This site uses cookies to provide you with more responsive and personalized service and to collect certain information about your use of the site.  You can change your cookie settings through your browser.  If you continue without changing your settings, you agree to our use of cookies.  See our Privacy Policy for more information.

Our God Is a Consuming Fire

Last year damaging wildfires swept through several states. During one of them, Nicole Jolley feared for her life. Flames surrounded her car and filled it with smoke. She called her husband on her cell phone, convinced she was speaking to him for the last time. “Nick, I’m gonna die, and I’m not gonna make it out of here, there are flames everywhere, and I don’t know what to do,” she told him. “Don’t die, run,” said her husband. “If you’re going to die, die fighting. You have to run.”

Today’s reading speaks of a great fire that devours the lush forests of Lebanon and Bashan. Lebanon was famous for giant cedars that covered its mountain slopes. Bashan was a fertile plateau where cattle, sheep, and goats often grazed. Isaiah and Ezekiel mentioned the oaks of Bashan (Isa. 2:13; Ezek. 27:6). The fire depicted in these verses would destroy land and animal so that those who tended them wailed in grief. As a result of this devastation, “the lush thicket of the Jordan is ruined” (v. 3).

Was this fire literal or figurative? Many scholars believe the fire is a symbol of God’s judgment. Despite the mention of Lebanon, Bashan, and the thicket of the Jordan, the details are quite general. If the language is meant to be figurative, then both the trees and the shepherds may be understood as symbols of leadership. The prophet Ezekiel used the cedar to symbolize Judah’s king and nobles in a parable (Ezek. 17:3, 4, 12). Jeremiah called leaders of Judah shepherds (Jer. 23:1–4). Zechariah follows suit and condemns false shepherds in Zechariah 11:17.

Scripture often employs fire as a symbol of divine judgment. The Bible especially speaks of God’s wrath in this way (Deut. 32:22; Jer. 4:4). God’s judgment is a “consuming fire” (Deut. 4:24).

Apply the Word

In a very real sense, Jesus is our fire blanket. His blood shields us from the fiery judgment our sins deserve. Do you know Him as your Savior? Have you given your life to Him? If you do, thank Him for His redeeming love and constant protection. And if not, won’t you turn to Him today?

BY Dr. John Koessler, Chair and Professor of Pastoral Studies

Dr. John Koessler serves as chair and professor in the division of applied theology and church ministry at the Moody Bible Institute in Chicago, Illinois. He is married to Jane and has two sons, Drew and Jarred. John is the author of The Radical Pursuit of Rest (InterVarsity), The Surprising Grace of Disappointment (Moody) and True Discipleship (Moody). John has written several other books and articles and serves as a contributing editor for Today in the Word.

Browse Devotions by Date