Every Californian knows that we have a fifth season in our state: fire season. Our nearly non-existent rainfall and our protracted stretches of hot weather turn certain parts of our state into a veritable tinderbox that almost always ignites. Some years the fires cause scattered evacuations but little actual damage, and other years, like our 2018 “Camp Fire” that devastated Paradise, CA, they cause traumatic lasting harm.
The Bible calls God “a consuming fire” and if you have ever been on the deadly end of a raging wildfire you can wonder if that is a good thing. Is God really a consuming fire? And if so, what does that mean? I was pondering this imagery recently and I was wondering what God’s consuming fire might mean for me.
Certainly, there is a judgment component to the image, as Jesus describes wickedness being consumed like chaff in a fiery furnace; however, there is more to the image than judgment.
The prophet, Jeremiah, said of God, “His word is in my heart like a fire, a fire shut up in my bones” (Jeremiah 20:9). Metaphorically, consuming fires create a passion that can scarcely be contained. That’s why the Apostle Paul said, “Woe to me if I do not preach the gospel” (1 Corinthians 9:16). Apparently, he too had Jeremiah’s fire in his bones. Consuming fires ignite unquenchable passion, and they are also powerful enough to ignite things that we never thought had the capacity to burn.
During my childhood in the Pacific Northwest, I learned how to light camp fires with a flint and steel or a single, waterproof match, and if you have the proper tinder, you can do that. But if you are trying to light wet wood or a frozen heart you need a stronger flame.
If God is a consuming fire it means that He can ignite passion and zeal and love (all of these get represented in Scripture by fire) in even the coldest, most uninterested hearts. He did it in my life, and He has done it in the lives of hundreds of my friends.
He can do it for you. If your heart has grown dull or cold or seemingly inflammable ask Him to light a spark and breathe it into a roaring flame. And if you are worried about a loved one you can pray the same way for them, “Lord, light a fire. Consume everything that would stand against their love for you, and set their hearts ablaze with passion, zeal, and unstoppable purpose and destiny.”
If you want to listen to a song about this, check out an old tune from Misty Edwards (a worship leader/singer-songwriter). It is upbeat and quirky, but the lyrics and the sentiment are powerful: YouTube Misty Edwards Do What Only You Can Do.