2 Kings 4:1-7

It seems to me the question that cracks the story open is the one you get from this part: “So she went from him and shut the door behind herself and her sons.”

Why did she have to shut the door?

One of these sons of the prophets (faithful Israelites) died and left a widow and two orphans. She borrows money until she can’t, and now faces with her two sons a bleak prospect. Will the Lord help her?

She goes to the man of God, and his response is to think about it. Apparently he has no money about him, kind of like Peter in Acts and so many of the Lord’s impecunious servants. All of the instructions he gives make sense–you get the idea of what is going to happen–except the one about closing the door. What does that matter?

Is it to ward off potential thieves? Is it to keep anybody from finding out how the prophet is helping some lest others come to him afterward, carefully divesting themselves of all but one key possession? Is it his low-key, not-Elijah personality? What?

The do as they’re told, borrowing as many vessels as they can, and they do not neglect to shut the door. Then she begins to pour from the pot.

How would you have poured? Slowly, swiftly? What kind of pot was it? Was it an amphora or a jug? What we know is the strangest part: it just kept pouring. It reminds me of when our Lord multiplied the bread and fish. That had to be strange for anybody paying attention–disproportionate. Yet, as Lewis points out, perfectly Natural; this is what God does all the time, only here it is speeded up. What was strange was that with the bread and fish nobody apparently noticed the disproportion. The last disciple in line seems not to have been looking at the bread, and after that perhaps too busy. Who knows.

Still, in that room, in that house with the shut door, how weird would it have been for those boys bringing the vessels, for the woman pouring? At what point did it come creeping over their skin that something tremendous and uncanny is in the room with them?–and the door shut fast.

Of course, my purpose is not to Peter Jacksonise this episode. There was something uncanny, but it was someone good. The uncanny is the sense of an unexplained presence, and that is exactly what was shut with them in the room. And as they watched God’s provision, the Creator multiplying that oil the way he always did, only indoors and quickly, they had to have a growing sense of who was doing it.

I think the reason the door was shut was so they could be alone with God, and could know again what God in so many ways says to his people: that he is the husband of the widow and the father of the orphan. They were told to shut the door so that the Lord could say unambiguously: I am your husband; I am your father; I am with you and I am providing. And that is what the Lord says to his people in our difficulties and destitutions, our troubles and our bereavements.

Afterward, this woman goes back to the man of God and asks what she should do, and that also is interesting, and I think where the further application is. She does not count it her oil. The oil God gives is given for God’s purposes. She doesn’t dispose of it any way she wants. She has the means to hand to save herself, but she goes back to see what exactly she ought to do.

I think I’d have been tempted to solve my problems first and then breezily thank the prophet afterward. I’d have been tempted to think: I really don’t want to ask about the next step in case it isn’t the shortest visible route to the resolution of my problem. And that way of proceeding would have been wrong, not because it isn’t what was coming, but it shows how little I trust in the goodness of the Lord.

But he is the father of the orphan and the husband of the widow, and he is with his family. We are never destitute if we expect provision of the Lord. And that what the closed door discloses: a message that nourishes my weak faith, and admonishes me, and fills me with the consciousness of the goodness of God like all those vessels brimming with bright oil.

John 21:19 and Wonder

When he first said that they should follow him, how did they go? It is hard to believe they did it with anything but eagerness. How would you respond to Jesus in that situation? Compelled by his authority, no doubt: how he seemed to know and to hold open mysteries. They went.

They left all and had only him and what he taught. They wondered and rejoiced, no doubt; were fascinated. Then maybe they started just wondering after some years, quarreled even (the despondency of Thomas in the episode of Lazarus), still following. They did not understand him, and they went on not understanding so that the darkness at the heart of the mystery perhaps was not so promising for some as formerly.

Was there disharmony between them? Thomas so morose, Peter so adamant, blustering about his own loyalty. Why? Judas was the heart of doubt, but what about Bartholomew or Matthew at this point? They’d come a long way, did they wonder where this road would really lead to?

Then they saw him captured by those he had refuted and whose plots he had avoided previously. The popular triumph melted all away. His habit of speaking irresistibly abated in that moment; he was silent. They saw him tortured, mangled and defeated; and throughout it he was silent. And they watched him die.

There was pain and grief and confusion. They huddled together out of fear, but also, I think, worse: out of not knowing where else to go, what else to do. They did not understand and it must have felt like they had followed all this way into a trap.

Then, beyond belief he returned. And what it meant took a while to grow on them: that it was real was hard to process, let alone what it meant for them now. He confronted the once blustering Peter with quiet, sharp penetration. He made it so that the treason and the rot in the relationship should be cauterized and purged away. Then Jesus, having in his wisdom seen from the beginning the road all the way unto the end, standing on the other side of death—the other side of death—beckoned once again and said: “follow me.”

2 Kings 4:8-37 on Reverence in the Ministry

She was a woman of Shunem. Her place is given but her name is not.

So the question is, why?

Where’s Shunem? In the Jezreel valley up north. Shunem is where the Philistines encamp on that fateful night when Saul goes to En-dor. Next day he’s slain. We have the name of one of the Shunemites, Abishag, also associated with the conclusion of a man’s reign: David. Her position is an enigmatic one: intended as a concubine she never is used as one. That she somehow serves to comment on the conclusion of David’s reign seems obvious, and that it is not a positive comment seems probable, though exactly what it works out to I am not sure. She is the occasion later for more trouble between the sons of David: the death of Adonijah at the hands of Solomon’s killers. The place Shunem is hardly a place of glad memories for the careful reader of Scripture.

The woman is generous and wants to use what she has to refresh and honor the prophet. He in turn believes she has some other motive. When it is plain she does not, he still feels compelled to reward her, as if her generosity required something from him. He turns to the dubious Gehezai, a man with an instinct for noticing what comforts in this life other people may be lacking. I think it is a bad move on Elisha’s part. And because of this I think the woman’s reply works out to: “This is not what your powers are for. Please don’t joke with me.” Not directly, but in an ironic way. She means no disrespect whatever. But I think what she says accuses him of being frivolous, or self-important (related concepts, it seems to me).

Turns out he wasn’t joking.

When the boy dies, the woman puts on a public serenity that is astonishing. “What is wrong?” asks the husband who has sent the ailing child home. “Shalom,” she says. She goes to see the prophet and will speak to no surrogate. She does not even say the child is dead or ailing, only she reminds him she was content and asked for nothing. She said what she had said before, but now those words take on new meaning, don’t they?

Gehezai who has been so awfully helpful at the beginning, is pathetic now. She will not even have a serious exchange in her greeting with him. He runs, he works the magic staff, and he fails spectacularly.

Elisha arrives and shuts the door. What does it mean that he shuts the door? Why does he shut it? I think there is a bit of desperation which is supported by what follows. He walks around, he pleads, he prays, he does this thing where he seems to be offering himself for the child. At last, to his relief, the child’s revived.

Notice how terse he is with the woman at the end. I can see him sitting on a stool, leaning back, collapsed, gesturing without even looking at her or the child, “Take up thy son.”

She responds with reverence. She has more reverence than the prophet for his high and holy calling. She knows that to serve and aid the man of God is to serve and aid God, and that’s reward enough. I think Elisha should not have fretted with the reward, being a servant. He was led astray by his own shrewd but dubious servant. He became God’s Gehezai; but what is adequate in servants of men, is not adequate in servants of God. Elisha was very nearly burned. He had to save face. Hear how he must have heard the woman’s words! It shows also what a great prophet he was that to save face he goes to great lengths and then successfully raises someone from the dead. No, he is not God’s Gehezai after all.

The child sneezes seven times–as if to complete the illness, recovering rather than dying. And to offer God’s commentary: sneezing in the prophet’s face not once or twice or five times, but the entire seven. For this reason God gave the son, and afflicted and killed him, and then gave him life again: that he should sneeze thoroughly in the prophet’s face. Remember who has what, who does what, who serves whom–the way that nameless Shunemite remembers.

Don’t mess around with holy things, Elisha, O prophet of the living God.

Deuteronomy 3:23-29

And I besought the Lord at that time, saying, O Lord God, thou hast begun to shew thy servant thy greatness, and thy mighty hand: for what God is there in heaven or in earth, that can do according to thy works, and according to thy might? I pray thee, let me go over, and see the good land that is beyond Jordan, that goodly mountain, and Lebanon.

But the Lord was wroth with me for your sakes, and would not hear me: and the Lord said unto me, Let it suffice thee; speak no more unto me of this matter. Get thee up into the top of Pisgah, and lift up thine eyes westward, and northward, and southward, and eastward, and behold it with thine eyes: for thou shalt not go over this Jordan. But charge Joshua, and encourage him, and strengthen him: for he shall go over before this people, and he shall cause them to inherit the land which thou shalt see.

So we abode in the valley over against Bethpeor.

-Deuteronomy 3:23-29

Now the man Moses here speaks to the people of God showing them how great a desire he had to go over and see the good land that is beyond Jordan, the goodly mountain, and Lebanon. Hear the pathos in his longing! So much has he heard of it from God, so much dwelt on it and set his heart on the promise of the Lord that even after God’s anger he once again with simplicity and full desire earnestly asked to enter and to see. And God who had shown to him his glory said no.

If you are like me, you are probably tempted to take that “for your sakes” of Moses as something pettish. But I think at that point we are wrong, you and I. The man Moses had his weaknesses and failings, but I doubt he was a churl and I do not think in this remarkable address we are being shown his flaws. For one thing, it hardly seems the place for it, does it? Scripture doesn’t whitewash the great men of faith—their flaws are not hidden. But that doesn’t mean we have an exhaustive view of them at every sinful moment. God does not reveal the flaws of his friends in gossipy indiscretions or in the interests of accuracy alone. These things appear to serve greater purposes, they are there because they are necessary for our instruction in the life of faith.

So it is hardly the place: for one thing it is probably not an expression of Moses’ bitterness casually displayed and for a second thing it is better understood explaining why God the great and merciful did not forgive his servant. God did not forgive him for their sake. He was wroth and remained wroth in this matter for the sake of the people. It was for their good and their instruction. And for that reason Moses who eagerly longed for the good of the great and precious promises of God, who with touching and even childlike keenness yearned to stand in that land was not permitted to do more than gaze on it from the height of Pisgah. For the man Moses was a servant: a servant of God and a servant of God’s people, and in this he also served.

I do not say it was not his just punishment for usurping authority; it was, since he was a servant. But it was more than punishment: it was a lesson. We should learn from it that even great and holy longings can be thwarted in us by God for greater purposes. In other words, Moses was prevented from entering into that land which his heart desired and which God had promised for our sakes. How great is the lovingkindness of our God that at such expense he should take the trouble of instructing us!

So they abode in the house of shame in the land of Sihon, kind of the Amorites, and there they buried Moses. So they abode there, and Moses diminished, and Joshua came after. Is this only punishment? Is Moses resentful?

It is punishment, and in the knowledge of evil, it is good. Just as the cross is the knowledge of evil as good (and the cross is the tree that bears transforming fruit). For this Joshua is an allegory of the man Jesus, a greater than Moses, who leads his people into a better land and grants to all of them, and face to face, the glory of God. At the heart of every legitimate longing is one thing, one person, and that is Christ. Moses’ heart was well-guided in its longing, but his longing for the moment was thwarted.

Do you know that since his death he has been in that land? I do not think he looked around so much, but he saw what he longed to see. All of God’s promises are yea and amen in Jesus Christ who is the good land that is beyond Jordan, the goodly mountain, and Lebanon.

The Proverbial Tale

This is how Robert Alter translates Proverbs 11:8: The righteous is rescued from straits, and the wicked man comes in his stead.

His comment is then that the little narrative the verse implies does not readily correspond to observable reality. The comment rather begs the question, but not a whole lot. One wishes he would say it does not always correspond to observable reality, because the truth is that it sometimes does. But it takes a rather embittered view of things to believe it usually does not. I don’t think Alter is embittered, but perhaps a bit too detachedly ironic.

I think the truth is that we wish Proverbs 11:8 always or at least mostly worked out the way it is stated, and that is perhaps where I concede that Alter has a point. I can only really wish it were mostly true.

Here’s were I want to go with it: first, there is the consideration that the book of Job offers and that tempers our approach to Proverbs: that if you take the Proverbs as statements of fact you will miss the point and end up in the position occupied by Job’s friends. The righteous is not always rescued from difficult circumstances only to be replaced by the wicked man. Bad men get away with bad things and good men are often caught in tragic circumstances.

The point (this is ‘second’, if the ‘first’ has you awaiting that) at which this Proverb is true is as a poetic truth. It would make for a satisfying story if the narrative implied in the verse were to be worked out as a complete story. We would cheer and be glad; we would be satisfied with the story (unless we were embittered and preferred nihilist outcomes–which there is a market for). It is something we wish for, something to which our hearts consent, something we desire. The point of the proverb is an expression of justice. In the ultimate sense that Proverb is true–the righteous will be rescued and the wicked will occupy the place of calamity. We hope for that and base our hope in Scripture’s promises; but this hope is not, as Alter points out, based on observable reality. Or as another homely way of putting the proverb goes: this is the worst the righteous will ever have it, but this is the best the wicked will ever get. And believers feel cordial consent.

That is the level at which the proverb operates–or perhaps it is better to say that that is the way proverbs have to be taken. I read them and I think sometimes that here is a manual for good stories. And this is because good stories, in order to work best, must be true in the sense of being sub-creations (Tolkien) that manifest the wisdom on the basis of which creation was created.

A Bridegroom of Blood

What is the bridegroom of blood scene there for?

An enigma. All of a sudden in the narrative, after struggling to persuade Moses to take up the role, God comes to him in the night and seeks to kill him. You wonder if it is a continuation of the struggle they were having at the bush.

It is a nightmarish scene. Were they asleep and does Zipporah have to wake up to seeing somebody trying to kill Moses? At one point or another, whether he is asleep or not, Moses’ son is made aware of the problem. Zipporah rudely circumcises him on the spot: no preparation, no anesthesia, just a knife.

Was Moses choking and gasping, rolling around in the grip of some kind of disease? Was he wrestling with a person like Jacob? Whatever happened, his life was threatened and Zipporah knew what had to be done. Which is curious, isn’t it? I don’t think what happened is that Moses shouted instructions–maybe he did but it doesn’t seem like what is going on. She seems to know what to do and gets it done.

I somehow doubt that it was a reluctance to inflict pain on the child that kept the lad uncircumcised. I don’t think people then were so protective of their children, and when you read the bizarrely elated reaction we see in Shechem to the requirement of circumcision you have to think it was different for them. Zipporah’s exclamation about a bridegroom of blood does not sound so much like squeamish disgust as it does like the mention of a bad omen. Perhaps she doesn’t want to live near danger.

God is dangerous. You are either for him or against him. He will have all or nothing. He will have monotheistic religion alone, exclusive loyalty, demand everything of those who worship him. He will save whom he will save and his people will relate to him as he decides.

Like marriage–exclusive. A bridegroom of blood.

So why did she touch his feet? Well, where else do we notice Moses’ feet? When he takes off his sandals to avoid profaning the proximity of the presence of the Lord. Did that make him special? No. It did not give him a free pass on observing circumcision: he still had to observe the covenant, do what God commanded. He had to identify with God’s people as God indicated, not otherwise. Proximity to God does not result in laxer requirements. I think though that we tend to think it does. I think in our day we are inclined at some level to identify grace and license.

Piety, as the confession so helpfully states, does not consist in what we seem to think is pious, not even in what men have decided traditionally to regard as pious. Piety lies in observing what Scripture commands with such jealousy that we neither add to it nor subtract from it. I think Zipporah was having a hard time adjusting to that. It didn’t please her, it did not seem lucky, it was a bad business.

But it was God’s business. God’s plan is to save his people by means of a bridegroom of blood, and only his way will do.

A Voice in the Pastor’s Study

A woman spoke with a terrible voice–a voice filled with laughing and crying at the same time. Circumstances had crushed her heart and wrung from it simultaneous contradictory emotions. A housewife and mother there speaking with such a voice as would summon indescribable mysteries of darkness. But not summoning, that terrible voice; summoned.

Why?

High above and beyond the circumstances of this world God is singing over her, and one day she will have a voice to sing those things herself.

Zephaniah 3:17

Innefective

I take the view, in Daniel chapter 10, that the messenger is the Lord. The difficulty with this interpretation is that he is detained by the prince of Persia for 21 days and appears to be aided by Michael. Why would the Lord need any help? What being could possibly delay him?

Whatever one’s interpretation, shying away from any sensationalism agrees with true piety. Piety is not about thrilling battles with deadly awesome swords and angels wrestling directly over our heads. It is not meant so much to convey information about how the spiritual world functions as to convey the fact that Christ is involved.

An illustration: we of the Covenant theology do that with the numbers. We say they’re not there always for counting–that sometimes their main function is not arithmetical. They’re symbolic, and so we aren’t always mathematically precise (the 1000 yrs, for example, or the 7 eyes of the Lamb to pick one less controversial). Among the figures found in the literature of the Bible, we often find numbers so functioning.

You don’t have to agree with that, however, to agree about the angelic beings. It seems to me that this last vision of Daniel’s, spanning as it does the last 3 chapters, is climactic. What he sees, moreover, is not the events in figures, but a figure that speaks to him of the events. That figure is an appearance–a representation of our Lord. And if that is right, it is possible to take his struggle with the prince of Persia as a symbolic struggle. In other words, Christ is involved in the rise and fall of nations throughout history. He resists them, and they resist him. His timing even for particular events involves such a far-reaching causality that it can be called a struggling of Christ with his enemies.

How? The Persian empire was a godless empire that served God’s purposes. How, inadvertently? That seems little in keeping with the theme of the book of Daniel. Obviously not by will and design of the people of Persia or some guiding spirit, but by the design and purpose of God, God transcendent working through intermediaries as usual, and God immanent working directly in the circumstances. Christ, as it were, being resisted by the prince of Persia–whether some spiritual being or King Cyrus himself–because through those means he the right time would come about. Just because he takes his time, doesn’t mean God isn’t involved. EVERYTHING is under the sovereign control of God in both the transcendent sense of his having intermediaries and in the direct sense of his immanent control, and still it takes time, seems to involve reverses to God’s cause, and frequently puzzles us. Perhaps I could say that the prince of Persia did not block Christ in his attempt to reach Daniel, but rather that Christ chose to approach by a road littered with the spiritual antagonism of Persia so that he could deal with some essential issues that needed to be dealt with for his response to be coherent. I’m thinking that perhaps he puts in motion, at this time, circumstances and incidents that set up the wide-ranging history we see in chapter 11. And dealing with that is what he means when he speaks of returning. The point is: Christ has to be there in some sense, after all he is directly running it.

And Michael? Like Daniel, part of God’s plan. The responsibility of the creature does not negate the sovereignty of the Creator. The causality may be shadowy or entirely invisible to us, but God’s causality is there along with the creature’s responsibility in that causality. God uses his people’s fidelity, their loyalty to his cause also in bringing about the events of history. And that’s the contrast: God’s enemies are said to resist, and God’s people and subjects are said to aid. It is a symbolic manner of speaking.

I tried to explain this point of view in Sunday School last week, but I don’t think it worked too well. I’m missing . . . what? Not that I got a lot of help out of ye readers last time I asked, but do you see what I’m trying to say?

Daniel 10:1

In the third year of Cyrus king of Persia, a thing is revealed to Daniel, whose name is called Belteshazzar, and the thing is true, and the warfare is great: and he hath understood the thing, and hath understanding about the appearance.

Daniel 10 is about that warfare–the struggle and conflict of Daniel. What he was shown was hard to bear, trying and overwhelming. And searching out the why–the understanding of the thing–was difficult.

The thing is also true: truth is not always pleasant. How much has this man suffered, not only at the hands of pagan kings, but because of the things he has sought God about and subsequently learned.

And yet the point is to strengthen him. He has been shown something of the horrors of Antiochus IV. He has seen that there is a worse beast after the Greeks–a beast calamitous. He knows that desolations shall flood Jerusalem, the city holy to him. And all this comes because he is greatly beloved.

Daniel knows God’s favor, but it does not lead him along a broad and easy way. It leads him through anguish not even his companions in fasting are put through. It leads him to an overwhelming vision of Our Lord as he later appears to the Apostle John.

Daniel has a terrible vision of Christ so debilitating he cannot even stand; and yet it is the words of Christ in that vision that strengthen Daniel. Why did Daniel undergo so much? The weak must be strengthened. It was because he was singled out for privilege far beyond his first capacities. This, after all, is the pattern of the life of the sons of God.

The Last Verses

Luke begins the gospel in wonder. The wonder of the incarnation is felt in the astonishment of those participating, in their poetry and song, in the pronunciation of Gabriel: is anything too wonderful for God?

Luke also ends in wonder. The astonishment of the discovery, the unwillingness to believe out of sorrow and dullness of heart is turned into an inability to believe of sheer overabundant joy. And there is the amazing suggestion when this risen Jesus who proves he is no ghost, who eats and is touched disappears, appears out of nowhere, and then rises into the clouds. Luke that way, obliquely, suggests with delicate precision that the wonder begun in the incarnation has not stopped with the incarnation; the resurrection has deepened it, opened up a whole new world of wonder. The incarnation was just the doorway. What lies beyond the resurrection is promised to, hinted at, and awaited by these men who to the death believe that nothing is too wonderful for God.

The Way the Story Unfolds

A curious even at Emmaus, that Sunday. Jesus made known in that social and to them familiar act. Jesus the creator of wheat, Jesus the provider for all creatures, Jesus the Bread of Life known in the breaking of the bread.

Luke deliberately choses to make us observers, telling us from the beginning that it was Jesus on the road. We do not participate in the discovery of these disciples the way we did with the women because Luke has blown Jesus’ cover early in the story. But that master storyteller knows what he is doing. Look at the way he brings an odd, pictorial memory into literary description by making the readers observers and not participants in the experience. Had he told us that Jesus had a peculiar way of breaking bread, then told us this person broke the bread with that peculiarity, it would not have worked. It would have lent itself to sentimentality at best, felt contrived at worst.

Instead, Luke anticipated and suggests. He suggests to us there was a peculiar way Jesus had of breaking bread, because it is not the exposition for all that it causes their hearts to burn, but rather this action at the end, and repeated in their report in Jerusalem, that pierces the veil of grief, foolish unbelief and slowness of heart.

And the literary expectation, the anticipation is there, another facet of that profound event when Jesus said: this do in remembrance of me.

The Fear of the Lord

1 Proverbs of Solomon, son of David, king of Israel:

2 For knowing wisdom and instruction,
For understanding sayings of intelligence,

3 For receiving the instruction of wisdom,
Righteousness, judgment, and uprightness,

4 For giving to simple ones—prudence,
To a youth—knowledge and discretion.

5(The wise doth hear and increaseth learning,
And the intelligent doth obtain counsels.)

6 For understanding a proverb and its sweetness,
Words of the wise and their acute sayings.

7 Fear of Jehovah is a beginning of knowledge,
Wisdom and instruction fools have despised!

-Young’s Literal Translation (Pr 1:1–7).

This has been in the Bible a long time. The word of God is clear, but it is not easy. So it requires discipline, instruction, effort to understand. There is a mood of wisdom: sober, serious, earnest. The fear of the Lord ought to make us earnest, and serious and sober in our search for wisdom.

The fear of the Lord arouses a fear of ignorance, a fear of contempt of learning, a fear of laziness and lack of discipline. There are things we will miss if we will not be instructed or disciplined, if we will not attend. And if we miss them? Read on and you will notice that those who do not attend will be destroyed.

Destroyed for not paying attention–oh yes, and attend is the word. Verse 2, second line, where you see ‘understanding’. For considering, it says, for paying attention to words of understanding, of intelligence. The work of leisure, of long attention or deep attention is in view.

Do you prize such things? Hard to pay attention to what you’re not interested in. Hard to pay attention long if it does not attract you. Which is why at the beginning there is at least fear to drive you. And that fear becomes awe, that fascination and submission. Verse seven is the first proverb, and it is a deep one.

What is your attitude toward this deep book, the Proverbs of Solomon, son of David king of Israel? How do you attend to what the Bible says in general? Surely in some way this applies to everything wise in Scripture, and what part of it is not wise? And wise is good and beautiful and true, and if you do not prize these, what progress have you made? What prudence, what discretion, what awe?

Wisdom begins with awe of God.

Luke 22:47-53

Here are understandings colliding. Judas has turned to the shadows, and in the shadows of the garden the disciples clash their swords. Jesus now shines, aware and understanding turns aside both kiss and wound. He speaks as Lord and God and yet is going to his appalling horror: the vale of death and utter dereliction in an unnatural midnight.

Come furtive vermin: crabs and woodlice creeping over stones in the sweating torchlight of a deserted night. Now is their hour, the authority of the dark; the nameless, gnawed by fear and loathing, shall also have their moment. The disciples like salamanders scatter and Jesus is bound because he now refuses to resist. How you come! he says, jabbing at their fears with words exact.

Worse than a horror of darkness now must come on you, son of Abraham, for that was brightly numinous. Comes a horror of nothing at all through which you too must pass, great Lord and mighty King!