beings but to God!’ On hearing these words, Hananyah fell down dead; and everyone who heard about it was terrified.Acts 5:3-5
Three hours later Shappirah showed up, unaware of her husband’s death. She made the same claim her husband did about the sale price.
Instantly she collapsed at his feet and died. The young men entered, found her there dead, carried her out and buried her beside her husband. As a result of this, great fear came over the whole Messianic community, and indeed over everyone who heard about it.Acts 5:10-11
How many more examples of Abba’s wrath do I need to mention? It would take too long to recount the stories of the deaths of Lot’s wife (Genesis 19:17, 26), Y’hudah’s two evil sons (Genesis 38:7-10), the two wicked sons of ‘Eli the Kohen Gadol (1 Samuel 4:1-11), Hananyah the false prophet (Jeremiah 28:12-17), the wealthy but harsh man Naval (Nabal) (1 Samuel 25), wicked King Yarov’am (Jeroboam) (2 Chronicles 13:20), evil King Y’horam (Jehoram) (2 Chronicles 21:18-19), and the grisly death of King Herod Agrippa (Acts 12:23). God executed them all! Tens of thousands more people of Israel died in plagues sent by God. (Exodus 32, Numbers 25:1-9, 1 Chronicles 21). All the above died for sins God considered too egregious to put up with.
So why do I teach the fear of God? I teach fear because nearly everyone else (who have a microphone) are preaching only the love of Yeshua/Jesus. Assured of Yeshua’s love and unfamiliar with Torah, their listeners are not called out of sin. They have no familiarity with the calloused, bloodstained hands of God—or the harshness of Yeshua, who is the physical image of the Father. A believer doesn’t truly know God unless he/she appreciates both His loving kindness and the potential danger He poses to them.
The Father is not happy with a son or daughter who only obeys out of fear. He prefers they obey also out of love for Him. But HaShem demands His children remain humble when interacting with Him. God’s son or daughter should wilt when He speaks sternly.
I am talking about real fear—like the fear I had for my earthly father when I was a child. My father loved his children, but when we were naughty he didn’t hesitate to whip us with an electric cord.
Moshe tells the story of God’s voice speaking to the people of Israel as Mount Sinai erupted with flames and smoke. The people were so frightened by the experience, they sent elders to speak to Moshe. The elders said the people no longer wanted to be in God’s presence. They told Moshe to listen to God, then tell the people everything God said. They will then listen and obey.
ADONAI heard what you were saying when you spoke to me, and ADONAI said to me, ‘I have heard what this people has said when speaking to you, and everything they have said is good. Oh, how I wish their hearts would stay like this always, that they would fear Me and obey all My mitzvot; so that it would go well with them and their children forever.’Deuteronomy 5:28-29
So God is pleased by His people’s fear of Him. But unlike human barracuda, God is not one that uses aggressive, selfish, and sometimes unethical methods to obtain a goal. That is not to say that HaShem is unaggressive. When facing the Almighty eye to eye, I am always the one who blinks.
So take a good look at God’s kindness and His severity: on the one hand, severity toward those who fell off; but, on the other hand, God’s kindness toward you – provided you maintain yourself in that kindness! Otherwise, you too will be cut off!Romans 11:22
Therefore, since we have received an unshakeable Kingdom, let us have grace, through which we may offer service that will please God, with reverence and fear. For indeed, ‘Our God is a consuming fire!’Hebrews 12:28-29
Divers routinely feel comfortable in the sea with barracuda and other predators. Humans too can feel at ease in close proximity to the living God, despite the danger. While some scuba divers may have an affinity for barracuda, for many people Abba too is especially likable. ##