Swamp Smoke

by Julie Zine Coleman @JulieZColeman

As I stepped out to walk my dog a few years ago, a pervasive smell in the morning air accosted me. Something was clearly burning, but I could not see smoke. It wasn’t until later that I discovered the odor’s point of origin. Apparently, lightning had ignited a fire in Virginia’s Great Dismal Swamp the previous week. The ensuing fire was still going strong. The afternoon preceding our walk, the wind began to blow from the south. The entire Washington, D.C. area was now the unhappy recipient of dismal air quality, thanks to the smoke blowing over us. 

You may be surprised to learn the Great Dismal Swamp is not even close to where I live. It is 250 miles away, a good five hour drive from here. We couldn’t see the flames or the smoke. Yet we were suffering effects, just the same. Pollution can be pervasive.

When Moses was leading the people of Israel through the desert, three men, named Korah, Dathan, and Abiriam challenged his and his brother Aaron’s authority. You can imagine how it began: three men sitting around a campfire, discussing the day’s events. Soon careless remarks became angry in tone as they encouraged each other on. Others joined in, and it wasn’t long before the discontentment had infected a sizable group. Bitterness quickly spread, resulting in a rebellion 250 men strong. Sin had infiltrated the camp.

With such encouraging support, Korah publicly confronted the leaders. Who did they think they were, putting themselves in charge? Moses humbly responded by suggesting they assemble at the Tent of Meeting the next day. There God would indicate whom he desired to lead.

God let them know alright, and in no uncertain terms. The ground opened up to swallow Korah and his cohorts, their families, and all their possessions. Then fire came down from heaven and consumed the 250 followers as well.

You would think that would have been the end of that, and the rest of the people would have been scared straight. Not so.

The next day, the entire congregation voiced their anger at Moses and Aaron for the terrible judgment they had witnessed. At this point, the Lord had had enough. He sent a plague; immediately people began dropping like flies. In three days’ time, the sin of three men was now affecting thousands.

Moses, desperate to save the people, ordered his brother to take incense and make atonement for their sin. Numbers 16:48 (NASB) tells us: “He took his stand between the dead and the living, so that the plague was checked.” Sin’s egregious effects had finally come to a halt. (Read the story in its entirety in Numbers 16.)

Yes, sin will spread its insidious swamp smoke every time. But as we face its far-reaching pollution, we are not without hope. The remedy to stop the damage in its tracks has already been provided. Our High Priest Jesus has also taken his stand between the living and the dead. He’s made atonement for our sin. No longer are we helpless under its fierce onslaught of destruction (Romans 7:13-15).

After a few days of smelly air, a cold front went through Maryland. We awoke the next morning to fresh, clean air, all traces of the Dismal Swamp fire swept away by a northwesterly wind. God has offered us the same kind of new beginning. He is waiting for us to invite Him into the mess sin has caused to bring healing and restoration for all involved that place their trust in Him.

“What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who is against us? He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him over for us all, how will He not also with Him freely give us all things?” Romans 8:31-32 NASB  

Swamp Smoke – encouragement and insight from author @JulieZColeman on @AriseDailyDevo (Click to Tweet)


About the authorJulie Coleman helps others to understand and know an unexpected God. A popular conference and retreat speaker, she holds an M.A. in biblical studies. Julie is the managing editor for Arise Daily. When she is not glaring at her computer, she spends time with her grandchildren, gardening, or walking her neurotic dog. More on Julie can be found at unexpectedgod.com and Facebook.

Does the Bible depict women as second-class citizens of the Kingdom? Jesus didn’t think so. Unexpected Love takes a revealing look at the encounters that Jesus had with women in the gospels. You will fall in love with the dynamic, beautiful, and unexpectedly personal Jesus.

Join the conversation: Have you seen sin cause destruction in those who never knew about the original event?


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