Psalm 46: 6, “The heathen raged, the kingdoms were moved; He uttered His voice, the earth melted”. What a powerful statement!! For me, this explains Genesis 1: 2 where it says, “and the earth was without form and void; and darkness was on the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters.” The word “melted” is defined in my dictionary as “liquefied by heat.” Now, we generally identify heat with fire and in this case the heat was extreme! But God started with a clean pallet and in six periods of time, restored the earth to perfection. It is our hope that we may avoid such heat anytime in the future.
As we move through the Scriptures, we next encounter fire when Moses approaches the burning bush, because it is burning but not consuming the bush. As we know, God spoke to him out of the bush, telling him that he was standing on sacred ground. So, here we have fire that does not kindle or consume! We next encounter fire when the Lord used a column of fire to separate the fleeing children of Israel from the pursuing Egyptians. This certainly kept the Egyptian army at bay and could be described as protective fire. There is no doubt that the Egyptians regarded it as a consuming fire and a threat to them.
We next encounter fire at mount Sinai. Exodus 19:17-18, “And Moses brought forth the people out of the camp to meet with God; and they stood at the nether part of the mount. And mount Sinai was altogether on a smoke, for the Lord descended upon it in fire: and the smoke thereof ascended as the smoke of a furnace, and the whole mount quaked greatly.” Now the people were told that if they exceeded the established bounds, they would surely die, but Moses and Aaron were invited to ascend the mount! So, on the one hand, we have a consuming fire while on the other hand, we have a protective or embracing fire! Unusual? Well, maybe not; the Psalmist records in Psalm 29: 7, “The voice of the Lord divideth the flames of fire.” This suggests that there are two kinds of fire. In the Apocrypha, Uriel challenges Esdras with this command, 2nd Esdras 4: 5, “Weigh me the weight of the fire”, suggesting that there is another dimension to fire beyond our comprehension.
When the Angel of the Lord (Jesus) approached Gideon with the challenge to go against the hordes of Midianites, Gideon asked for a sign that the Lord talkest with him. He asked him to wait until Gideon could bring forth his present and set it before Him. He returned with a meal of a kid in a basket, cakes and a broth in a pot. The Lord asked him to set it on a rock and pour out the broth. Joshua 6: 21, “Then the Angel of the Lord put forth the end of the staff that was in His hand, and touched the flesh and the unleavened cakes; and there rose up fire out of the rock, and consumed the flesh and the unleavened cakes.” So, in this instance, the fire did not fall from heaven but rose from the rock. It was a consuming fire.
At the dedication of the temple by Solomon, he concluded his prayer as recorded in 2nd Chron 7: 1-2, “Now when Solomon had made an end of praying, the fire came down from heaven, and consumed the burnt offering and the sacrifices; and the glory of the Lord filled the house. And the priests could not enter into the House of the Lord for the glory of the Lord had filled the Lord’s house.” So, here is the first example of fire coming from heaven, a consuming fire.
Then, there is the story of Elijah, who called down fire from heaven three times; each time it was a consuming fire. There was the famous test of the prophets on mount Carmel which is one of the best known stories of the Bible. Following the death of Ahab, Ahaziah his successor fell through a lattice in an upper chamber and was sick. He sent fifty men with their captain to bring Elijah to him; Elijah said, “If I be a man of God, let fire come down from heaven and consume thee and thy fifty.” This was repeated a second time but the third time Elijah was treated respectfully, and he relented to go to the king whom he condemned to death because he had consulted some other than the God of Israel. The Elijah story ends with his ascension into heaven recorded in 2nd Kings 2 : 11, “And it came to pass, as they still went on, and talked, that, behold, there appeared a chariot of fire, and horses of fire and parted them both asunder; and Elijah went up by a whirlwind into heaven.” Here we encounter God’s non-consuming fire, the one that surrounds and protects. That it looked like horses and a chariot simply adds to the miraculous nature of that stunning event.
Another encounter with fire is the famous story of Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego who were cast into the fiery furnace which was heated seven times the temperature with which it was wont to be heated. Then follows the wonderful verses, Daniel 3: 24-25, “Then Nebuchadnezzar was astonied, and rose up in haste, and spake, and said unto his counsellors, Did we not cast three men bound into the midst of the fire? They answered and said unto the king, True, 0 king. He answered and said, Lo, I see four men loose, walking in the midst of the fire, and they have no hurt; and the form of the fourth is like the Son of God.” Yes, although the mighty men that placed them in the fire died because of their proximity to the fire, our three heroes were indeed unscathed, when the king called them forth. So, one might conclude that Jesus divided the flames of fire and surrounded our heroes with His fire that does not consume, thereby protecting them from the heat of the furnace and of course, His flames did not kindle on their clothes or bodies.
So, from these studies, we can see that God’s arsenal of weapons includes a protective fire, one that does not consume. This is worth thinking about since Peter tells us, 2nd Peter 3: 7, “But the heavens and the earth which are now, by the same word are kept in store, reserved unto fire against the day of judgment and perdition of ungodly men.” Verse 10 adds, “But the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night; in the which, the heavens shall pass away with a great noise, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat, the earth also and the works that are therein shall be burned up.” WOW!!! Is this reminiscent of the Psalm quoted earlier? “He uttered His voice, the earth melted.” Isaiah also comments on this incident, Isaiah 64 : 1-3, “Oh that Thou wouldst rend the heavens, that Thou wouldst come down, that the mountains might flow down at Thy Presence, as when the MELTING FIRE burneth, the fire causeth the waters to boil, to make Thy name known to Thy adversaries, that the nations may tremble at Thy Presence! When Thou didst terrible things which we looked not for, Thou earnest down, the mountains flowed down at Thy Presence.”
We are told that in the time of Jacob’s trouble, we shall be saved out of it. Isaiah 65 : 15, For, behold, the Lord will come with fire, and with His chariots like a whirlwind, to render His anger with fury, and His rebuke with flames of fire.” In the midst of this coming holocaust, do we have hope? Our assurance is found again in Isaiah 43: 1-3, “But now, thus saith the Lord that created thee, 0 Jacob, and He that formed thee, 0 Israel, Fear not: for I have redeemed thee, I have called thee by my name: thou art mine. When thou passeth through the waters, I will be with thee; and through the rivers, they shall not overflow thee: when thou walkest through the fire, thou shall not be burned; neither shall the flame kindle upon thee.”
But we should leave the last word to Jesus, Matthew 24 : 21-22, “For then shall be great tribulation such as was not from the beginning of the world to this time, no, nor ever shall be. And except those days be shortened, there should be no flesh saved; but for the elect’s sake, those days shall be shortened.”