“Now the people became like those who complain of adversity in the hearing of the Lord; and when the Lord heard it, His anger was kindled, and the fire of the Lord burned among them and consumed some of the outskirts of the camp. The people therefore cried out to Moses, and Moses prayed to the Lord and the fire died out. So the name of that place was called Taberah, because the fire of the Lord burned among them” ~ Numbers 11:1-3, NASB.
In Part 1 of Firestorm we looked at what I see and understand about God that brought God’s firestorm to the camp of God’s people on the day He was provoked to take action against their grumbling, complaint of distrust and discontent. Have you ever wondered why, out of two people with the same propensity to sin, one seems to have to suffer consequences more than another? Could it possibly be that one, though they keep stumbling over similar stones, is at least open to God and agreeable to learn what is needed for change? God sees the heart and is looking for those with a heart after His own, whole toward Him.
The people of God in our passage are an example to us of a people who would not learn, thus they failed to believe God and come to one heart with Him. As some have said, they kept going round and round the same mountain, having to go through the same life lessons over and over again, facing more devastating consequences. They did so because, despite seeing His might work on their behalf over and over again, they failed to believe.
It seems to me that those who realize quickly their sin and turn to God often face lesser consequences than those who rebelliously refuse to learn and change; or if they do have a firestorm hit, their heart toward God equips them to get through with fewer burns. When we see someone going round a mountain over and over, one of our main prayers and words of encouragement for them needs to be that they develop a teachable spirit that seeks after God and believes in Him, becoming one who is easily moved to change by God.
It also seems to me that those who find themselves in the same situations over and over are those who have little or no understanding of God. The more we know of God, the more we trust Him. The stronger our trust in Him, the easier our faith comes. The easier our faith, the more likely we are to follow His lead with hope in Him despite our situations. If the people of Israel each had a personal knowledge of God, their griping, complaining rebellion would have lessened. But they struggled with an unteachable, rebellious spirit. They often seemed to avoid close proximity with God, asking Moses to do that for them, while they failed to fear going against His ways, so they faced a firestorm.
Thus we learn that to avoid a firestorm, we must avoid ungrateful griping and complaining, and move far away from rebellion against God, instead turning to Him with a receptive spirit to learn His ways. So why would God send a firestorm and what might His purpose in it be?
Fire is a source of light used of God to light up the dark places. Because of the fire, the people’s attitudes and lack of faith was made clear and grace was sought for and received. Fire rises up within us and around us still today, sent by God to reveal our struggle with sin and doubt, leading us to repentance that finds grace waiting.
Fire made God’s opinion of their attitudes and actions evident to the people. God was provoked to righteous anger by His people. Here is the thing, though. God’s anger, even His most vehement wrath is never out of control like ours often is. He is always in control of His response when angered, always has a purpose in what He allows to come as a disciplining rod. Though He may appear to our way of thinking as being unreasonable, His vengeance, unlike ours, is righteous and always based on truth, and His disciplining rod is always just as He is patient toward us.
God is always purpose driven, protective, and proactive (pressing forward to the goal). His anger comes across to us as harsh, in my opinion, because in times of lacking ability to acknowledge our sin, we fail to see how long He tarries with us before turning up the heat. We see Him take what seems to us to be quick, overly harsh action against people who come against Him and His ways and we think that He cannot be pleased. It is vital that we understand how long suffering Father is over His children; then maybe we will realize when we keep running around a mountain and change our ways before the storm worsens.
Fire is cleansing. Fire is cleansing: example – removing bacteria from medical instruments, making them safe for use; removing hidden organisms from the food we eat. God reaches to us, wooing us to Himself. When we continue to refuse Him and walk farther from Him in the process, we eventually reach a point of no return. Firestorms come to those who are in danger of an infectious rebellion that will lead them to that point.
We must remember that God knows the heart of a person. He knows when they are set in their way and set against His in a way that will bring destruction to those around them. God removed people and groups whose hearts were so set against Him and His ways that they would be like leaven to the whole; spreading like infection to bring all to destruction. When He sent His fire or the destructive force of His wrath, He did so to protect and purify the whole camp.
Fire, at its highest temps, will melt the most precious to release from it the dross that soils and spoils the brilliance of the pure. God was, in these passages we consider in scripture, creating a pure lot out of which to save the world. Was He harder on Israel than on those nations surrounding them? To us it would appear to be so, because He was leading them to be the people of His purpose. Will God be harder on us who profess to follow Him in Christ but live like the world? I believe so, for He is still in the business of raising up a holy lot that will be the Kingdom of His Presence. God cannot remain among those of a sinful, unrighteous nature. So He requires much of us who profess to be His, for we are the righteous leaven meant to influence the world for good and glory.
When the fires of adversity come, jump in. God’s fire purifies, revealing the dross that dulls our shine, and removing from us the impurities that affect those around us. Cooperating with God when He sends His purifying fire our way is a whole lot easier and less painful than fighting against it. God’s fire is not meant for our destruction, but it will destroy the few if that is what must be in order to protect the whole. His fire will purify that which needs cleansing if we will but brave the heat to grow in our knowledge of God and be like He is in purity, holiness, truth and righteousness.
Beloved, if our hearts are pure toward God and if we are pliable in the Master Potter’s capable hands, it is doubtful we will ever have to face a God-generated firestorm of our own making. And though the flames sent against the rebellious in our midst may lap around us who are part of that camp, we can take heart in knowing that, just like with Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, Father will be with us in the fire when our hearts are pure toward Him.
“Faith in the Lord to handle any and all situations we are faced with is the ONLY way to get through them and end up a winner” ~ Sarah Doe (An anonymous writer of a real letter).
“Seek the Lord while He may be found; call upon Him while He is near. Let the wicked forsake his way and the unrighteous man his thoughts; and let him return to the Lord, and He will have compassion on him, and to our God, for He will abundantly pardon” ~ Isaiah 55:6-7.