Summary: Part 5 in Elijah series - God’s passion and God’s purification
1 Kings 18:16-24, 30-40 – The God Who Answers by Fire
I’m told of an occasion when Satan got into an argument with Jesus about who had the greater power. Satan said, “I can do anything you can do only better.” Jesus replied, “OK, prove it. Go ahead and try creating a man.” Satan said, “No problem,” as he reached down and picked up a handful of dirt and began to mold and shape it. With that, Jesus slapped his hand and said, “Get your own dirt!”
We continue to journey through the story of Elijah on Mt.Carmel in I Kings 18 – the battle of the gods. Whose god was powerful enough to ask the prayers of his followers? Whose god would set the sacrifice on fire? We see in this story that our God, the mighty God, the only true God, is indeed the God of fire. But what does that mean? What happened then? And what does it mean for us today, that our God is a God of fire? 1 Kings 18:16-40.
What do I mean when I say that God is a God of fire? We first see this thought in Exodus 3, when Moses heard a voice speak to him from the bush that was burning but was not consumed in the flames. In Exodus 13, God points the way for the Israelites in the desert as a cloud by day and a pillar of fire by night. And in Exodus 19, God appears as a fire on Mt.Sinai, where Moses received the law. In fact, in Exodus 24, God appeared as a consuming fire, a familiar verse quoted again in Hebrews 12:29 – “our God is a consuming fire.”
Well, so what? Why does it matter if God is a fire? What does that mean? It matters because it is a symbol of God’s very nature. Fire is a symbol of who God is – His purity, His perfection, His passion. In fact, that’s probably how you could sum it all up… His passion. His energy. His vigor. His excitement. His drive. A burning, a yearning that defines who God is. A supreme, overwhelming personality that fuels everything He does.
We often picture a laid-back, easy-going, mild-mannered kind of God. We picture Clark Kent, when He is really much more of a Superman. The picture the world has is a wimpy God, a weak God. When in reality, He is a meek God. Meekness is vastly different from weakness. Meekness is power under control. That means that God does not fly off the handle, but He is certainly no-one to be trifled with either.
No, He gives 100% to all He does. Picture this: the prodigal son in Luke 15. The son wanders away, squanders the family inheritance, and then comes back for a second chance. Now, OT law says that the boy should have been killed. He was a disgrace, and should be executed. But the father, looking way off in the distance, sees the lad and runs to meet him.
This implies 3 things: 1) he was waiting expectantly for the son to come home. 2) he was willing to run to him so that he could save his life from the people who would have wanted to kill him. 3) he was willing to risk embarrassment and shame, to go outside of cultural expectations of how a dignified man should act, to show his son he still loved him. This father went beyond all normal and reasonable expectations to show love to his wayward son.
And the father represents God. God loves us with a relentless affection, a love that goes beyond all limits, a love that reaches out to us when we are lost by choice, a love that cost God a great deal. This is the fiery passion of our God. A God who goes looking for us, long before we looked for Him. A God who longs to know us, before we care less about knowing Him. A God whose love for us makes our love for Him look dull and drab. This is our God, a God of passion, a God of fire.
Now, you understand that this makes the God we worship unique. No other religion will claim such a God. They will claim a lazy God, an unaffected God, a wrathful and vengeful God. But they can’t picture a God who would run undignified to the very ones who run away from Him. Contrary to what others may say, no other religion would claim a God who burns with a passion to know us and to be known by us. Pastor and author D. James Kennedy wrote: “Whenever you hear someone say all religions are basically the same, you can safely assume the person you are talking to is ignorant. He or she doesn’t know anything about religions. Anyone who has made a serious study of the world religions would never claim they are all the same.” No, we all alone who believe in the Bible worship a God of fire, a God of a burning passion to reach out in love and holiness.