Our God Is Fire
These are the notes for my teaching at the Cornerstone Church on Sunday, May 27, 2018.
OUR GOD IS FIRE
Part 3 of CHAPTER ONE. 2 Kings 1:1-17
Peter Foxwell. The Cornerstone Church. May 20, 2018.
Welcome to week three of our series on the character of God. Today, we're focused on GOD IS FIRE.
I have a friend who's always saying, "O my God!" He uses it to show shock or whatever. He's not worshipping. That's not the best way to use God's name. That's almost as bad as saying, "For Pete's sake!" Come on!
When you get a revelation of God as Fire, you're never going to use his name in vain ever again. I mean, you'll be so careful to only give him respect and honor.
We'll get back to the story in 2 Kings chapter one in a few minutes, but first let me introduce you to this idea that God is fire.
GOD IS FIRE: THE IDEA
A. GOD'S PRESENCE IS FIRE.
The burning bush:
(Exodus 3:1-6) Now Moses was tending the flock ... 2 There the angel of the Lord appeared to him in flames of fire from within a bush. 4 ... “Do not come any closer,” God said. “Take off your sandals, for the place where you are standing is holy ground.” 6 Then he said, “I am the God of your father, the God of Abraham ...” At this, Moses hid his face, because he was afraid to look at God.
(Exodus 24:17) To the Israelites the glory of the Lord looked like a consuming fire on top of the mountain.
The tabernacle. This is sometimes called the shekinah glory. The word does not appear in the Bible. Jewish rabbis coined this phrase because shekinah means that which dwells. God's presence was in the tabernacle, manifest by fire.
(Leviticus 9:23-24) Moses and Aaron then went into the tent of meeting. When they came out, they blessed the people; and the glory of the Lord appeared to all the people. 24 Fire came out from the presence of the Lord and consumed the burnt offering and the fat portions on the altar. And when all the people saw it, they shouted for joy and fell facedown.
Why fire? The Bible doesn't tell us. So, I'm guessing. God displays himself as fire so we'll know he's distinct and dangerous. Fire is dangerous, scary, not to be touched or played with. We can't control it. Fire has to be taken seriously. God wants us to think about him like that. He also wants us to know that he's distinct, different, not one of us. The Bible word for this is holy: other, separate, different, ONE OF A KIND. God's fire manifests the holiness of God.
B. GOD'S PRESENCE IS REFINING FIRE.
(Isaiah 48:10) "See, I have refined you, though not as silver; I have tested you in the furnace (fire) of affliction."
We refine silver by putting it in a crucible and heating it up. The impurities separate out and all that's left is pure silver. Refining purifies.
God is passionate about our purity, so he uses the furnace - fire - of affliction to purify us - to conform our character to Christ. The hurts, the pain, the struggles, these are all God's refining fire.
Job saw this in the furnace of his own affliction and wrote:
(Job 23:10) "When he has tested me, I will come forth as gold."
Be encouraged: the hard times in your life have a purpose. They are God's refining fire to make you more like Christ.
C. GOD'S PRESENCE IS DESTRUCTIVE FIRE.
God's presence can be devastating. This is what 2 Kings chapter one is all about. God's consuming fire fell on the soldiers. It consumed them - burned them up. This is a side of God we don't like to think about. But let's be honest, God isn't casual about his honor or about evil. He reacts with fire.
King Ahaziah was a Baal worshiper - an idolater. And he didn't like it when Elijah sent him bad news: "You've rejected God, so you're going to die." So he sent the guard. The soldiers weren't there to invite Elijah to dinner. They were there to arrest him so the king could execute him.
Elijah was God's prophet, so an attack on Elijah was an attack on God. God's fire fell in judgment. God had warned Israel about this:
(Deuteronomy 4:23-24) "Do not make for yourselves an idol in the form of anything the Lord your God has forbidden. 24 For the Lord your God is a consuming fire, a jealous God."
Idolatry takes God's honor and gives it to something else. But God won't share his glory with anyone. This is no joke. A day is coming when everyone who has ignored or rejected God and devoted themselves to something else will see God's destructive fire:
(2 Thessalonians 1:7-9) The Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven in blazing fire with his powerful angels. 8 He will punish those who do not know God and do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus. 9 They will be punished with everlasting destruction and shut out from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of his might.
I feel the weight of those words.
We have the concept down. God is fire. How does that impact our lives?
GOD IS FIRE: THE IMPLICATIONS
A. APPROACH GOD IN REVERENCE.
(Hebrews 12:28-29) Let us be thankful, and so worship God acceptably with reverence and awe, 29 for our “God is a consuming fire."
God presence is an overwhelming experience. Moses saw it and hid his face. The people saw it and fell face down. Reverence happens when we see ourselves in the light of God's fire: "I am not God, not even close. He is higher, bigger, more amazing than I ever thought."
If you don't feel reverence, it's not a good idea to fake it. Ask God to reveal himself to you - just a glimpse of his holy fire. You won't have to work on your reverence and awe. It's all you'll feel.
B. APPROACH GOD IN PRAISE.
(1 Peter 4:12-13) Dear friends, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal that has come on you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. 13 But rejoice inasmuch as you participate in the sufferings of Christ, so that you may be overjoyed when his glory is revealed.
God's refining fire has a positive purpose in our lives. The hard times are preparing us to see Christ and to share in his glory.
Stay in faith. Keep believing that God doesn't waste our tears. And you'll want to thank and praise him for what he's doing in your life.
C. APPROACH GOD IN CHRIST.
Nothing about us, nothing we have done, can protect us from God's destructive fire. But look what happened in 2 Kings 1:13-14: The third captain escaped God's fire by begging for his life. Only God can save us from God's destructive fire. There is an amazing picture of how this works in Isaiah 6:
(Isaiah 6:5-7) Then I said, “It’s all over! I am doomed, for I am a sinful man. I have filthy lips, and I live among a people with filthy lips. Yet I have seen the King, the Lord of Heaven’s Armies.” 6 Then one of the seraphim flew to me with a burning coal he had taken from the altar with a pair of tongs. 7 He touched my lips with it and said, “See, this coal has touched your lips. Now your guilt is removed, and your sins are forgiven.” NLT
At the cross, God's judgment fire fell on Jesus so that it would not fall on us. Jesus is that "burning coal" that must touch us to take away our guilt and forgive our sins. Only Jesus can make us acceptable to God.
Decide today to trust the burning coal - Christ and his cross - to make you acceptable to God. Just as that third captain cried out for mercy, so cry out to the Lord for his mercy in Christ. God loves to answer that humble prayer.