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Wednesday, September 28, 2011

A consuming fire!

What does straw have in common with wheat?
   Nothing else is like God's Decree.
Isn't my Message like fire?" God's Decree.
   "Isn't it like a sledgehammer busting a rock?
(Jeremiah 23:29)

To a farmer, a crop of straw has little value compared to wheat.  Each has its purpose, but what is yielded in the return of the seed planted is much greater to the farmer with wheat than it is with straw.  If all the farmer is doing is raising a bunch of cattle, the straw might have a purpose - but it still has a very limited purpose.  God's word is as different from the words of others as wheat is from straw.  There is something infinitely more valuable in his word than that of man, no matter what authority that man may claim to have.

Israel finds themselves in a position of having drifted from what God had intended for them as a nation - they were in a position of seeking visions and messages from their prophets.  Yet, these visions and messages were just that - visions and messages from the heart of man, not the voice of God.  The nation had adopted the "philosophy" of the nations around them instead of remaining true to the "truth" of the God they were to be serving.  Sometimes we find ourselves in a similar situation - looking to the things and people of this world we live in to give us what it is that will "fix" us.  This is a dangerous position to find ourselves in because when we rely on anything other than God's word to guide us, we are open for all kinds of error in our ways.

The passage is clear:  God's Word is like a FIRE.  His Word is like a HAMMER.  Fire and hammers have differing characteristics, but when God uses something we are familiar with to describe something about himself, it is because he wants us to make a connection that we associate with.  So, let's examine how God's Word is like a fire.

First, fire gives light.  By your words I can see where I'm going; they throw a beam of light on my dark path. (Psalm 119:105)  Light makes vision possible - try seeing clearly in the dark sometime and then turn on a light.  You will see just how much "detail" you missed by not having the light.  In the darkness, you only make out images of what you could see in detail once the light made manifest the intensity of color, or the beauty of the portrait on the wall.  

Light actually gives us the ability to conceive and perceive things in the spiritual sense, as well.  Light brings about an enlightenment that we were lacking - enlarging us and bringing us to a place where we comprehend something.  In the spiritual sense,it gives us spiritual insight that brings us to a place where we are freed from ignorance, or a place of misinformation in our lives.  Have you ever had one of those "Ah-haw" moments when it just seemed like there was immediate clarity as to what you were to do in a situation?  That is because you received the insight that brought you out of your ignorance about what to do next.

Light really brings about a discernment - giving us the ability to distinguish and select those things that are excellent, appropriate, and true.  It is light that helps us go way beyond the obvious or superficial - it guides us into the detail and the completeness of revelation.  So, living without God's light is like walking around in the dark - that is why he tells us that his word is like fire!  It gives us the ability to move beyond the obvious or superficial in our walk!

Second, fire gives us heat and is a kind of "fuel" that we use in everyday life.  It adds energy that causes us to expand and rise to new levels.  Ever remember doing that science experiment where we set a beaker of water on to boil and then watched as an object was actually expanded by the heat?  As the heat is "turned up" in our lives through God's word being spoken into our daily walk, we sometimes feel like we are being asked to "expand" a little - to rise to a new level.  The heat applied to the water in the beaker causes that water to begin to stir - it sets it in motion.  Without the heat of the fire, the water is really without "incentive" to move!  God's word is like that - it gives us incentive!

Last, fire consumes that which it touches.  I was a Girl Scout, so I made my share of campfires as a kid.  One of the things that I was taught was to have a healthy respect for the "force" of fire.  We had to dig a pit, surround it with stone, clear the brush away from the place where we'd light that fire, and then be vigilant to watch for flying embers as the fire burned.  One spark drifting to dry timber nearby could result in devastation to the entire forest!

Why did the leaders emphasize such care with the fire?  It was because of the consuming force of fire - it would dramatically change the image and character of that which it touched.  That wood piled into a nice stack on the center of the pit soon was reduced to glowing hot embers - excellent for cooking our meals and roasting a few marshmallows!  Fire changes the "consistency" of that which it touches - that wood would never be the same again.

The same is true in our lives - once touched by the word of God, we will never be the same again!  Sometimes we avoid being touched by the flame because we don't want to be affected by the flame!  We want to affect the flame, effectively trying to "stamp out" what the Word is attempting to change in our lives.  When we do this, we effectively are resisting the change God intends by igniting that fire within!

So, rather than resisting the "fire" of God's Word, isn't it time that we allow it to do exactly what it was intended to do?  Fire promises us illumination - it won't leave us in the dark.  Fire affords us understanding - bringing new clarity into our lives.  Fire creates a newness - changing us is ways we never thought possible.  Have a healthy respect for the power of God's word!  It desires to consume what it touches!