March 14, 2011
Since we receive a kingdom which cannot be shaken, let us show gratitude by which we may offer to God an acceptable service with reverence and awe; for our God is a consuming fire. Hebrews 12:28, 29
I wrote most of this post off-line before Japan’s earthquake and tsunami, when I read a small item in the paper about the eruption of Hawaii’s Kilauea Volcano. While the Japanese calamity is worthy of exploring spiritually, and the above verse certainly is applicable to the tragedy, since my blog focuses on this country and its national parks, I’ll confine my remarks to the volcano.
Kilauea, the mythical home of the fire goddess Pele, began erupting March 5 in Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, on the southern end of the state’s Big Island. Video of the eruption shows reddish-orange molten lava spewing forth—reaching more than 80 feet and producing temperatures up to 2,000 degrees Fahrenheit, according to The New York Times—creating rivers of fire through the gray, hardened lava, then descending into deep earthen cracks. At least 200 acres were burned, and more than 150 detectable earthquakes felt.
The volcanic activity has now “paused,” notes the park’s advisory page, although it could start up again at any time. And although part of the park’s Chain of Craters Road, along with some trails, remain closed, and the eruption produced lethal levels of sulfur dioxide near the fissures, all the geological activity took place in a remote park of the park and never posed a risk to people or towns, thank the Lord.
It’s not surprising that Hawaiian mythology links a god-like figure to such a fierce display. There’s something so spectacular and awe-inspiring about a display of fire. I think that’s why the true God of the universe—the One who is found everywhere, not just in one place (Isaiah 66:1)—uses fire to describe His nature: holy (Exodus 3:2-5), glorious (Exodus 24:17; Ezekiel 1:27, 28), protective (Deuteronomy 9:3), righteous (Isaiah 30:27, 33:14, 66:15) and authoratative (Isaiah 30:30).
Pele is a god, small “g.” God is God, large “g,” meaning He’s the God of gods. Both are “consuming fires,” both require their adherents to serve with reverence and awe. But only one of them adds love, justice and mercy to that power: “For the Lord your God is the God of gods and the Lord of lords, the great, the mighty, and the awesome God who does not show partiality, nor take a bribe…You shall fear the Lord your God; you shall serve Him and cling to Him, and you shall swear by His name. He is your praise and He is your God, who has done these great and awesome things for you which your eyes have seen” (Deuteronomy 10:17, 20-21).
Kilauea puts on a tremendous show, but Pele can’t hold a candle to God’s blaze of glory.