March 18th, 2022 – Friday Afternoon
“…For our God is a consuming fire.” ~Hebrews 12:29
Have you ever experienced a house fire, an out-of-control wildfire, or a fire of similar proportions? Even if you haven’t, we all can imagine and see the devastation caused by such an incident. It not only eats up everything it can until it is stopped, but it leaves a wake of destruction in its path. Cherished heirlooms, valuable documents, comforts and necessities, beautiful landscapes, everything is gone in the wake of a totally devastating fire.
How about a campfire or a bonfire? Surely you’ve experienced the fellowship, laughter, singing, food, etc. that comes with such an enjoyable and sometimes spectacular (depending on who’s tending the fire :-D) event. This kind of fire is good when it is under control; not only can it serve a useful purpose (heat, cooking, etc.), but it can bring people together as well.
One other example of fire is seen in the furnace of a steel mill or a gold refinery. These fires likely have the highest temperature of any on earth (molten lava may be higher than gold’s melting point, but not higher than steel), yet they are carefully contained in order to accomplish a specific purpose. The purpose of these fires or furnaces is to refine, purify, and liquify metals of various kinds.
Our passage today reminds us of the consuming nature of fire, but it does so in a rather stark manner; Hebrews 12 ends by reminding believers that our “God is a consuming fire”. This line is taken from Deuteronomy 4:24 and is repeated in a similar way in Deuteronomy 9:3. In the first instance, Israel is told that the LORD their God is a consuming fire, a jealous God, after being warned to take heed that they not forget their covenant with God or turn to idolatry. In the second instance, they are informed of how the LORD would go before them into the land that He was giving them to possess; He would go as a consuming fire, destroying and bringing the peoples of the land down before Israel.
These are not the only times fire has been used to describe the LORD, however. Many, many times, from the pillar of fire usually in front of the Israelite exodus to the fire that consumed those who rebelled against Moses and Aaron (and ultimately the LORD) to the fire that came down from heaven and consumed the sacrifice AND the altar that Elijah had erected on Carmel to the fire that came down from heaven to consume the troops sent to capture Elisha to the refiner’s fire mentioned in Malachi 3 to the tongues of fire sitting on the believers in Acts 2 to the fiery eyes of Him who rules forever and ever, fire is used to describe and exhibit the nature and glory of God again and again throughout Scripture.
Why does the LORD use “fire” to describe His nature and glory? I believe it is for a few reasons: 1. You cannot contain some fires; they are unquenchable, burning on and on and on. In like manner, you cannot contain the LORD God Almighty! 2. Fire consumes; it burns until it runs out of fuel (or oxygen). The LORD’s anger consumes, His fire devours, and His refining furnace does not go out…until it has accomplished His purposes or until He wills it to stop. 3. Fire is usually bright with heat and color; fires show up at night and they have often been used (torches, lamps, flashlights, etc.) to light up and shine into dark areas. In the same way, the LORD is THE Light who shines in darkness; He dwells in unapproachable light; and, His Spirit in us causes us to shine as His light in the world around us.
My beloved brethren, our God is a consuming fire. Let us not swerve from His path of truth and righteousness, thereby endangering ourselves with His burning wrath; let us not refuse Him or reject His discipline. His anger burns hot against sin and those who love it and His jealousy roars in His relationship with His people; yet, His refining fire is for our good and His glory. What a privilege to know the God who is a consuming fire! May we submit ourselves to Him and allow His devouring fire to both keep us from sin and to purify the dross of our faith as we walk by His Spirit.
Thank You, Father, that You are the uncontainable, all-consuming God!