Thursday, February 16, 2012

God is a Fire

Our God is a consuming fire. Hebrews 12:29

Throughout Scripture God is associated with flame.

When God entered into a covenant with Abraham he appeared as a flaming torch (Genesis 15:17). He came to Moses in a burning bush (Exodus 3:2). He led Israel in a pillar of fire (Exodus 13:21). He descended to the mount with fire and smoke (Exodus 19:18). Ezekiel’s vision of God was filled with fire (Ezekiel 1:27). John foretold that Jesus would baptize believers in fire (Luke 3:16). Then, on the day of Pentecost, what looked like tongues of fire rested on the heads of the disciples (Acts 2:3).

But what does it all mean? Why is God so associated with fire?

Fire gives comfort. Fire gives light. Fire is elusive, flickering. All of these things can be said of God as well.

What I want to consider in particular is the consuming work of fire. Fire has an insatiable appetite. What it touches it takes into itself. Our God, the flaming God, consumes all that is unlike him. In his consuming work he makes things clean.

Numbers 31:22 Only the gold, and the silver, the brass, the iron, the tin, and the lead, 23 Every thing that may abide the fire, ye shall make it go through the fire, and it shall be clean: nevertheless it shall be purified with the water of separation: and all that abideth not the fire ye shall make go through the water.

When God baptizes his people with fire he is doing a cleansing, consuming, work in us. Corrosion, corruption, infection, and filth can stay until the flame comes. When the fire comes all the rubbish is consumed, leaving only what is precious.

Fire can purify and fire can destroy – the same fire. Some welcome the flames of judgment – they welcome the destruction of all the trash. Consider Isaiah:

Isaiah 6:5 Then said I, Woe is me! for I am undone; because I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips: for mine eyes have seen the King, the LORD of hosts. 6 Then flew one of the seraphims unto me, having a live coal in his hand, which he had taken with the tongs from off the altar: 7 And he laid it upon my mouth, and said, Lo, this hath touched thy lips; and thine iniquity is taken away, and thy sin purged.

Others run from the purifying and judging flame only to finally end up eternally intertwined with their sins. For them the consuming fires of judgment are never quenched.

Revelation 21:8 But the fearful, and unbelieving, and the abominable, and murderers, and whoremongers, and sorcerers, and idolaters, and all liars, shall have their part in the lake which burneth with fire and brimstone: which is the second death.
Welcome the God who is a consuming fire. He is a flame of love.