|Photo © 2016 by V. Nesdoly|
TO CHEW ON: "A fire goes before Him,
And burns up His enemies round about." Psalm 97:3
All of us no doubt have experience with fire. We've used it in helpful, controlled ways to cook, bring heat to our homes, and drive. We wear jewelry made of metal refined and shaped in the heat of fire and have enjoyed the atmospheric lighting of a candlelit dinner.
With experience we also gain a healthy respect for fire. We know the damage and deadly destruction it can do to a forest and our homes.
Interestingly, the Bible often depicts God's presence in terms of fire. Bringing what we know of fire to this connection with God makes for an interesting study:
1. God appeared to Moses in a bush that didn't burn - Exodus 3:2.
2. The cloud He gave the Israelites to accompany and direct them through their 40 years in the wilderness appeared as a pillar of fire by night - Exodus 13:21,22. Moses reminded the Israelites how God had talked to them from that cloud - Deuteronomy 4:36.
3. Several Bible writers talk about the fiery aspect of God's presence—a fire of righteous judgment. That seems to be the message of our focus verse, especially when we read it in context (Psalm 97:2,3). One gets the sense from this passage and others (Psalm 50:3; Isaiah 10:17; 66:15) that God's holiness can't help but consume all that is unworthy in its path.
4. God's presence can also be too much for nature. In Psalm 97:5 and Micah 1:4 His coming melts the mountains.
5. Ezekiel's heavenly vision included fire with living creatures whose "… appearance was like burning coals of fire, like the appearance of torches going back and forth." Does this mean there's fire in heaven?
6. The coming of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost was with tongues of fire - Acts 2:3.
In our time when we think of God as friendly and approachable (and He is those things, thanks to Jesus), let's not put out of our minds completely this picture of Him associated with fire. For Paul talks of a future Day when God's fire will test the work of our lives - 1 Corinthians 3:10-15.
The words of Hebrews express so well a realistic response to our fiery God: "Therefore since we are receiving a Kingdom which cannot be shaken, let us have grace, by which we may serve God acceptably with reverence and godly fear. For our God is a consuming fire" - Hebrews 12:29 (emphasis added).
PRAYER: Dear Father, may I never become blasé toward Your fiery side, which is just as real as your grace, mercy, and love. Amen.
Unless otherwise noted all Scripture quotations are taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.