‘For our God is a consuming fire (Hebrews 12:29).’
Fire is to be feared and respected. When I was a child my mother warned me several times about being careful when handling matches. In those days our house was heated with coal fires and there was an anthracite stove in the kitchen. It was wartime, and sometimes there were power failures which plunged us into darkness. We used candles and torches to give us light. Every room was equipped with at least one candle and matches. Therefore you can understand why my mother was so concerned about me being careful with matches.
James gives us an illustration in the Bible of a tongue being like a tiny flame that sets on fire a great forest (James 3:5); therefore the tongue needs to be tamed to prevent it from spreading evil, which in turn multiplies itself. [One lie leads to more lies.] The *Grenvell Tower fire was ignited by a tiny flame which grew and became an inferno of death and destruction.
We may be surprised, therefore, that the author of Hebrews describes our God as ‘a consuming fire’ (Hebrews 12:29). What does fire do? It utterly destroys all in its path. The recent **fires of California have caused death and destruction, the likes of which have not been seen before – whole neighbourhoods, such as the town of Paradise, have been wiped out!
The Bible warns over-and-again of God’s destructive power likened to the purging force of fire which He will bring to bear upon His enemies:
Psalm 21:8, 9 ‘Your hand will find all Your enemies; Your right hand will find those who hate You. You shall make them as a fiery oven in the time of Your anger; the LORD shall swallow them up in His wrath.’
Psalm 50:3 ‘Our God shall come, and shall not keep silent; a fire shall devour before Him, and it shall be very tempestuous all around Him.
Isaiah 47:14 ‘Behold, they shall be as stubble, the fire shall burn them; they shall not deliver themselves from the power of the flame; it shall not be a coal to be warmed by, nor a fire to sit before!
Isaiah 66:15, 16 ‘For behold, the LORD will come with fire and with His chariots, like a whirlwind, to render His anger with fury, and His rebuke with flames of fire. For by fire and by His sword the LORD will judge all flesh; and the slain of the LORD shall be many.’
Ezekiel 22:21, 22 ‘“Yes, I will gather you and blow on you with the fire of My wrath, and you shall be melted in its midst. As silver is melted in the midst of a furnace, so shall you be melted in its midst; then you shall know that I, the LORD, have poured out My fury on you.”’
Matthew 3:12 ‘“His winnowing fan is in His hand; and He will thoroughly purge His winnowing floor, and gather His wheat into the barn; but He will burn up the chaff with unquenchable fire.”’
Matthew 13:41, 42 ‘“The Son of Man will send out His angels, and they will gather out of the kingdom all things that offend, and those who practice lawlessness, and will cast them into the furnace of fire. There will be wailing and gnashing of teeth.”
2 Peter 3:7, 10 ‘But the heavens and the earth which now exist are kept in store by the same word, reserved for fire until the day of judgment and perdition of ungodly men. …… But the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night, in which the heavens will pass away with a great noise, and the elements will melt with fervent heat; both the earth and the works that are in it will be burned up.’
Our God, who is consuming fire, is a God of justice (Deuteronomy 32:4; Isaiah 30:18). As such He will destroy all His enemies, and finally His arch-enemies:
Revelation 19:20 ‘Then the beast was captured, and with him the false prophet who worked signs in his presence, by which he deceived those who received the mark of the beast and those who worshipped his image. These two were cast alive into the lake of fire burning with brimstone.’
Revelation 20:10 ‘And the devil, who deceived them, was cast into the lake of fire and brimstone where the beast and the false prophet are. And they will be tormented day and night forever and ever.’
Therefore let us take heed and keep our tongues from evil (Matthew 6:13).
*Grenvell Tower Fire
**Californian Paradise Fire