„"Now I will arise," says the LORD, "now I will lift myself up; now I will be exalted. You conceive chaff; you give birth to stubble; your breath is a fire that will consume you. And the peoples will be as if burned to lime, like thorns cut down, that are burned in the fire." Hear, you who are far off, what I have done; and you who are near, acknowledge my might. The sinners in Zion are afraid; trembling has seized the godless: "Who among us can dwell with the consuming fire? Who among us can dwell with everlasting burnings?" He who walks righteously and speaks uprightly, who despises the gain of oppressions, who shakes his hands, lest they hold a bribe, who stops his ears from hearing of bloodshed and shuts his eyes from looking on evil, he will dwell on the heights; his place of defense will be the fortresses of rocks; his bread will be given him; his water will be sure.”
We first read about God as a consuming fire in Exodus when God descended on the mountain before the people of Israel.
„The glory of the LORD dwelt on Mount Sinai, and the cloud covered it six days. And on the seventh day he called to Moses out of the midst of the cloud. Now the appearance of the glory of the LORD was like a devouring fire on the top of the mountain in the sight of the people of Israel.”
It must have been a terrible apparition, for even Moses said:
„For you have not come to what may be touched, a blazing fire and darkness and gloom and a tempest and the sound of a trumpet and a voice whose words made the hearers beg that no further messages be spoken to them. For they could not endure the order that was given, "If even a beast touches the mountain, it shall be stoned." Indeed, so terrifying was the sight that Moses said, "I tremble with fear."”
Before we get into what consuming fire means, let’s see how consuming it is:
„Then Elijah said to the people, "I, even I only, am left a prophet of the LORD, but Baal's prophets are men. Let two bulls be given to us, and let them choose one bull for themselves and cut it in pieces and lay it on the wood, but put no fire to it. And I will prepare the other bull and lay it on the wood and put no fire to it. And you call upon the name of your god, and I will call upon the name of the LORD, and the God who answers by fire, he is God." And all the people answered, "It is well spoken." Then Elijah said to the prophets of Baal, "Choose for yourselves one bull and prepare it first, for you are many, and call upon the name of your god, but put no fire to it." And they took the bull that was given them, and they prepared it and called upon the name of Baal from morning until noon, saying, "O Baal, answer us!" But there was no voice, and no one answered. And they limped around the altar that they had made. And at noon Elijah mocked them, saying, "Cry aloud, for he is a god. Either he is musing, or he is relieving himself, or he is on a journey, or perhaps he is asleep and must be awakened." And they cried aloud and cut themselves after their custom with swords and lances, until the blood gushed out upon them. And as midday passed, they raved on until the time of the offering of the oblation, but there was no voice. No one answered; no one paid attention. Then Elijah said to all the people, "Come near to me." And all the people came near to him. And he repaired the altar of the LORD that had been thrown down. Elijah took twelve stones, according to the number of the tribes of the sons of Jacob, to whom the word of the LORD came, saying, "Israel shall be your name," and with the stones he built an altar in the name of the LORD. And he made a trench about the altar, as great as would contain two seahs of seed. And he put the wood in order and cut the bull in pieces and laid it on the wood. And he said, "Fill four jars with water and pour it on the burnt offering and on the wood." And he said, "Do it a second time." And they did it a second time. And he said, "Do it a third time." And they did it a third time. And the water ran around the altar and filled the trench also with water. And at the time of the offering of the oblation, Elijah the prophet came near and said, "O LORD, God of Abraham, Isaac, and Israel, let it be known this day that you are God in Israel, and that I am your servant, and that I have done all these things at your word. Answer me, O LORD, answer me, that this people may know that you, O LORD, are God, and that you have turned their hearts back." Then the fire of the LORD fell and consumed the burnt offering and the wood and the stones and the dust, and licked up the water that was in the trench.”
The fire also consumed the stones! We can imagine how hot the fire could have been. We need to understand why Paul said:
„According to the grace of God given to me, like a skilled master builder I laid a foundation, and someone else is building upon it. Let each one take care how he builds upon it. For no one can lay a foundation other than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ. Now if anyone builds on the foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw-- each one's work will become manifest, for the Day will disclose it, because it will be revealed by fire, and the fire will test what sort of work each one has done. If the work that anyone has built on the foundation survives, he will receive a reward. If anyone's work is burned up, he will suffer loss, though he himself will be saved, but only as through fire.”
This passage is usually interpreted as meaning that if you have accepted Jesus, you have salvation no matter what you do. Because we read that if someone’s work is burned up, he will suffer loss, but he will be saved, as if it had gone through a fire. Many hope for salvation by living an ungodly life. Yet, in Paul’s words, no one can lay a foundation other than that which is laid. What does it mean? We know that he is talking about Jesus as the foundation, that is, the rock. So we have to build on rock, but to do that we have to recognize Him, in fact, we have to know Him. For there are many jesus, that is, many kinds of images of gods, and those who want to build on the rock must find the real Jesus out of many. And this is only possible by the word of God. And if we don’t build on the real Jesus, we can build anything, it will burn with us.
God’s fire is so consuming that everything from this world will burn! Remember about the opening verse when God was present as a consuming fire. Why did God appear on the mountain? To give His law to the people! And why did He appear in a fire? Because what comes from this world cannot survive the fire of God. Because there is nothing in this world that can survive in the presence of God! Therefore, we either obey His word and may have fellowship with God, or we disobey, but then His fire consumes us. Therefore Nadab and Abihu the two sons of Aaron died by fire.
„Now Nadab and Abihu, the sons of Aaron, each took his censer and put fire in it and laid incense on it and offered unauthorized fire before the LORD, which he had not commanded them. And fire came out from before the LORD and consumed them, and they died before the LORD.”
Fire also consumed 250 people in the story of Kore's rebellion:
„And fire came out from the LORD and consumed the 250 men offering the incense.”
Those who transgress God's commandments will be consumed by the fire of God.
„Take care, lest you forget the covenant of the LORD your God, which he made with you, and make a carved image, the form of anything that the LORD your God has forbidden you. For the LORD your God is a consuming fire, a jealous God.”
We can clearly see the reason we can burn in the fire. We must be careful of our covenant with the Lord, we cannot transgress the commandments of God, for the Lord is a consuming fire, a jealous God!
God will destroy the whole earth by fire because it is filled with Wickedness. People transgress God’s law, not appreciating His Son and sacrifice. Therefore, the Father rightly consumes the adversaries with fire.
„For if we go on sinning deliberately after receiving the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins, but a fearful expectation of judgment, and a fury of fire that will consume the adversaries. Anyone who has set aside the law of Moses dies without mercy on the evidence of two or three witnesses. How much worse punishment, do you think, will be deserved by the one who has spurned the Son of God, and has profaned the blood of the covenant by which he was sanctified, and has outraged the Spirit of grace?”
What do we choose? Obedience to God or a consuming fire? Let’s go back to the verse I started preaching with:
„The sinners in Zion are afraid; trembling has seized the godless: "Who among us can dwell with the consuming fire? Who among us can dwell with everlasting burnings?"”
It's a good question. Who can dwell with Him? Who is not digested by the fire of God? Thank God He answers our question:
„He who walks righteously and speaks uprightly, who despises the gain of oppressions, who shakes his hands, lest they hold a bribe, who stops his ears from hearing of bloodshed and shuts his eyes from looking on evil, he will dwell on the heights; his place of defense will be the fortresses of rocks; his bread will be given him; his water will be sure.”
What did we read? Maybe that who says beautiful things to Him? Who Sings to Him? Who believes in His existence? Who calls himself by His name? Who thinks positively? We don't read this! But we read that one who does the will of God can dwell with God:
„He who walks righteously and speaks uprightly, who despises the gain of oppressions, who shakes his hands, lest they hold a bribe, who stops his ears from hearing of bloodshed and shuts his eyes from looking on evil…”
An interesting verse parallel, we read that:
„who stops his ears from hearing of bloodshed and shuts his eyes from looking on evil”
There is something we need to be deaf and blind about. As we read about Jesus in one of the Messianic prophecies:
„Hear, you deaf, and look, you blind, that you may see! Who is blind but my servant, or deaf as my messenger whom I send? Who is blind as my dedicated one, or blind as the servant of the LORD? He sees many things, but does not observe them; his ears are open, but he does not hear. The LORD was pleased, for his righteousness' sake, to magnify his law and make it glorious.”
Let us also be those who magnify His law and make it glorious, let us be like Jesus! Jesus obeyed God, keeping His laws. And we? Do we obey God, or do we choose the consuming fire?
„Therefore let us be grateful for receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, and thus let us offer to God acceptable worship, with reverence and awe, for our God is a consuming fire.”
Author: Antal Farkas