Either Way, You’re Gonna Get Burned

Okay . . . this is one of those mornings where it’s more like eating from a buffet than chewing on a single verse. Verses from three of my readings running through my head. All to do with fire, burning, and light. Connected, I think. Not sure if I can bring it together in a way that makes sense, but where I’m landing this morning is that either way, you’re gonna get burned.

Here goes . . .

Let’s start in Hebrews 12.

See that you do not refuse Him who is speaking. For if they did not escape when they refused him who warned them on earth, much less will we escape if we reject Him who warns from heaven. . . Therefore let us be grateful for receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, and thus let us offer to God acceptable worship, with reverence and awe, for our God is a consuming fire.

(Hebrews 12:25, 28-29 ESV)

The writer to the Hebrews is wrapping up his letter. After explaining the “better-ness” of Jesus, after exhorting these weary wanderers to keep on keepin’ on entering the rest, after reminding them that what began by faith will be finished by faith, he says, “Do not refuse Him who is speaking.” How come? Because our God is a consuming fire. The One who tests hearts is a furnace that will one day judge all men. But, in this last part of Hebrews 12, he also reminds these wavering believers that their relationship to the fire is a different relationship than those outside of Christ, and that’s why they can offer “acceptable worship” to God — because they’re receiving a kingdom.

For you have not come to what may be touched, a blazing fire and darkness and gloom and a tempest . . . But you have come to Mount Zion and to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to innumerable angels in festal gathering . . .

(Hebrews 12:18, 22 ESV)

Mount Sinai was enveloped by the God who is a consuming fire (Ex. 19:18) and it caused even Moses to “tremble with fear” (Heb. 12:21). Do not touch! Do not come near! Keep your distance! That was the order of the day for those who saw God reveal Himself afire in the Law. You didn’t come to Mount Sinai, you stayed away. BUT — oh, glorious but — those under grace are invited to approach a different mount, Mount Zion. God not overshadowing it with blazing fire holiness, but God in the midst of it as with a holy fire that replaces the sun, so that “the LORD will be your everlasting light, and your God will be your glory” (Isa. 60:19-20, another of this morning’s readings).

Far from the consuming fire of God repelling us from a mount shaken by the tempest of His unfathomable holiness, it actually invites us to draw near and receive a kingdom that cannot be shaken because of His sacrificial love. Made holy through the finished work of Christ, we are beckoned to boldly approach the holy (Heb. 4:16).

But if we draw near, we’re still gonna get burned.

When [Jesus] was at table with [those He met on the road to Emmaus], He took the bread and blessed and broke it and gave it to them. And their eyes were opened, and they recognized Him. And He vanished from their sight. They said to each other, “Did not our hearts burn within us while He talked to us on the road, while He opened to us the Scriptures?”

(Luke 24:30-32 ESV)

If we heed His voice and draw near, we should expect that our God, the consuming fire, will burn us. Not with flames that bring death, but with a fire that stirs us to life. His blazing fire no longer a feared flame, but a friendly fire which brings light and ignites the heart. Ready to hear His voice without the fear which sends us fleeing is to be ready to be consumed by His fire with an attracting and responsive fear fueled from knowing His overflowing, steadfast love. Try to run from Him, or purpose to run to Him; either way you’re gonna get burned.

Oh, to know the heartburn of being at the table with Jesus. To hear the voice of the consuming fire of Sinai now say with the faithful fire of Zion, “Come dine with Me.”

By His grace. For His glory.

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