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About a Burning Fire

Deuteronomy 5:22
“These words the LORD spoke to all your assembly at the mountain out of the midst of the fire, the cloud, and the thick darkness, with a loud voice, and he added no more.”

A couple years ago, on a warm, breezy Saturday afternoon, I packed my kids in the car for a day trip to Raven Rock State Park, but as soon as we pulled out of our driveway and turned onto the main road, my son leapt up from the backseat, thrust his finger past my face toward the windshield, and screamed, “Fire!” Sure enough, one of our neighbor’s houses was up in flames. A pillar of smoke barreled across the road and caught the adjacent pine trees on fire as well, so we pulled off the road as quickly as we could to the sound of firetruck sirens whirling past. Thank God no one was hurt in the ordeal, but by the end it, all that remained of that little farmhouse was the charred bricks of the crawlspace. It strikes me that fire is a cozy, relaxing thing, when contained on a little wick and wafting cinnamon through the house or when flickering gently under a boiling pot of White Chicken Chili or when warming our hands on a cold mountain night in a campfire, but not when it’s raging all around us. Not when it’s out of our control.

Picture this mountain here in Deuteronomy 5 through that lens, friend. Imagine yourself standing there, surrounded by walls of uncontrolled flames and tornado-sized pillars of smoke and darkness so dense you feel naked in it, and instead of the calming, reassuring voice of your Father whispering through the tempest, a voice full of even deeper thunder joins the terrifying scene. And when the words stop, when the voice slips back into silence, you’re the most relieved soul in all the world, believing that one more little jot or tittle from that fiery tongue would’ve killed you.

I much prefer the accounts in my own life of faith where God speaks in a still, small voice or descends as a dove or shines in the clear, blue sky with rainbows, but every once in a while, I need that holy fire to shock my faith back into action. Sometimes it’s good to stand in those billowing flames of Sinai and remember how in control He is and how helpless we really are.