Awesome horripilation ∙
For the LORD Most High is awesome. He is the great King of all the earth. – Psalms 47:2
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 frequently happens 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 shaking, trembling, shuddering, 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, 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 utterly 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.
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. Instead, they are awed. They are overwhelmed by the magnificence of their otherworldly encounter of the third kind with the Father. Some are temporarily paralyzed, and many fall on their faces.
8 So I was left there all alone to see this fantastic 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. The purpose of this visitation was to provide the answers to Daniel’s prayers.
REFLECT & PRAY
When Isaiah saw the King of Kings in all 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 could barely 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 when I think of You and experience Your presence.
Why does the Father visit us? Indeed it is not to make us feel warm and fuzzy. Many people today claim to have visions or visitations from the living God. In contrast to what we see in the Scriptures, they 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 about them. Their stories are titillating. Their reported “eyewitness account” somehow exalts them rather than the Father. Their experience becomes the new measure of 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. Instead, 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.
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; 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 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 his 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 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 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 correct answer, “Here am I.” Today we might say, “Father, what would you have me do.”
The Father is always at work seeking those willing to join Him to fulfill His will on earth. Are you ready?
© Dr. H 2022