The morning fog this time of year can be a beautiful thing. While shrouding the landscape in mist, the hovering cloud can either dull the colors to various shades of gray, or it can be awash with the golden hues cast by the soft light of a rising sun.

But fog can be a dangerous thing. Last December, fog was the primary factor in a 130-car pile-up in Belgium. A few months earlier, 200 people were injured in Kent, England, in a 100-car fog related accident. Not so lovely is the fog when it keeps you from seeing the back end of the semi you just plowed into!

The sometimes beautiful, sometimes deadly fog is, of course, but temporary. Eventually it dissipates and all is clear again. In Camelot, it faces an 8 o’clock deadline by which it must disappear! It’s that temporal quality that the Bible picks up on and offers some pointed warnings. James likens the brevity of life to the transient fog. “What is your life?” he asks, “You are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes away” (4:14). Indeed, the fog in the photo above was gone thirty minutes after the picture was taken. Given the brevity and uncertainty of life, James counsels, should we be making plans, counting on our goals and objectives, as if the mist will never vanish? No. Life should be lived by faith, with the awareness of our total dependence upon God.

The Old Testament prophet Hosea offers another warning using the imagery of fog. The prophet is confronting idolatrous Israel—the people have turned their back on the Lord to worship Baal. In doing so, however, they’ve forsaken the God in whose hands their very lives exists! The Lord God who delivered Israel from Egypt, the only Savior, has been abandoned by those He had saved (13:4). Their existence in the land, Hosea warns, will be no more permanent than the “morning cloud” (v. 3). The warning, of course, is to reject idolatry in any form (even our more modern forms!), thinking it offers the key to life and happiness, and (re)turn to the only source of either—the only Savior, the Lord God.

Fog may be beautiful; it may be dangerous. If we pay attention, though, it can also be instructive.