On these colder days a fire warming up our bodies is an attractive thought and an even more fulfilling experience. It may be that the fire is inside or outside but there is something about a fire that draws our fascination to higher levels: the random flicking of the flames; the colours and sparks that the fire generates; the noises, crackles and pops as the wood is consumed; the romantic atmosphere of a warm environment and the light of the fire; even the toasting of bread or marshmallows. Throughout the Bible various situations reflect the warmth, light and consuming nature of fire as the people interact with God.
God guided by a pillar of fire on the Israelites journey through the desert. Even though they had been disobedient God still provided guidance, awareness of his presence and care for his people. Added to this was the provision of food in a dry, arid and generally sparse environment. God demonstrated his immense care, protection, grace and love throughout this difficult period for the Israelites. Mind you it didn’t help them get on the side of obedience very easily – the odd one here and there but in general as a people they remained disobedient rather than obedient. Maybe there is a similarity today: God shows his power and might, his love and care, his interest and support, his guidance and provision throughout history, his creation and in the world yet it doesn’t necessarily turn people into obedient followers of God. The world resists the work of God preferring the darkness instead of the light.
Daniel’s friends found themselves placed in the furnace fire because of their loyalty and obedience to God standing strongly in the face of the Babylonian king’s instruction. In this situation God demonstrated his power again by protecting his servants. Though the fire was made hotter and the guards were burned those placed in the furnace experienced the power of God and were rescued – their faith in God despite the possible outcome of death enabled them to confidently exclaim that God would rescue them and if he chose otherwise they would continue to trust God. The challenge for us today is to remain faithful to God in the situations that we confront – with faith in our God to bring rescue and relief and yet a conviction that whatever happens we will remain loyal to God.
Jesus sat waiting for his disciples by the fire at the Sea of Galilee. Having been out fishing all night without success the disciples obeyed Jesus’ instructions regarding their fishing techniques – experienced fishermen obeying the so-called stranger on the beach – to catch boat loads of fish. Some of these fish ended up being cooked on the fire as Jesus met his disciples having risen from the dead. He used this occasion to reinstate Peter despite of his failure to stand up for Jesus at the trial of Jesus. Peter’s broken promises and denial didn’t stand in the way of the depth of connection he had with Jesus and Jesus made certain Peter understood he was fully accepted. It showed that failure was not a limiting factor in the care, support guidance and use of him as God’s agent in the advancement of the kingdom. Maybe it was the mark of humility that was necessary for Peter to be effective in the future. Mind you he didn’t enjoy the close attention to detail Jesus ‘pressed in’ with, reacting to Jesus’ questions about his love for him, but ultimately knowing the forgiveness and acceptance of the one he’d turned away from. This in turn gives us hope as we face our own failure, denial and emotion about Jesus. Jesus brings forgiveness to our situations, our failures to live up to our hopes and commitments, our flaws and inconsistencies and even those times when in weakness we like Peter deny our Lord.
So as you sit and enjoy the romantic evening, or the warmth of a fire, or simply toasting your marshmallows please don’t stick your hand in the fire or you’ll come off second best. It’s the perfect place to reflect on the warmth and love of God for us; to revel in the grace and compassion of Jesus who delights in us and calls us to obedience; to experience the depth of forgiveness given to us and allow the fullness of Jesus’ invitation to follow him to be an inspiration to seek the advancement of the kingdom of God. God bless you in your obedience.