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.