Consuming Fire, Understanding The Term:
“For the LORD thy God is a consuming fire, even a jealous God.” (Deuteronomy 4:24)
“For our God is a consuming fire.” (Hebrews 12:29)
This is one of the frequent phrases or terminologies or better still rhymes that are use in the church nowadays. And in fact many have written books and articles about this term “For our God is a consuming fire.” Usually it has much to do with that kind of stern warning about misconducts against God’s stipulated rules and commands. It depicts the fact that misconducts and disobedience against God will definitely meet vehement and terrible anger of God.
It’s an expression used to show how God is a mean God who does not condone lawlessness against His standard. This expression has been used to infer that the nature and disposition of God is that of an angry being. It shows that God is always furious at His creatures and He is very ready at all times to consume them with His fire. This is what one hears from preaches and sermons that have something to do with “For our God is a consuming fire.”
Is God Really Consuming Fire?
The question to ask is this: Is God Really a Consuming Fire? Well, before one can answer this question, one has to understand that this statement for ‘our God is a consuming fire’ is a description. In other ways it describes the nature of God. That is to say if someone comes up to you and ask, who is God? You are right to tell him or her that God is a consuming fire. This is because the statement ‘for our God is consuming fire’ is very direct and emphatic.
This result is obtainable when one weighs it with the preaching, teaching and sermons that accompany it. Apparently, what this description suggests is that God is dreadful. Since He’s a consuming fire and we know the nature of fire. Consuming fire is something that if it catches on any item it will not quench without devouring it. So consuming fire is a symbol or a representation of destruction.
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The Meaning Of Consuming Fire
This is to say that; whenever consuming fire is mention what comes to mind is destruction or that something has been destroyed. If we interpolate the word consuming fire to destruction in the phrase, we will have something like this “For our God is destruction”. I don’t think anybody in his or her right mind will ever like to associate with someone with this kind of description. This is because is very repulsive and a put off for one to accommodate.
Certainly, this is not a marketable description; it cannot sale God into the hearts of people. The only thing this description will succeed to do in the heart of people is to instill fear. The truth is that if they believe in God, it is on the premise of fear and not on faith. And for sure anything that is not of faith cannot please God. This statement therefore indicates that the only right way to accept God is by faith not by fear.
Applying The Law Of First Mention:
Now, let’s do some studies on these verses: the first time this phrase appear in the bible is in Deuteronomy. “For the LORD thy God is a consuming fire, even a jealous God.” (Deuteronomy 4:24). This shows that it was Moses that used this description or tag on God. On the other hand, what is in the book of Hebrews is a reference in connection to what is being explained. “For our God is a consuming fire.” (Hebrews 12:29). However, before we go further, firstly we should understand why Moses used this phrase and by studying it in content, pretest and posttest. So let’s see what the verse before it says:
“Take heed unto yourselves, lest ye forget the covenant of the LORD your God, which he made with you, and make you a graven image, or the likeness of any thing, which the LORD thy God hath forbidden thee.” (Deuteronomy 4:23)
Also let’s see what the verse after it says:
“When thou shalt beget children, and children’s children, and ye shall have remained long in the land, and shall corrupt yourselves, and make a graven image, or the likeness of any thing, and shall do evil in the sight of the LORD thy God, to provoke him to anger.” (Deuteronomy 4:25).
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The Object Of The Verse:
Here, we shouldn’t veer from the point, let’s focus on the subject matter which is graven image. So the subject of these verses is graven image. And it has to do with forgetting a covenant of God. So, the consuming fire can only be made possible if the covenant is forgotten and a graven image replaces God. Inasmuch as the covenant is kept, there will be no consuming fire. Does consuming fire here describe God? The answer is no.
This is because the consuming fire here represents a standard not God. Again is important for us to understand that the Old Testament is written in an imagery and typographic method. The imagery and typographic expressions are of course not exact but shallow in formation. This explains the usage of fire to represent the consequence of disobedience to a standard of God.
The Imagery Representation:
Therefore, the phrase:
“For our God is a consuming fire” is an imagery that is deduced from an experience that took place somewhere. This shows that Moses was referring his audience to what took place in the time past which they are conversant with. This was the first time they had an experience of God being associated with fire. Let’s see Exodus 19:18
“And mount Sinai was altogether on a smoke, because the LORD descended upon it in fire: and the smoke thereof ascended as the smoke of a furnace, and the whole mount quaked greatly.”
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The Operations Of The Angels:
Here again, it didn’t say God is fire; but a description of the way God descended and it was in fire and smoke. However, before we miss something here, we should also understand who carried the operation of fire and smoke. Was it God? The New Testament made us to understand that God wasn’t in the operation of the Old Testament. The Old Testament is operation and mediation of Angels.
“Wherefore then serveth the law? It was added because of transgressions, till the seed should come to whom the promise was made; and it was ordained by angels in the hand of a mediator.” (Galatians 3:19).
“For if the word spoken by angels was stedfast, and every transgression and disobedience received a just recompence of reward;” (Hebrews 2:2)
God Is Not Involve:
This is an indication that the operation that took place on Mount Sinai was not done by God but by Angels. They descended in fire and smoke, and spoke to the people. The same way an angel spoke to Moses through the burning bush (Acts 7:30). Those fire incidents and operations that took place in Genesis and Old Testament were done under the auspices of Angels. See Genesis 19:12-13. The action Elijah took against on the soldiers that came to arrest him was not approved by Jesus (God). He disassociated Himself from that action, meaning that the fire that consumed those soldiers was not the act of God. Though His prophet did it (Luke 9:53-56).
The Nature Of God:
It is important for us to know that God cannot be accurately defined by people. This is because many who talked about God in the beginning and in the Old Testament had a myopic view of God. It is only God that knows Himself and can reveal himself better to people. Jesus speaking in the gospel said that “No man hath seen God at any time; the only begotten Son, which is in the bosom of the Father, he hath declared him. (John 1:18). The only person that has the complete knowledge of God and in the position to reveal him is Jesus Christ. Addressing His audience He made it known to them that “And the Father himself, which hath sent me, hath borne witness of me. Ye have neither heard his voice at any time, nor seen his shape.
To be continued………
Pastor Chukwuemeka Asiegbu is the pastor of Saved In The Lord Evangelical Ministry Inter’l. He has authored many books and he’s behind several online Christian articles.
Don’t miss the part two of this topic.
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