Esh Oklah, El Kanna — Consuming Fire, Jealous God

Ann Spangler
Ann Spangler
2021 25 May

The Lord is a Jealous God who loves us completely and who, therefore, demands our wholehearted response. He is also a Consuming Fire, who will ultimately destroy whatever is opposed to his holiness. 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.

In the Hebrew scriptures, God sometimes manifested himself through images of fire—as a blazing torch, in the burning bush, or as a pillar of fire. When Moses met with God on Mount Sinai, the Israelites thought the glory of the Lord looked like a consuming fire on top of the mountain.

Most often, when Scripture pictures God as a consuming fire [Esh Oklah; AISH o-KLAH], it is in connection with expressions of divine anger against the sins of men and nations. Even so, his jealousy is not the “green-eyed monster” so often associated with human jealousy. Instead, God’s jealousy involves his righteous zeal for his own name or glory.

Even so, Scripture compares God’s jealousy to what a husband feels when his wife has been unfaithful. No wonder the first of the Ten Commandments prohibits the worship of other gods. The Lord is our Jealous God [El Kanna; EL kan-NAH], who cannot endure unfaithfulness. Jesus expressed this same kind of exclusiveness when he told his disciples: “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. If you really knew me, you would know my Father as well. From now on, you do know him and have seen him” (John 14:6–7).

Praying to Esh Oklah, El Kanna

Imagine being married to someone who didn’t mind if you dated other people. “No big deal if you stay out all night. Bring your lover home if you prefer. Whatever makes you happy.”

But would it make you happy?

Most of us would be dismayed if a spouse merely yawned and looked the other way when learning about an extramarital affair. As an African saying goes, “He that is not jealous is not in love.” We might be justified in suspecting our indifferent spouse of unfaithfulness, tolerating our affair because of his affair.

But far from being a listless husband, God is a passionate, jealous lover who deserves and demands the wholehearted love of his people. And we can thank him for that. For who would want to worship any other kind of God?

Though images of God as a jealous husband or Consuming Fire can be intimidating, they bring to mind the awe-filled lyrics of Handel’s Messiah:

But who may abide the day of His coming?
and who shall stand when He appeareth?
For He is like a refiner’s fire. 

As we think about our jealous God, let us ask him for the grace to be as devoted to him as he is to us and for the strength to withstand his purifying, refining, life-shaping fire.