“The fire that thaws the iciness of the heart must come from heaven — a gift from God, who is ‘a consuming fire’.”
There are times in my life when a word or phrase is repeated so often in a 24 hour period that it will eventually catch my attention. Today, the words “Consuming Fire” kept coming up from different, unrelated sources. It was actually repeated five times…all before lunch. I can only assume that the Holy Spirit was trying to tell me something…and I guess I have been ignoring all the “obvious” signs up until today.
We were attending our regular Board Meeting for Shepherd 2 Shepherd Ministries, when I stumbled upon these words again. During a time of extended prayer and worship, the Holy Spirit directed my hands to Hebrews 12:29, randomly, in the Bible. I almost fell out of my chair when I read the words on the page. The Scripture verse says, “For our God is a consuming fire…”. When the meeting was over, I looked at the verse again to see if I could understand what this phrase meant. The apostle was quoting an Old Testament reference to Deuteronomy 4:24, “For the LORD your God is a consuming fire, a jealous God.”
A Consuming Fire. What does that even mean?
If I remember correctly, fire is really a remarkable chemical process. With it food is cooked and homes are warmed. However, in it, whole forests are consumed and properties are destroyed. After a quick Google Search, I found that fire requires three parts to continue to function: oxygen, fuel and heat. Heat serves as the ignition source, while oxygen enables the chemical reaction and fuel allows the fire to continue burning.
Heat, which serves at the ignition source, can represent the passion of God’s love for His children. It has been said that our Father in heaven “burns with white-hot passion for His children”. Oxygen could represent the presence of the Holy Spirit that facilitates our fellowship with the Father. And the fuel might represent anything in a person’s life that will burn (or that is not eternal).
When the apostle says that God is a “consuming fire” in Hebrews, he is describing a shaking that is taking place. This shaking is a disruption of everything on earth that will distinguish between the real and the temporary. Everything that can be shaken and knocked down will be removed, so all that remains is what is unshakable and eternal. And then all of a sudden it dawned on me…as a consuming fire, God is destroying my dependence on anything but Him.
With the “consuming fire” thought going through my mind, the other thing that I remembered from my High School Science class is that precious metals are also purified by fire. Over the years, I’ve read a little bit about this process. I guess the heat from the fire draws out the impurities and produces something of increased value. The “heat” of hardship mixes with the “oxygen” of the Holy Spirit to burn away anything that will fade away in a person’s heart. It is obvious that the things that are not of God serve as “fuel” for God’s consuming fire. Like precious metals, when the fire has done its work, all that is left is of much higher value and that cannot be destroyed. I found a great quote that relates to all this, “The fiery passion of God burns the heart of a person through suffering.”
After this realization, I started to feel afraid. Walking through the “valley of death” and experiencing suffering of any kind can be a frightful experience. Lately, troubles too big to handle have been rising up on every side…and all that can be seen is darkness. The Holy Spirit was quick to remind me this evening that I don’t need to fear the fire. That fire is from God…who comes to cleanse me with His passionate love. I should fear the “fuel” that is not of Him!!!! It’s obvious that I need to let the Lord do some purging in my heart…of things that are not eternal. God is a consuming fire of love and grace. The heat is only a sign that He is at work.
I am glad the Lord directs the consuming fire. Otherwise, I would need to find a fire extinguisher…