"Fear not" is one of the most common phrases in Scripture. Why? Because people were always getting scared silly! In this season of creepiness, let’s look at some Bible stories that are genuinely fright-worthy, but also kind of weird.
- Medium Rare (1 Samuel 28)
Saul’s kingdom was falling apart and God seemed far away. The king longed to get some advice from the prophet Samuel, who happened to be dead. Desperate, Saul went in disguise to visit a medium, in order to summon Samuel’s spirit. (He himself had outlawed such practices some time earlier.) When the prophet actually appeared, the medium seemed as shocked as anyone. (“I see a ghostly figure coming out of the earth!”)
The spirit of Samuel was in a grumpy mood (“Why have you disturbed me?”) and basically scolded Saul, which is what he generally did when he was alive. Most Bible scholars don’t see this as an endorsement of mediums, but as a rare special case God used to get through to Saul one more time.
- Earth, Wind, and Fire (1 Kings 19)
After successfully calling fire from heaven to embarrass the false prophets of Baal, the prophet Elijah was running for his life. Queen Jezebel had vowed to kill him. The emotional high of his (literal) mountaintop experience crashed into a dismal low, as he moped and begged God to take his life.
Instead, the Lord had a powerful object lesson in store for the moody prophet. He sent Elijah out of his cave to what must have been the edge of a canyon. There, Elijah experienced a mighty wind that shattered rocks around him, an earthquake, and then a fire. Imagine the terror of these moments. If Elijah had a death wish, he was right at the edge of fulfilling it. But then he met his Maker in a different way, as God spoke to him in a “gentle whisper,” assuring him that there was still work to be done.
- Camp Corpse (2 Kings 19)
The superpower Assyria ran wild through the Middle East, conquering nations and taking people captive. Their awesome army was camped outside Jerusalem, where the righteous King Hezekiah prepared for the worst, but prayed for a miracle. Would God deliver them from the Assyrian threat? The prophet Isaiah brought the Lord’s answer: “I will defend this city and save it.”
The Bible text reads like the script of a horror film. “That night the angel of the Lord went out and put to death 185,000 in the Assyrian camp. When the people got up the next morning—there were all the dead bodies!” (2 Kings 19:34-35).
- Bones (Ezekiel 37:1-14)
The prophet Ezekiel saw and did a lot of strange things, but this might be the eeriest. In a vision, he was transported to a valley full of dead, dry bones. That might seem weird enough, but then “there was a noise, a rattling sound, and the bones came together, bone to bone.” Then there were tendons, flesh and skin—and finally breath. Those skeletons came to life.
“These bones are the people of Israel,” the Lord explained. They might feel they are dried up and hopeless, but “I am going to open your graves and bring you up from them.”
- Getting Fired (Daniel 3)
Daniel and three Jewish friends were captured by an invading army and trained for service in Babylon. They were doing well until the king demanded that everyone bow down to a huge statue of himself. Loyal to the God of Israel, the three friends refused this idolatry (Daniel was probably out of town at the time), and they were willing to face the punishment—being burned alive. But when they were thrown into the fire, it had no effect on them. “The fire had not harmed their bodies, nor was a hair of their heads singed.”
But wait—it gets weirder. The king looks into the fire and says, “Weren’t there three men that we tied up and threw into the fire? . . . Look, I see four men walking around in the fire, unbound and unharmed, and the fourth looks like a son of the gods.” Whether or not this was an early appearance of Jesus, it’s clear that God showed up to help his people.
- Ghost Story (Matthew 14:22-32)
Several of Jesus’ disciples were fishermen, accustomed to navigating the Sea of Galilee, but on this occasion they were having trouble. Jesus had sent them ahead while he dealt with the crowd on shore. But now they had struggled all night against the high waves and contrary wind. In the wee hours, they saw someone walking toward them, across the water.
“It’s a g-g-ghost!” they cried.
Imagine the terror of that moment. You’ve been rowing for your lives on a rough sea, and now you wonder if you’ve crossed over to some ghostly, ghastly world.
And then you hear the familiar voice of Jesus coming from that direction. “Relax! It’s just me! Don’t be afraid.”
Sometimes our whole lives can seem like a horror show. We can be terrified by sickness, violence, broken relationships, aging, or financial collapse. We need to hear that friendly voice calling through the storm: “I’m here.”
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