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Thursday, June 28, 2012

What the Bible says about fire

The Colorado wildfires are certainly on our minds here in the Front Range.
Tyler King gave an excellent devotional talk last night, giving three ways
we can be resilient and keep our fire burning. Several weeks ago, someone
used an earlier wildfire to allude to James' inspired words about the tongue
being a fire. That set me thinking. It is interesting to see how the Bible
uses the imagery of fire.

Fire refines and fire destroys. Zechariah 13:9 spoke of a third of God's
people refined by the fire of trial and made stronger. Peter speaks of a
faith refined by the fire of testing (1 Pet. 1:7). Yet, Jesus recalls how
the inhabitants of Sodom were destroyed by fire (Lk. 17:29). The fire of
judgment is connected with judgment and destruction (2 Pet. 3:7).
Fire brings comfort and fire brings pain. Peter warmed himself beside
slaves and officers at a fire in the high priest's courtyard (cf. Mk. 14:54;
Jn. 18:18). The natives started a fire on Malta out of kindness to bring
warmth and comfort to those shipwrecked, including Paul (Acts 28:3). In
teaching about eternal punishment, Jesus spoke of a furnace of fire
associated with weeping and gnashing of teeth (Mat. 13:42ff). Jude uses
fire similarly in Jude 7.
Fire gives life and fire brings death. Controlled or prescribed burns
reduce "fuel" for bigger, hotter fires, germinate desirable trees that
renews forests, improves wildlife habitats, improves forage for grazing, and
prepares fields for planting (treesearch.fs.fed.us and bugwood.org). But,
scripture and observation show that uncontrolled, unmanaged fires bring
opposite results (Joel 1:19-20; Ps. 83:14; Jer. 21:14; Js. 3:5).

There are certainly other contrasting uses of fire, in scripture and in
life. As nine major fires blaze throughout the state today, hundreds of
homes are destroyed, lives are threatened, and fears are fueled.
Spiritually, fire can have a positive effect, too. Even the threat of it
can be a deterrent in keeping us faithful. As we witness the fearsome
effects of these physical fires, may we ponder the dichotomous use of fire
in scripture.

Neal Pollard

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