Beware the Bugblatter Beast of Traal

Regular readers will know that I am a fan of Douglas Adams’ science fiction comedy novel The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy.  Adams makes a comic art form of extreme absurdity, and one such creation is the Ravenous Bugblatter Beast of Traal.  In the book, intergalactic hitchhikers are urged to always travel with a towel, and among the reasons is that a towel is handy to wrap around your head to “avoid the gaze of the Ravenous Bugblatter Beast of Traal (such a mind-boggingly stupid animal, it assumes that if you can’t see it, it can’t see you)”[1]  By simply covering your eyes, you can escape being devoured by this Beast, one of the least intelligent creatures in existence.

I thought of the Beast when reading Psalm 50:17, which says: “For you hate discipline, and you cast my words behind you.”  Why cast words behind us?  So we can’t see them, and if we can’t see them, we think we can safely ignore them.  Perhaps God will leave us alone, as if He does not exist.  But the verse is a warning not to be like the Ravenous Bugblatter Beast of Traal.  God can’t be swept under a rug and ignored.

There is an episode in the book of Ezekiel that would be comical if it weren’t so tragically similar to this Beast.  Ezekiel’s many images, object lessons, and visions are designed to stir God’s people from complacency and turn back to Him.  To fully convince Ezekiel that the nation was casting God’s word behind them, Ezekiel was taken in a vision inside the temple in Jerusalem, and this is what he saw:

So I went in and saw. And there, engraved on the wall all around, was every form of creeping things and loathsome beasts, and all the idols of the house of Israel.  And before them stood seventy men of the elders of the house of Israel, with Jaazaniah the son of Shaphan standing among them. Each had his censer in his hand, and the smoke of the cloud of incense went up.  Then he said to me, “Son of man, have you seen what the elders of the house of Israel are doing in the dark, each in his room of pictures? For they say, ‘The LORD does not see us, the LORD has forsaken the land.’” – Ezekiel 8:10-12

Ezekiel was a prophet to Jews already exiled to Babylon, but Jerusalem itself had not yet fallen, and many Jews thought it was impossible.  But inside the temple, the very place symbolizing God’s presence and glorious light, the elders of Israel were worshipping Egyptian-style animal deities and using incense to ward off evil spirits.  They sinned, while saying God couldn’t see them because they don’t see evidence of Him in their circumstances: “the LORD has forsaken the land.”  How like the Ravenous Bugblatter Beast of Traal!

Later, in Ezekiel 9:9, the prophet records:“Then [God] said to me, “The guilt of the house of Israel and Judah is exceedingly great. The land is full of blood, and the city full of injustice. For they say, ‘The LORD has forsaken the land, and the LORD does not see.’

Can this dry land live again? Photo by Tobias Jelskov on Unsplash

Sometimes by casting His words behind us, we may think we are forsaken.  We interpret His word in light of our circumstances, instead of interpreting our circumstances in light of His word.  It is when the church acts like God doesn’t see that we should be fearful.  When the church claims Jesus as Savior but not as Lord.  When the church trusts in worldly power, not God’s power.  When the church struggles to see how their very Maker and King is, as they say, “relevant.” 

In Ezekiel chapter 10, the glory of Lord departs the Jerusalem temple entirely, and all of Judah was exiled, but Ezekiel’s message wasn’t finished.  He also proclaims hope, most dramatically in chapter 37, the “Valley of Dry Bones” vision.  Ezekiel sees dry bones scattered everywhere across a valley, symbolizing how spiritually dead God’s own people appear.  The vision is a test for Ezekiel: would he look at the valley and assume, based on the immediate circumstances, that “The LORD has forsaken the land, and the LORD does not see”?  In verse 3, he writes: “And he said to me, ‘Son of man, can these bones live?’”  Ezekiel doesn’t jump to conclusions but trusts that God knows best: “And I answered, ‘O Lord GOD, you know.’”  Symbolizing new life in Christ, even from death, God re-assembles the dry bones, adds sinew and flesh and skin, then breathes life into them, “and they lived and stood on their feet, an exceedingly great army.”[2]

In the Valley of Dry Bones, Ezekiel learned that God does see our dire situation, and He has a plan, even if we choose to look the other way.  This plan is infinitely and eternally more “relevant” than any present (and temporary) circumstances.

In the New Testament the plan continues with an Ebenezer[3] moment, as the apostle Paul wrote: “But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ – by grace you have been saved – and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus” (Ephesians 2:4-6)

[1] Adams, Douglas. The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy.  (1980).
[2] Ezekiel 37:10b
[3] Ebenezer, the ‘But God…’ Squirrel, is the blog’s mascot and a reminder that, no matter the situation, God can overcome it, and the words “But God…” in the Bible are often moments where that happens.

2 thoughts on “Beware the Bugblatter Beast of Traal

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s