Can you imagine a world without fire? Fire provides us with light in the dark and warmth in the cold. Fire enables us to cook food, refine metals, and power a car. Yet, fire is also dangerous. It can destroy homes and cities. The ancient Greek culture highlighted the importance of fire by naming it as one of the four basic elements along with water, air, and earth.
In the Old Testament, God’s appearances are often described as fire. God appeared to Abraham as a torch of fire (Gen. 15:17). He appeared to Moses in the burning bush and as a fire on Mount Sinai (Ex. 3:2; 19:18). Fire symbolizes God’s holiness and purity. Fire is also used to portray God’s anger. The prophet Nahum asks, “Who can withstand his indignation? Who can endure his fierce anger? His wrath is poured out like fire; the rocks are shattered before him” (Nah. 1:6).
In today’s reading, Moses reminds Israel that God did not appear to them in the form of any image or shape. Instead, God spoke to them “out of the fire” (v. 15). Fire is flickering and immaterial (the opposite of solid). The choice of fire was meant to teach Israel that they should not make an image of God in the form of any created thing (vv. 16–19). Their worship of God should not be inspired by an object. Instead, they should remember what God had done for them. How He had redeemed them from Egypt (v. 20). Their focus should be on God’s words and deeds.
>> We may be tempted to worship a god created by our own imagination. John Calvin remarked that the human heart is “a perpetual factory of idols.” Yet, God made Himself known to us in Scripture. He desires our full and undivided worship. If we turn to false gods, we risk being the object of God’s anger. As Moses reminds us, “the LORD your God is a consuming fire” (v. 24).
As we enjoy Your love and compassion, let us not forget that You are a God of justice, and that sin moves You to wrath. We revere You as Creator, as One who has power to destroy and avenge. Keep our hearts turned to You.