Baleka!

“But you, man of God, flee from all this, and pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, endurance and gentleness” 1 Timothy 6:11

It was a typical hot dusty day in the African bush veld and there I was inching along on my belly toward more than two thousand kilograms of black rhino. Blinking through beads of perspiration I could barely make out the two young women to my left as they slithered through the grass with the serpentine action of a boa constrictor after its prey.

The black rhinoceros, Diceros Bicornis, is the most dangerous of a highly dangerous family. They are up to 3 metres long, can run at 40 kilometres an hour, and can turn in 6 metres at that speed. They are armed with a sharp, vicious horn of matted hair, sometimes over two feet long, which can throw you 10 metres through the air. They have an acute sense of smell and hearing, but poor eyesight. They are highly irascible and given to murderous charges.

We were in the Umfolozi Game Reserve in Kwazulu-Natal and less than twenty metres from four aggressive beasts who were the product of a breeding programme to bring the black rhino back from the brink of extinction. I was teaching environmental and conservation studies and leading an expedition of twelve university students to study the unique ecosystem that supported the black rhino. We were working on foot with two Zulu game rangers.

But back to the action … The midday stillness was suddenly broken by two simultaneous sounds – the snorting of a charging rhino who had caught our scent and the command of our rangers as they shouted “Baleka!  Baleka!” (Run away! Run away!). Suddenly the veld came alive as fifteen people sought safety. Everything happened at once. I found myself, with three women, at the base of a thorn tree. Ramming them up with a superhuman strength I didn’t know I had, I glanced to my right to see the rhino, grunting with rage, red-eyed, a whirl of murder at full speed, only three metres away, and bearing right down on us. Everything seemed to be happening in slow motion. With the earth shaking I gave the last student a final heave while simultaneously praying that the rhino wouldn’t see me huddled at the base of the tree.

My prayer was answered. The rhino swerved to its left and crashed off through the undergrowth in search of someone else to kill. Praise the Lord for giving them poor eyesight! We, of course, wasted no time departing in the opposite direction.

Most people know the sensible response in the face of danger is to flee. Paul gave this advice to Timothy. He told Timothy to flee from “false doctrines … envy, quarrelling, malicious talk, evil suspicions and constant friction between men of corrupt mind … foolish and harmful desires … and the love of money” 1 Timothy 6:3-5; 9-10.

So if you’re facing temptation don’t hang around – flee. Listen to the Guide. Respond to His shout of “Baleka!” “And pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, endurance and gentleness” 1 Timothy 6:11. Yes, when sin you see, it’s time to flee!

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