I heard him bugling and crashing down the mountain. Not coming fast—but furious. Long gaps of silence separated the crashing of rocks and breaking of branches. The dark firs across the ravine deepened those silences and covered each crash or responding bugle in mystery. I hunkered behind a low fence of junipers while my partner wailed and whistled out cow calls and bull bugles. Then he appeared, half a football field away, jet-black, covered brow tine to butt in mud. My entire frame went cold. He stood in defiance of everything and anything. From behind me, my partner bugled and the bull stretched out his neck and trumpeted back, cracking the air. Then he thrashed a small Douglas fir, dismembering it with his deadly antlers. I trembled on my haunches.
Another bugle from my partner called the elk down into the ravine separating us. A hoof clicked on a rock and it rattled down the steep bank. Water splashed. He was coming. I tried to ready myself. Silence. A dead aspen near my juniper blind quaked. My breath caught; my muscles tightened. His head popped out from around the bush and I came face to face with a five-by-five bull elk. I had never been so close to such a massive, wild, beautiful, dangerous animal in my life. Time stopped. There was nothing else in the world save that bull elk.
Eugene C. Scott joins Mike in writing A Daily Bible Conversation twice a week.
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THE WORD MADE FRESH
A mere three yards distant, the bull elk’s gaze fell on me like the eye of God. His nostrils flared and saliva frothed from his mouth. His breath escaped in lusty chunks. I watched his left eye tremble with fury and lust. I had seen how he had destroyed that douglas fir. What could one swipe of his bone-hard rack do to me? I tried not to lock eyes with him, not to challenge him. Would he see my hands quivering or hear my heart thundering?
My partner bugled again. The bull flicked his eyes beyond me and suddenly backed out of sight. I took a deep breath and slowly turned to follow him. I snapped a stick under my knee. He was gone.
Later that night, drifting off to sleep, the bull crashed into my mind and sent my heart racing again and again. His mighty presence lived in my dreams.
That’s when I pictured God. How much more wild and powerful is God? I wondered. Is it courage or ignorance that compels us to drawn near to God? Do we actually believe we can stand tall in the face of pure Power, pure Love, pure Holiness?
Ezekiel, that rasty Old Testament prophet, could answer those questions. He fell face down after he saw a vision of God. Ezekiel tells us he was “overwhelmed.”
Was my encounter with one of God’s most magnificent creatures even a glimpse of what Ezekiel encountered? I think not. Yet my close encounter with that bull was a holy moment and almost too much for me. Waves of awe washed over me for days each time I closed my eyes and imagined that startling creature. It woke in me an intense desire to know better our remarkably creative God—to encounter Christ with nothing in between, no camouflage, no scent blocker, no avenue of escape. No matter the danger.
When is it you feel closest to God? When has God broken into your world? God often uses nature to direct our minds and hearts toward him. David sang, “O Lord, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth!” But not all of us live near an elk herd or seascape that evokes worship and praise. Nor are all of us moved by such things. Unfortunately, in our modern well-lit world, many of us can’t even see the star flung sky God hung above us to call our hearts back home. Nor are all of us ignorant or courageous enough to seek out such encounters.
God, however, seeks such moments with us. “Stand up on your feet and I will speak to you,” God tells Ezekiel. God is a pursuer of those he loves, you and me. Sometimes, though, it’s hard to get our attention. From the midst of a windstorm, strange, four-faced creatures, spinning wheels, and flashing lightning God says to Ezekiel, “Listen to what I say to you. Do not rebel like that rebellious house; open your mouth and eat what I give you.”
God has something for each of us. But he is fearsome. We cannot long stand in his unadorned presence. And we need what God offers. But we are disobedient. We run away, hide, stop our ears, close our mouths and eyes and then complain God is far away.
When that bull elk stood within touching distance of me, instinct told me to bolt. I remained on my knees. That may be a good pose to hold when confronted with our wild, fierce God. I did not bag that elk. But I did not go away from that awesome experience empty-handed. So too with God. If we stand and listen to him, we will not remain empty hearted.
- Which passage spoke most to you?
- What did the four have in common?
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