‘For the LORD your God is a consuming fire, a jealous God (Deuteronomy 4:24).’
Fire is an extremely frightening thing. Perhaps at no other time in history have so many fires raged on planet earth as they do at this moment. Photographic images beamed from orbiting satellites confirm the extent of countless fires ravaging the world’s rainforests, jungles, scrublands and savannahs, while killing people and animals and destroying property. In Brazil alone there have been more than 74,000 recorded fires since the beginning of this year. Vast swathes of tropical rainforest are being consumed at a rate that is equivalent to the size of three football pitches every minute! [The Sun – online – 23 August, 2019] Since August 15th 9,500 new fires have started there.
Continuing our circuit around the world we observe fires on every continent, even on the tiny island of Madeira in the Atlantic Ocean. There’s hardly a place that has not been affected. In the United States there’s been an average of 72,400 wildfires every year for the past nineteen years, which is equal to 7 million acres that have been burnt to a frazzle.
Europe has not escaped: Greece, Latvia, Sweden, Spain and Portugal have all suffered from severe fires. Even the UK hasn’t been spared. There were recent serious fires at Saddleworth Moor, West Sussex, Dartmoor, West Yorkshire and Sutherland.
Further afield fires have raged in China, Indonesia, Israel, Japan, South Korea, India, Russia, Sweden and Canada. In Africa, there have been fires in Northern Angola and the southern Democratic Republic of the Congo, as well as in southern Sudan and the Central African Republic.
Australia is well-known for its bushfires, but in more recent times there have been some exceptionally fierce firestorms. In March, 2019, 30,600 acres were consumed by fire east of Melbourne Bunyip State Park.
Strictly speaking there is no such thing as biblical fire, but when you read the Bible you will not fail to come across instances where fire has played a major role in God’s management of His people. God uses fire to punish (Isaiah 29:6; Jeremiah 21:12-14) and to kill (Revelation 9:18-20). Ultimately He will use it as an agent of everlasting, punitive torment (Mark 9:43-49). In Mathew 13:40 Jesus warns unbelievers: “Therefore as the tares are gathered and burned in the fire, so it will be at the end of this age.”
In fact there are so many references to fire in the Bible, it is difficult to separate the more important ones from lesser ones – although every word of God is important (Matthew 4:4). Perhaps the most jaw-dropping reference to fire is, ‘For the LORD your God is a consuming fire, a jealous God (Deuteronomy 4:24),’ and the author of Hebrews also describes God as ‘a consuming fire (12:29; Cf. 1 Kings 18:38).’
God is jealous for His people. He made them to worship Him only (Deuteronomy 4:15-24; 5:7). He has many amazing attributes; for example, the Scriptures tell us: ’God is Spirit (John 4:24), and God is love (1 John 4:8, 16),’ but we must not overlook the awesome fact that He is ‘a consuming fire (Deuteronomy 4:24).’
In view of this, those who mistreat and abuse His people should be fearful – indeed, they should be terrified! …… since His Word says, ‘it is a righteous thing with God to repay with tribulation those who trouble you, and to give you who are troubled rest with us when the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven with His mighty angels in flaming fire taking vengeance on those who do not know God, and on those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ (2 Thessalonians 1:6-8).’ What an awesome spectacle the second coming of Christ will be!
Peter reminds us that the earth is, ‘reserved for fire until the day of judgment and perdition of ungodly men (2 Peter 3:7b).’ He continues: ‘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. Therefore, since all these things will be dissolved, what manner of persons ought you to be in holy conduct and godliness, looking for and hastening the coming of the day of God, because of which the heavens will be dissolved, being on fire, and the elements will melt with fervent heat (V.V. 10-12)?’
Food for Thought
Every minute, hour, day and month, the time of the end draws nearer (Matthew 24:36; Mark 13:26, 27). There is no escape (Hebrews 12:25; Cf. 2 Peter 2:9). God has made this world and the dimension of *time within His creation to be finite. Time as we know it will come to an end (Hebrews 12:26-29). The writing on the wall is there for all to see. Global warming is a scientific fact. It is happening, and it’s all part of God’s plan (V.V. 26-29). Just as we see wide-scale fires raging on the earth’s surface and feel the heat of the sun on our backs, we hear of ‘wars and rumours of wars, famines, pestilences and earthquakes (Matthew 24:6-8).’ We are reminded of God’s promise: ‘“Then they will deliver you up to tribulation and **kill you, and you will be hated by all nations for My name’s sake (V. 9).”’
We would do well to take note of our Lord’s words, ‘“Behold, I am coming as a thief. Blessed is he who watches, and keeps his garments, lest he walk naked and they see his shame (Revelation 16:15).’
**New Testament Martyrs