From Praying the Names of God Week Ten, Day Three
The Lord is a Consuming Fire who will ultimately destroy whatever is opposed to his holiness. He is also a Jealous God, who loves us completely and who, therefore, demands our wholehearted response. If we love him, we can be confident of his mercy, and our own zeal will make us jealous for God's honor and glory. When you pray these names of God, ask him to give you and the church a deeper understanding of his holiness and a greater desire to honor and exalt his name.
Do not worship any other god, for the LORD, whose name is Jealous, is a jealous God. (Exodus 34:14)
Be careful not to forget the covenant of the LORD your God that he made with you; do not make for yourselves an idol in the form of anything the LORD your God has forbidden. For the LORD your God is a consuming fire, a jealous God. (Deuteronomy 4:23-24)
PRAYING THE NAME
But who can endure the day of his coming? Who can stand when he appears? For he will be like a refiner's fire or a launderer's soap. He will sit as a refiner and purifier of silver; he will purify the Levites and refine them like gold and silver. (Malachi 3:2-3)
Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, let us be thankful, and so worship God acceptably with reverence and awe, for our "God is a consuming fire." (Hebrews 12:28-29)
Praise God: For his righteous anger.
Offer Thanks: For the mercy God has shown you.
Confess: Any complacency about sin.
Ask God: To purify you.
Anyone who has ever worked in publishing as I have will realize that you cannot force-feed books to prospective readers. That's why the publisher of a series of small devotional books with titles like A Touch of His Joy, A Touch of His Wisdom, and A Touch of His Presence didn't say yes to my wry suggestion for a volume entitled A Touch of His Wrath. Who on earth would want to read such a book?
But despite our distaste for the subject, Scripture tells us in both Old and New Testaments that there is such a thing as God's wrath. Believing in God's mercy and grace does not mean believing there is no longer any such thing as divine anger. God sent his Son to save us, but we can only be saved if we choose to be. As Ignatius of Antioch put it in the first century, "We must either fear his future wrath or love his present grace—one of the two!"4 Anyone who persistently ignores God, resists him, flaunts his law, or rejects the salvation he offers will ultimately incur his wrath.
But what does it mean to talk about God's anger? Is God prone to throwing celestial tantrums to get his way? Hardly, for God's anger is not rooted in selfish concern, nor is it randomly or recklessly expressed. Rather God's anger, which Scripture sometimes describes as a "consuming fire," is an expression of his justice and his holiness. Its primary purpose is restorative, to bring his creatures back to himself, or, failing that, to restore the proper relationship between sin and its consequences in order to preserve his justice and holiness.
Knowing that Jesus has saved us from God's wrath is always a cause for great rejoicing but never a cause for smugness. We need to remember that the people who angered Jesus the most were always religious people—people who knew God's laws but twisted them to serve their purposes and then judged others for falling short.
Today as you think about God as a Consuming Fire, join me in praying for the grace to recognize and repent of sin. Let us ask God to consume everything in our lives that distracts from his glory. Then we can pray for those in our world who seem far from God, that they will heed the warning of his wrath and receive the salvation he offers through his Son.