Beloved Lovers of God,
The Fire of God
Was I hearing the Lord correctly? Did He really want me to meditate and communicate this month about fire (esh אש in Hebrew)? Yes. The final confirmation came as I saw the front cover of Charisma magazine, May 2021. It said: “How to Keep the Fire Burning.” I proceeded with my customary research, and looked up every reference to “fire” in the Holy Scriptures. There’s a lot of ESH in the Bible!
Fire is powerful. While the ancient Hebrew word picture tells us that fire is a strong devourer, a negative picture, fire is also very positive when it pictures passion, especially holy passion of / for God. From the very beginning of the Bible, God manifests Himself through images of fire. We read in Deuteronomy 4:24 about His identity, “For the LORD your God is a consuming fire, a jealous God.” Consuming fire is Esh Okh-LAH, אש אכלה. Jealous God is El KahNAH, אל קנא (See Ex. 34:14).
We first see God as fire in Genesis 15:17-18 where God made a covenant with Abraham. He appeared as a “smoking oven and a burning torch.” In Exodus 3:2 the Lord appeared to Moses in a flame of fire from the midst of a bush—a bush that was not consumed. After the exodus of the Israelites from Egypt we read that, “…the LORD went before them by day in a pillar of cloud to lead the way, and by night in a pillar of fire to give them light…” (Ex. 13:21). Last month, as we celebrated Shavuot or the Feast of Weeks, we saw the Law given amidst fire: “Now Mount Sinai was completely in smoke, because the LORD descended upon it in fire” (Ex. 19:18). “The sight of the glory of the Lord was like a consuming fire on the top of the mountain in the eyes of the children of Israel” (Ex. 24:17). Here we see God’s glory (kah-VODE Ah-doe-NYE) as fire, (Kah-VODE Ah-doe-NYE keh-ESH o-KEH-let).
In the Book of Daniel we see a fourth man walking in the midst of fire: “…and the form of the fourth is like the Son of God” (Dan. 3:25). Daniel also records his vision of the Ancient of Days: “…His garment was white as snow, and the hair of His head was like pure wool. His throne was a fiery flame, its wheels a burning fire; a fiery stream issued and came forth from before Him…” (Dan. 7:9-10).
Finally, in Acts 2:3, as we saw last month, the talmidim (disciples) of Yeshua were all filled with the Ruach HaKodesh (Holy Spirit) and divided tongues of fire sat upon them. Fire from God.
In many of these occurrences, there was some kind of preparation for the fire of God. This is because God as a consuming fire destroys whatever is opposed to His holiness. Abraham believed. Moses took off his shoes. The Israelites applied the blood, then sanctified and washed themselves at Sinai. The three Hebrew children refused to worship a golden image. The disciples in the Upper Room tarried. They all stood in awe of a Holy God.
The fire of God is welcomed by those who separate from sin and bow before their Creator. Are we ready for the fire of God?
Prune in June
The same “consuming fire” can be either destructive (devouring) or cleansing, depending on the one who is in the fire. The prophet Malachi, referring to the return of the Messiah, refers to a spiritual purging, “Behold, He is coming, says the LORD of hosts. But who can endure the day of His coming? And who can stand when He appears? For He is like a refiner’s fire and like launderers’ soap. He will sit as a refiner and a purifier of silver. He will purify the sons of Levi, and purge them as gold and silver, that they may offer to the LORD an offering in righteousness” (Mal. 3:1-3).
Cleansing. Purifying. Purging. Pruning. I recently found one of Neil’s messages on a weekly Torah portion from 8/16/97. It’s about “fire” (God-incidentally!). Concerning Malachi 3, Neil said, “The fire consumes the dross, the ‘old man.’ Don’t shrink back from the fire (the pruning shears). God is Love (1 Jn. 4:8) even with pruning shears in His hands.” Neil also mentioned Romans 12:1, “I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies, of God, that you present your bodies [old man] a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service.”
“But He knows the way that I take; when He has tested me, I shall come forth as gold” (Job 23:10). How is gold tested? By fire. A day is coming, according to the prophet Zechariah, that God’s People Israel will experience a severe testing: “And it shall come to pass in all the land, says the LORD, that two- thirds in it shall be cast off and die, but one-third shall be left in it; I will bring the one-third through the fire, will refine them as silver is refined, and test them as gold is tested. They will call on My name, and I will answer them. I will say, ‘This is My people’; and each one will say, ‘The LORD is my God'” (Zech. 13:8-9).
What about us? Our God wants to refine us in the fire in preparation for the return of our Bridegroom King Yeshua. He is both a Consuming Fire and Perfect Love. He wants to consume everything in our lives that is not of Him and that stands in opposition to His best for us. All those things that are not wholly of God must be put on the altar and become as if an “offering made by fire to the LORD” (a phrase mentioned over and over in the Book of Leviticus).
In Secrets of the Secret Place by Bob Sorge, there is a chapter titled “The Secret of Buying Gold.” It refers to a verse from the Book of Revelation: “I counsel you to buy from Me gold refined in the fire, that you may be rich…” (Rev. 3:18). The “gold” referred to in this verse, according to the author, is the gold of authentically produced godly character—being like Messiah. He describes the process whereby we buy “gold refined in the fire.” He continues, “First comes the fire. By fire, I am talking about tribulation or affliction or distress or calamity or persecution. In the last days there is coming a great escalation of fire.” Could 2020 and Covid-19 be just the beginning?
God will use the fire to drive us toward the Lord as never before. His Word will sustain our hope and faith. Lord willing, our desperation for God will lead us to repent and consider the changes that we need to make in our lives to more closely align ourselves with Yeshua, His character, and His will for our lives. The author continues, “As you embrace the changes that God’s Spirit inspires within you, you are actually becoming more like Jesus. Or to put it another way, you’re buying gold in the fire. It says we ‘buy’ this gold because the price tag is steep. The price is endurance.”
May we all be changed into the image of Yeshua in the midst of the fire! May we remain loyal to our Beloved and persevere in faith so that He might show Himself strong on our behalf (2 Chr. 16:9). May we be victorious in every fiery trial (1 Pet. 4:12). And may we have cause to rejoice because another purpose of our trials is a good one: “that the genuineness of your faith, being much more precious than gold that perishes, though it is tested by fire, may be found to praise, honor, and glory, at the revelation of Yeshua HaMashiach” (1 Pet. 1:7).
The Fire of God’s Love
The same God who refines us in His consuming fire has a fiery, passionate, jealous love for us— His bride. He is El KaNAH, the One who says, “You shall have no other gods before Me” (Ex. 20:3).
As I meditated on the Love of God, the Holy Spirit brought back to my mind a song by Paul Wilbur, The Fire of Your Love, which can be found on YouTube. I had forgotten the lyrics. When I played it in my kitchen and reached the chorus, I was compelled to start dancing with Yeshua. The second time I played the song, I danced and cried. The third time, I dance and laughed. I pray that you have the same experience. Glorious! The words echo what my heart feels: “The fire of Your love is burning within me, consuming my heart, restoring my soul. My only desire—to abide in Your holiness, here in the fire of Your love.”
Yeshua laid down His life for us, saved us from our sin, restored us to the Father, gave us life eternal, and abundant life now. Such love! Unconditional. Sublime. Holy. Stronger than death. The Shulamite in Shir HaShirim says to her Beloved, “Set me as a seal upon your heart, as a seal upon your arm; for love is as strong as death, jealousy as cruel as the grave; its flames are flames of fire, a most vehement flame. Many waters cannot quench love, nor can the floods drown it. If a man would give for love all the wealth of his house, it would be utterly despised” (Song 8:6-7).
First of all, the jealousy spoken of in the Song of Songs is not the jealousy we think of today. It is the holy jealousy of Exodus 20:5, the jealous, ardent love of One whose love is as relentless as the grave. This love is all-powerful, a love that demands a response. It is the love of 1 Corinthians 13:8 that never fails.
The love that is actually STRONGER than death is the love that led Yeshua the Messiah to the tree of sacrifice and then raised Him from the dead on the third day. I like what Watchman Nee, in his commentary on the Song of Songs, says about Song 8:6, “Thy love to me, and Thy jealousy over me, are as a vehement flame or as a flash of fire which burns up all that is valueless and combustible, all that is of time and corruptible, all that is of the world and is mortal and temporary.” This love sees us as we shall be—without spot—covered by the precious blood of God’s Son.
Nothing can quench the fire of God’s Love. No trials nor testings. No persecutions. No plagues. No flesh. No self. The fire keeps burning. This is God’s flame. I made an amazing discovery recently while studying this verse. Song 8:6 ends with the phrase, “a most vehement flame,” referring to love. But in the Hebrew it reads, shal-heh-bet-YAH, a flame of the Lord. This could be an inclusion of God’s name in the Song of Songs, hitherto thought not to be there. God is love. He is eternal, and His flame of love is eternal. There is a wonderful illustration of God’s unquenchable fire in Bunyan’s Pilgrim’s Progress: “The interpreter took Christian by the hand, and led him into a place where was a fire burning against a wall, and one standing by it, always casting much water upon it to quench it; yet did the fire burn higher and hotter; at the back of the wall was a man with a vessel of oil in his hand, of the which he did also continually cast, but secretly, into the fire.” That would be the Holy Spirit. He constantly pours in the oil that keeps the fire burning. The enemy is always trying to put out Love’s flame, but we serve a God, the God of Elijah, who “answers by fire” (1 Kings 18:24).
On Fire For God
Our God is “on fire” for us. Are we “on fire” for Him? The priests in the Torah had specific instructions concerning the law of the grain offering: “A fire shall always be burning on the altar; it shall never go out” (Lev. 6:13). The Messiah told His disciples, “Let your waist be girded and your lamps burning” (Luke 12:35). Yochanan the Immerser said about the Messiah Yeshua, “He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire” (Matt. 3:11). The psalmist spoke about God and His servants: “Who makes His angels spirits, His ministers a flame of fire [esh low-HET]” (Ps. 104:4).
The pattern is clear. We are to burn, be on fire, for the Lord. Holy passion. We do not want to be found among those mentioned in Matthew 24:12, “And because lawlessness will abound, the love of many will grow cold” (fire gone out). We want to obey Jude 21, “Keep yourselves in the love of God….” How do we keep the fire burning? How do we maintain the fire for a lifetime? J. Lee Grady, in his Charisma article Born to Burn, says that the God who birthed the church in a baptism of fire wants us to tend the flame and see revival in our day. We need more oil. The five wise virgins in the parable of Matthew 25 made sure they had enough oil for their lamps. The oil of the Holy Spirit must become more important to us. We need to depend upon the Holy Spirit as the early believers did— not on technology, programs, eloquent preachers, professional worship leaders, or our own abilities. Grady asks, “What if God wants to send a global awakening of the Holy Spirit after this corona virus pandemic ends? Do we have enough oil in our lamps to handle the next revival?”
Let’s ask the Lord to rekindle our love for Him—to light a fire in our soul—to forgive us for being lukewarm. May we be able to proclaim with the psalmist, “…I have been anointed with fresh oil” (Ps. 92:10). Grady points out that the power of Pentecost only came after the disciples waited in prayer. “Every person in the upper room was filled with the Holy Spirit, and they were transformed into blazing spiritual torches. Before the day ended, 3,000 people believed in Jesus and were baptized.” Can we pray and believe for a fresh wave of the Holy Spirit? Romans 12:11 commands us to be “fervent in spirit.” Grady points out that the word for fervent in Greek is zeo which means “to boil like hot liquid or to glow like hot metal.”
Passion for Yeshua
Father’s Day on June 20, 2021, turns my thoughts to my dearly departed husband Neil and my two sons, Jonathan and Jesse. Three passionate men. Neil once taught about passion for Yeshua by making the comparison with professional athletes. What do men on fire for God have in common with the athletes? Disciplined training. Dedication to a goal. Love of what they do. He quoted Philippians 3:14, “I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Messiah Yeshua.” Then Neil asked, “Has the zeal of God consumed you, or have you been consumed by other things?”
Our son Jonathan, who pastors a congregation here in Fort Lauderdale called Greenhouse South Florida, repeatedly states that the goal of his congregation is to help ordinary people become passionate followers of Jesus. I asked him what he means by that. His answer: Disciples, according to Matthew 28:19. Disciples are people who love God passionately, radically, and holistically and who love people with all of their lives. They are God seekers who have a lifestyle of worship. Out of this lifestyle comes an awareness of God’s passionate love for the world and a desire to reach out to the needy, the broken, the destitute, the poor, the marginalized, the unsaved (pre-believers as I call them). This is “mission.” What follows is “community”—loving others who love what you love.
It is especially exciting to see men with hearts on fire for Messiah. But Dr. Michael Brown, perhaps the foremost Messianic Jewish theologian and the head of FIRE School of Ministry, is concerned that the men in our country, including Bible believing men, have been emasculated by a number of things. Sexual sin. Spiritual intimidation. Past failures of faith. Dr. Brown’s plea to God‘s beloved sons: “My brothers, we need you to take hold of biblical manhood, using Jesus as your example. We need you to stand tall. To be strong. To lead well. To be spiritual. To mix compassion with toughness and humility with courage. Our nation needs you. Our families need you. Our children need you. Our pulpits need you.”
It is time for men of God to catch the fire and speak out, to overcome the fear of rejection, the fear of conflict, and the fear of loss. May the Lord set hearts aflame and minds ablaze with truth, love, righteousness, and compassion. Yeshua stands ready to help and is powerful to redeem and restore all that the enemy has stolen.
My advice: Man of God, allow the fire of God to consume you and go be a MENtor to another brother in Yeshua’s name: “…the LORD is with you, you mighty man of valor!” (Judges 6:12).
Standing in His fiery love and praying for the Lord to be a wall of fire around you and the glory in your midst (Zech. 2:5),