Awesome horripilation

Awesome horripilation

Exodus 15:11-13

 11 “Who is like you among the gods, O LORD – glorious in holiness, awesome in splendor, performing great wonders?”

 13 “With your unfailing love you lead the people you have redeemed.”

Most people have experienced horripilation many times without knowing it. It happens frequently when we suddenly get cold or see something horrifying or magnificent. horripilation often occurs when we are awed by the magnificence of God. Horripilation is the technical word for goosebumps. Goosebumps are the bristling of the hair on the skin due to fear, religious awe, or experiencing cold.  

Horripilation comes from two Latin words horrere meaning to bristle, stand on end, shudder, and pilus the Latin word for hair. The Latin word horrere is also the source of the English word horror. Horror often involves a shaking, trembling, shudder, or dread when encountering something frightening. It also has the sense of religious awe, that is, to be awestruck.

There is a revealing story of someone being terrified by a mysterious appearance in the book of Daniel. It was not the Father, or the Son, or an angel, but simply the fingers of what looked like a human hand. The hand suddenly appeared and proceeded to write a message on the wall in the throne room. Belshazzar the King saw the hand and was completely horrified. We can only imagine what was going through his mind. “Oh Marduk, what power or unseen god has done this? Please rescue me.”

He was horrified and his body began to shake and tremble, his knees knocked together in fear and the joints of his loins and hips became weak. The blood rushed from his face and he turned ghostly pale. Undoubtedly, he had a severe case of horripilation.

Daniel 5:5-6

 5 Suddenly, they saw the fingers of a human hand writing on the plaster wall of the king’s palace, near the lampstand. The king himself saw the hand as it wrote,

 6 and his face turned pale with fright. His knees knocked together in fear and his legs gave way beneath him.

Not everyone is terrified when they experience the presence of the living God. Rather they are awed. They are overwhelmed by the sheer magnificence their otherworldly encounter of the third kind with the Father. Some are temporarily paralyzed, many fall on their faces.

Daniel 10:8-9

 8 So I was left there all alone to see this amazing vision. My strength left me, my face grew deathly pale, and I felt very weak.

 9 Then I heard the man speak, and when I heard the sound of his voice, I fainted and lay there with my face to the ground.

Daniel was rendered unconscious when he heard the voice of the living God. Daniel had been praying and fasting for three weeks seeking answers. This purpose of this visitation was to provide the answers Daniel’s prayers.


When Isaiah saw the King of Kings in all of His holiness and glory, he was awestruck by His magnificence. Suddenly he was gripped by the reality of his own wickedness. It took but one glance at the Father’s glorious light and purity. Instantaneously, Isaiah was deeply convicted regarding his personal darkness and impurity. He was barely able to squeeze out the words, “Woe is me, I am doomed, for I am a sinful man.”

Father You alone are truly awesome! There is no one like You. May I never lose my excitement and all when I think of You and experience Your presence.


Why does the Father visit us? Surely it is not to make us feel warm and fuzzy. There are many people today who claim to have visions or visitations from the living God. In contrast to what we see in the Scriptures, they proceed to brag about their experience. Rather than focusing their attention on the Father, the focus is on them being in the Father’s presence. They tend to go on and on about how wonderful it was for them. When you peel away the façade, their words are not about the Father but them. Their stories are titillating. Their reported “eyewitness account” somehow exalts them rather than the Father. Their experience becomes the new measure euphoric spiritual experience. Without a word, others are encouraged to desire and seek similar experiences. Nowhere in the Scriptures is anything like this even suggested.

People in the Scriptures do not seek dramatic encounters with the living God. Rather, their visitations were unexpected and unanticipated. Each theophany is spectacular and striking, but the recipients were overwhelmed and left in awe. They frequently felt unworthy and often impure. When sinful humanity encounters the living God, they are stunned, even dumbfounded. The sheer and utter beauty of the moment stops them in their tracks. The transcendent splendor of the Father’s holiness and glory burns away the façade of religious self-importance. They are left spiritually and emotionally undone.

Isaiah 6:1-11

 1 It was in the year King Uzziah died that I saw the Lord. He was sitting on a lofty throne, and the train of his robe filled the Temple.

 2 Attending him were mighty seraphim, each having six wings. With two wings they covered their faces, with two they covered their feet, and with two they flew.

 3 They were calling out to each other, “Holy, holy, holy is the LORD of Heaven’s Armies! The whole earth is filled with his glory!”

 4 Their voices shook the Temple to its foundations, and the entire building was filled with smoke.

 5 Then I said, “It’s all over! I am doomed, for I am a sinful man. I have filthy lips, and I live among a people with filthy lips. Yet I have seen the King, the LORD of Heaven’s Armies.”

 6 Then one of the seraphim flew to me with a burning coal he had taken from the altar with a pair of tongs.

 7 He touched my lips with it and said, “See, this coal has touched your lips. Now your guilt is removed, and your sins are forgiven.”

 8 Then I heard the Lord asking, “Whom should I send as a messenger to this people? Who will go for us?” I said, “Here I am. Send me.”

Isaiah simply felt dirty, unclean, and unworthy in the presence of the King. Probably he wanted to run away and hide. But the Father had other things in mind. First, He had to take away his sense of unworthiness. He dispatched an angel to cleanse Isaiah and take away his guilt for unclean speech. In a flash, in the twinkling of an eye, Isaiah instantaneously experienced forgiveness for his sins. He was clean, clean all over, clean inside, clean through and through. What a marvelous moment!

Unknown to Isaiah, he had been born for this very moment. This meeting had been scheduled in eternity past. The Father had a mission, a task for him to perform. The Father needed an exceptional individual to become His messenger. He offered the assignment to Isaiah to see what he would do. He asked, “who will go for us?” Being clean all over, Isaiah was ready to answer Him.

When the Father said, “I want you.” At that moment, Isaiah was called to be a prophet. He responded yes! Isaiah said, “Here am I, send me.” Consequently the Father’s prophetic messages were delivered to the nation of Israel. Within these messages are some of the most magnificent prophecies of the coming Messiah found anywhere in the Old Testament. As a result, the profound and eloquent book of Isaiah was written.

There are many takeaways.

As you peruse the whole of the Scriptures, theophanies of the living God are rare. They are few and far between.

These overwhelming visitations are all about the glory of the King, not the individual whom He visits.

Such encounters often result in a total life change, a paradigm shift for the recipient.

When the Father calls you, there is only one right answer, “Here am I.” Today we might say simply, “Father what would you have me do.”

The Father is always at work seeking those that are willing to join Him to fulfill His will on earth. Are you ready?


One thought on “Awesome horripilation

  1. This is an especially moving post, as our nation has been plunged to the depths of conviction for our departure from the Lord’s paths and our defiance of His will in our arrogant pride. Those of “dual citizenship” have hope, for “when the enemy (demonic forces) come in, like a flood the Spirit of the Lord will raise up a standard against him.” (Isaiah 59:19) Our mighty God will have the ultimate glory.
    But in the moment-to-moment, may we be prostrate in prayer for those enmeshed in the web of peril and suffering. I have spent forty-five of my seventy-one years as a mother, wearing my heart on the outside of my body. I see the masses of people surging in fear and misery, as we’ve seen so many times in diverse settings, but I’ve never before felt the stab of personal responsibility as now. I am a “boots on the ground” witness to this chaos in Afghanistan, in realizing that now, a week in, these people are hungry, thirsty, and, as did the Jews in the boxcars, marinating in filth. Little babies’ needs don’t diminish in the midst of deprivation, and we must temper our prayers with desperate mercy, as each of these languishes and longs for salvation.
    Reveal Yourself, precious Lord! “Let Your work, the signs of Your power, be revealed and Your glorious majesty to our children. And let the beauty and delightfulness of the Lord our God be upon us, confirming and establishing us.” Psalm 90: 16-17 Let us repent.
    I dearly love you, brother.



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