Thursday, July 20, 2017

Consuming fire

And the people complained in the hearing of the Lord about their misfortunes, and when the Lord heard it, his anger was kindled, and the fire of the Lord burned among them and consumed some outlying parts of the camp. 2 Then the people cried out to Moses, and Moses prayed to the Lord, and the fire died down. 3 So the name of that place was called Taberah, because the fire of the Lord burned among them (Num 11:1-3).

The account doesn't say what kind of fire this was. The pillar of fire is an obvious candidate. I've often remarked that descriptions of the pillar of fire are reminiscent of a fire devil. A mobile column of fire. A flaming tornado.

Of course, a fire devil is a natural phenomenon. I'd classify the pillar of fire as a preternatural phenomenon. Although it resembles a fire devil, it has a degree of stability and directionality unlike a fire devil. 

Imagine how terrifying this would be to the grumbling Israelites. Normally, the pillar of fire guides them and protects them. But if they're faithless, it can turn on them. 

Picturing God's judgment on apostates, Heb 12:29 calls God a "consuming fire". Although that may be metaphorical, it's an allusion to God's literally fiery judgments on the faithless Israelites in the wildness, who are counterparts to new covenant apostates. 

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