Fire from heaven (Genesis 19)?
Having the earth swallow you (Number 16:28-35)?
Sending bears to eat you (2 Kings 2:23-25)?
Falling out of a window and having your corpse eaten by wild dogs (2 Kings 9:30-37)?
Being drowned alive (Genesis 7:24)?
Although all of those are judgments to fear and avoid at all costs, none of them are so great as this: having God’s Word obscured or taken away.
Martin Luther said it well:
I have lived to see the greatest plague on earth – the condemning of God’s Word, a fearful thing, surpassing all other plagues in the world; for thereupon most surely follow all manner of punishment, eternal and corporal. Did I desire for a man all bitter plagues and curses, I would wish him the condemning of God’s Word,for he would then have them all at once come upon him, both inward and outward misfortunes. The condemning of God’s Word is the forerunner of God’s punishments; as the examples witness in the times of Lot, of Noah, and of our Saviour. (Table Talk on Scripture, XXXI).
Of all the things God can do to Man in judgment, few are as fierce as taking away His Word. With it, we have life and hope. Without it, we perish in despair. May His Word be cherished, learned, obeyed, and honored in our churches.