I am fascinated by fire. Not in the pyromaniac way necessarily, but in the regular, human way. Flames are mesmerizing. Burning coals are beautiful and hypnotic. Humans have been staring into fires since the beginning.
It is not surprising that God chose fire to be a symbol for Himself, for His presence. Fire is powerful, dangerous, beautiful, mysterious. It consumes completely. You can’t always control it. It is intrinsic to basic survival. On those survivor-type shows, task number one is always to get fire. Fire means clean water, food, warmth, light.
In the Old Testament, God revealed Himself through fire repeatedly. Remember the burning bush? The Pillar of Fire that guided the Israelites in their wandering? When the Israelites saw the presence of God on Mt. Sinai, they said it looked like “A consuming fire”. God is actually called “the consuming fire” several times in scripture. In the New Testament, when the Holy Spirit was given to the Jesus Followers, God’s presence was symbolized by a visible flame resting on each individual. Wouldn’t that be cool to see?!
Now, about worship. We are all worshippers. Whether we bow down or make a sacrifice on an altar or not. To worship is to be consumed; to decide that something, or someone has so much value and is worth so much that you will focus all your attention and affection on it in response to that decision. What do you live for? Think about? Spend too much money on? What gives your life meaning and purpose? What can you not live without? We may answer those questions a million different ways, but whatever the answer, that is what we worship.
I think we were made to worship God alone; to know Him, to get swept away by His beauty and goodness and splendor, to be one with Him. After all, He invented us. If we worship anything other than Him, if any other fire consumes us, it will eventually do what all fire does. It will destroy. Only ashes will remain. Because nothing other than God was meant to consume us and can’t fulfill us, whether it’s a person, a relationship, recognition, success, fame, even happiness. Worshipping anything other than God is idolatry, and we humans are experts at idolatry.
Back to the burning bush. Remember how it burned, but the bush was not destroyed? Isn’t that crazy? What on earth did that look like? Fire always destroys. I was in Idaho last year and saw several forests that had been ravaged by fire. Trees were charred black, not much remained. God-fire is the only fire that consumes but does not destroy. We were made to blaze, to be on fire, to live passionate, meaningful lives, to be living flames of the actual presence of the living God. We were made to be consumed by God, the only fire that does not destroy, but instead gives life.
Lizi Bailey lives in Griffin, Georgia with her husband, Matthew and their 5 beautiful children; Ezra, Silas, Lyric, Sunny and Daisy. She is a learner, singer, songwriter, musician and worship leader. Learn more at lizibailey.org or follow her @lizibailey.