God is a consuming fire. This phrase can set off alarms (no pun intended).
When we hear or read that God is a "consuming fire," we have different emotional responses. Some react with fear, fearing that this relates to God's judgment. Others react excitedly, believing that this indicates his power and protection. Both can be true. However, as followers of Jesus, we need not be concerned or afraid. What I mean?
What does the Bible mean when it calls God a consuming fire?
Remember that God uses many images from creation to help us understand aspects of who he is. living water. the vine. Our rock. Light of the world. Lion of Judah. Lamb Of God. God wants to be recognized and has revealed himself to us through what he created, through his word, through his prophets and finally through Jesus Christ. His love for us is so unrelenting that he surrounds us with opportunities to get to know him.
I grew up in a household with a healthy respect for fire. My father was a firefighter and then fire chief - a career that spans 65 years. I've seen training videos of fire when it's out of control. Some of you have witnessed this firsthand.
A raging fire can sound like a living, breathing animal. Nothing can stand in his way. It devours everything in its path. Sometimes, especially in the west, fire is the only way to fight fire. Fire is so powerful. Relentless. Consume. Brilliant.
Still, many of us enjoy campfires. Firelight is captivating, calming and beautiful. Fire in the night can protect us, guide us home, and bring us together. Firelight awakens the storyteller in us. We can cook over a fire and it can keep us warm. Firelight can signal that we are not alone, or gather support when danger is imminent.
But we always remember to respect fire. We're probably trying to teach younger people to respect fire. The rules we teach them about fire safety aren't there because we love rules. The rules are there because of the nature of fire. Fire does not change its nature just because we ignore it or slacken our respect for it. fire is fire
Likewise, God is brute force by nature. god is spirit He is a force, a light, a consuming fire, and he does not change his nature just because people ignore him, refuse to respect him, or even deny his existence.
Fire is beautiful, useful, essential, fascinating and necessary for life. God too. Fire can also be overwhelming, ferocious, and a powerful force against anything that gets in its way. God can do that too.
Where does the Bible refer to God as a consuming fire?
InExodus 3, God appeared to Moses in a burning bush. The bush burned, but the fire did not consume it (Exodus 3:2). InExodus 13, God led the Israelites through the desert at night in a “pillar of fire”. Likewise when the Holy Spirit arrived in the upper roomPentecost, there came a roaring like a mighty wind, "and divided tongues of fire appeared to them and rested on each one of them" (Acts 2:3ESV).
There was no mention of the room's occupants being burned or consumed "as with fire" by the coming of the Holy Spirit. Moses was not hurt and no one was hurt by the pillar of fire. Remember that God controls His interactions with us. In Christ we have nothing to fear.
There are special mentions ofGod as consuming firein the Holy Scriptures (all quotes from the ESV):
“Be careful not to forget the covenant that the Lord your God made with you, and make a carved image, the form of all that the Lord your God has forbidden you. For the Lord your God is a consuming fire, a jealous God.” (Deuteronomy 4:23-24)
“Know therefore today that he who passes before you as a consuming fire is the Lord your God. He will destroy them and subdue them before you. So you shall drive them out and cause them to perish quickly, as the Lord has promised you.” (Deuteronomy 9:3)
“The sinners in Zion are afraid; Trembling gripped the wicked: “Who of us can dwell by the consuming fire? Who among us can dwell in everlasting burning?” He who walks righteously and speaks uprightly, who despises the gain of oppression, who shakes his hands lest they hold a bribe, who closes his ears to hear bloodshed, and shuts his eyes from the sight of evil.” (Isaiah 33:14-15)
“He crushed the fierce anger with all the power of Israel; he has withdrawn his right hand from them in the face of the enemy; he burned like a flaming fire in Jacob and consumed everything around.” (Jeremiah 2:3)
"Therefore, let us be thankful that we have received an unshakable kingdom, and so let us offer acceptable worship to God, with reverence and reverence, for our God is a consuming fire." (Hebrews 12:28-29)
What do these passages reveal about God's consuming fire?
From the context of these verses we can understand some aspects of God's consuming fire.
First, it is intended to focus our worship on God, the only One worthy of our worship and obedience. God created us for worship, but Satan creates fake opportunities to lure us into worshiping worthless idols. Sin leads us to worship ourselves. God's fire is like a sharp boundary, reminding us to fix our eyes only on Him. While this fire can be troubling, the real danger is deviating from God.
Second, the enemies of God are consumed by His fire. He went before Israel to fight enemies; likewise his fire now defends us against all spiritual enemies. He is our protector and deliverer. He roars with fire to consume those who would mislead or harm His people.
Third, according to Isaiah, some can dwell with the consuming fire. These people walk in righteousness. Walking in righteousness does not mean living perfectly, but surrendering our lives to Jesus, who gives us his righteousness. Therefore we have nothing to fear. My father spent his life studying fire. He understood and respected it, but he wasn't afraid.
Fourth, there isa refining aspect of God's fire. God disciplined the Israelites when they persisted in their idolatry and sin. We can feel the fire of His corrective action in our lives, but remember He knows exactly what we can endure. It was deplorable when Jeremiah faced the discipline of God's anger against Israel. Yet he writes in the NKJV: "By the mercy of the Lord we are not consumed, for his mercy does not fail" (Psalm 3:22). Followers of God are refined by His fire, but not consumed.
Finally, the consuming nature of God's fire should move our hearts to gratitude for Jesus and His sacrifice on the crossresurrection, and the gift of his Holy Spirit. We are not consumed. It should also motivate us to represent him well and take every opportunity to share the gospel with those who do not know him.
Who is consumed by God's fire?
There are instances in God's Word where the enemies of God (like the prophets of Baal in their showdown with Elijah) were consumed by fire (1 Kings 18:20-40).
At other times, disobedient or rebellious people among the Israelites were consumed by God's fire. Aaron's sons were destroyed by fire when they disobeyed and offered a "strange fire" in the tabernacle, showing extreme disregard for the holiness of God (Leviticus 10:1-2). Fire consumed some who rebelled in the wilderness (numbers 16).
Revelation describes a time after Jesus' return when Satan and God's enemies will be destroyed along with death and Hades in the lake of fire and brimstone. Then inRevelation 20:15, we learn of the end of those whose names are not written in the book of life: "And if anyone's name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire."
Jesus died so that we might live and not be exposed to this consuming fire. All who call on the name of Jesus are saved. Conversely, some will refuse to accept the truth of the gospel for themselves. Jesus is clear about what awaits them, and all Scripture points to Jesus as the One who saves us from the fire.
Does God's fire mean he doesn't love?
When we knock on our family's front door, even if it's the middle of the night and we're not expected, we would expect a loving, healthy father to let us in.
When we are in a drunken state, under the influence of drugs, running from the law, or picking a fight with our Father, we can expect to be greeted with a measure of His fiery anger. But even then, with a loving, healthy father, we would know we were safewe endure correction.
When an enemy bangs on our door, or a violent person intending to harm our family forces entry, we may witness a greater fire from our loving, sane Father aimed at that intruder than we have ever witnessed have seen. Our Father may frighten us even when he defends us, but the fire is fueled by love for those of us he protects.
This is the nature of God's holy and consuming fire. It's driven by love because He is love.
Just as we hate what destroys our children, God hates what destroys his. He created us to be in relationship with him and to enjoy his love, but Satan, sin and evil employ lies, deceit and all sorts of evil to draw us away. God's holiness burns with a consuming fire for our good.
Should we fear God's consuming fire?
When we are in relationship with Jesus Christ, we have nothing to fear from God's consuming fire.
When Daniel's three friends were thrown into the fiery furnaceDaniel 3, the furnace was so hot that it killed the men who threw it into it. But when the king looked into the furnace, he announced: "'Behold!' he replied: 'I see four men walking amidst the fire; and they are not injured, and the form of the fourth is like thisSon of god'" (Daniel 3:25ESV).
When they were released, “onlookers saw these Menon, whose bodies the fire had no power; the hair of their heads was not singed, nor were their clothes marred, and the odor of fire was not upon them" (Daniel 3:27ESV).
Jesus Christ walks with us through every fire we encounter on earth, delivering us from the fire that is the target of Satan, death, Hades, and all those whose names are not written in the book of life.
If we do not know or even defy Jesus, then yes, fear would be an appropriate response. God is a consuming fire.
But He offers salvation to all who call on the name of Jesus.
As Peter exclaimed on the day of Pentecost, "Repent, and be baptized, all of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit" (Acts 2:38ESV).
Our God is powerful and beautiful. In Christ we are welcome in his light.
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Lori Stanley Roeleveldis a blogger, speaker, trainer, and Hobbits disruptor who enjoys making Christians comfortable with late dinners. She has authored four encouraging, unsettling books including Running from a Crazy Man and The Art of Hard Conversations. She gives her opinionwww.loriroeleveld.com.
This article is part of our larger resource library of popular Bible verses and quotes. We aim to provide easy-to-read articles that answer your questions about the meaning, origin, and history of specific verses in the context of Scripture. We hope these will help you better understand the meaning and purpose of God's Word as it relates to your life today.
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