“For the Lord your God is a consuming fire, a jealous God” (Deuteronomy 4:24). In spite of this truth, Israel disrespected God. They treated God as though he were muzzled, tamed, or even docile. To Israel, God was manageable and could be manipulated to their own advantage. There was no sense of awe, no reverent fear, and no trepidation when they came into his presence.
No better illustration of how they had trivialized God is seen in the life of King Uzziah (2 Chronicles 26:1-23). Uzziah was a very successful King with God’s help, but his success went to his head. Pride filled his heart, and his pride grew, there was less and less a place for God in his heart. Consequently, Uzziah presumed to violate God’s command, enter the temple, and assume the rights that belonged only to the priests. No less than eighty men attempted to stop him, but he had so marginalized God and puffed himself up, that he presumptuously disobeyed and paid a terrible price. He was like the occasional tourist who thinks Panda bears are so cute and safe that he ignores the warnings, reaches his hand through the bars to pet them, only to learn too late, that these bears are wild and untamed.
If there was a single message of which the church needs to be reminded today, in my judgment, it would be that God is a consuming fire; a jealous God! Too many people have trivialized God. When some hear his “thunderings,” they pay no mind as though these “thunderings” originate from the “innocuous little man behind the curtain.”
I believe if we could get “God” right, most of our problems would disappear. If we would stop treating God as though he were tame and and able to be manipulated, we wouldn’t presume to change his commandments. Our problems today are really not “the role of women in the church,” “the necessity of baptism for salvation,” or “instrumental music in worship;” rather our problem is more singular. We have failed to emphasize and consequently have forgotten that God is a consuming fire!
How else do we explain that when we gather to worship, instead of hearing gasps of “awe,” we sometimes hear “yawns of boredom?” Instead of God being a consuming fire having the power to refine and even destroy, we have reduced him to a safe, flickering candle that barely provides illumination. We have allowed the familiarity of “sonship” to breed contempt and presumptousness toward God and his commands.
Friends, God is so much more than “the little man behind the curtain.” He’s more than just a man with a deep, thundering voice (Numbers 23:19). He can’t be manipulated. He can’t be marginalized. He can’t be tamed. And he can’t be put in a box of our making. He isn’t manageable. God is God. He is omnipotent, omnipresent, omniscient, and omnibenevolent. In spite of revealing himself to us, he remains a mystery. Consequently, we should worship and obey him with awe, caution, and reverent fear. “Great is the Lord, and greatly to be praised; and his greatness is unsearchable” (Psalm 145:3).