Summary: Our God is a consuming fire.
A Consuming Fire
I have always been intrigued by that concluding verse in Hebrews 12:29:
…for our God is a consuming fire
What does that mean? God is a consuming fire.
Most of us are familiar with the story of Sodom and Gomorrah, two cities whose people lived such sinful lives that an angel was sent to warn Lot to get out of the city with his family before it was destroyed. Verse 24 of Gen.19:
Then the Lord rained on Sodom and Gomorrah brimstone and fire from the Lord out of heaven; and He overthrew those cities and all the valley and all the inhabitants of the cities, and what grew on the ground.
No doubt the writer of Hebrews was aware of that story when he wrote:
“our God is a consuming fire”.
Again many of us are familiar with the story of the prophet Elijah and his contest with the 800 prophets of Baal on Mount Carmel. It seems that the people of Israel could not decide which God to follow: Jehovah Almighty, the God of Abraham,
Isaac, and Jacob or Baal. To settle the dispute each side was to build an altar and place a sacrifice on the altar for the god to consume. The prophets of Baal went first- dancing and praying, even cutting themselves and crying aloud all morning for their god Baal to receive the bull sacrifice, but there was no answer.
Then Elijah built his altar and placed the bull sacrifice on it and just for good measure, he dug a trench around the altar and filled it with water and saturated all the wood for the fire and the meat itself with water. Then Elijah prayed to the Lord and asked Him to receive this sacrifice so the people might see that He the Lord was the only true God. Verse 38 reads this way:
“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.
And the people of Israel just like Lot and his family got a first hand look at what the Hebrew writer reports: “our God is a consuming fire.”
But this explanation of God does not end in the Old Testament, most of us have been taught or heard about Hell and the fires of Hell and how in the end times hell and its inhabitants will be thrown into the lake of fire. John in the book of Revelation makes this very clear: (Rev. 20:13-15)
And the sea gave up the dead in it. Death and Hades gave up the dead in them. and all were judged by what they had done. Then Death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. This is the second death, the lake of fire; and if any one’s name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire.
I wonder if we are beginning to see at least on the surface that God is a consuming fire. That you don’t mess around and take the matter so lightly, calling God, Almighty, “your buddy”, when you begin to realize that fire, literally, and as we will see as well, figuratively does come from God and you can find yourself consumed to death. And in case you think all that I have said thus far is a bunch of religious mumbo jumbo, you have only to look at Sept 11 for a very clear and stark reminder that God is a consuming fire and as the Hebrews writer told us (Heb.13:8) He, the Lord is the same yesterday today and forever.
But there are other elements to this consuming fire as well. For example, we know the story of Moses on Mount Horeb, when he saw the burning bush and heard the call of God. The text says: (v.3:2):
“And the angel of the Lord appeared to him in a flame of fire out of the midst of a bush; and Moses looked and lo the bush was burning, yet it was not consumed.”
This time death and destruction is not the result of the consuming fire but insight and revelation. And the same seems to be the case with Isaiah when he had his vision in the temple after the death of King Uzziah that’s recorded in Is.6.
In his vision, Isaiah sees the Lord sitting upon a throne high and lifted up and angels appear, holiness is declared unto God, the temple shook and was filled
with smoke and Isaiah was struck down with fear and awe, and an angel took from the altar a burning coal held in tongs and touched the mouth of Isaiah saying: “…your guilt is taken away and your sin forgiven…..”