Fire of God’s Glory
One of the primary metaphors for the glory of God in Scripture is fire. God is an all-consuming fire, a jealous God. His jealousy removes everything that hinders his love from increasing in our lives. His eyes are a flame of fire, consumed with love for his people!
Ezekiel 1:27 (ESV) “And upward from what had the appearance of his waist I saw as it were gleaming metal, like the appearance of fire enclosed all around. And downward from what had the appearance of his waist I saw as it were the appearance of fire, and there was brightness around him.”
His words are like fire, his feet are like burnished bronze in a furnace. His face shines like the sun in all its brilliance. His throne is ablaze with fire, and its wheels are full of fire! A river of fire comes out from before him! The Holy Spirit is described as the 7 blazing torches or lamps of fire! He truly is an all-consuming fire. And everything that surrounds him is set on fire.
Several times throughout the Old Testament, the priests would lay before the Lord an offering, and God would consume it with the glory of His fire!
Leviticus 9:22-24 (ESV), “Then Aaron lifted up his hands toward the people and blessed them, and he came down from offering the sin offering and the burnt offering and the peace offerings. And Moses and Aaron went into the tent of meeting, and when they came out they blessed the people, and the glory of the Lord appeared to all the people. And fire came out from before the Lord and consumed the burnt offering and the pieces of fat on the altar, and when all the people saw it, they shouted and fell on their faces.”
Again when Solomon was dedicating the temple,
2 Chronicles 7:1-3 “As soon as Solomon finished his prayer, fire came down from heaven and consumed the burnt offering and the sacrifices, and the glory of the Lord filled the temple. 2 And the priests could not enter the house of the Lord, because the glory of the Lord filled the Lord’s house. 3 When all the people of Israel saw the fire come down and the glory of the Lord on the temple, they bowed down with their faces to the ground on the pavement and worshiped and gave thanks to the Lord, saying, “For he is good, for his steadfast love endures forever.
God often answers by fire! Jesus said,
Luke 12:49-50 “I came to cast fire on the earth, and would that it were already kindled! I have a baptism to be baptized with, and how great is my distress until it is accomplished!”
Jesus came to endure a baptism of fire at the cross. Jesus was the fulfillment of the burnt offering sacrifice. The fiery wrath of God the Father would blaze forth upon Jesus as he hung, strapped on the altar of sacrifice, the cross! There in Gethsemane, said Jonathan Edwards,
“He was brought to the mouth of the furnace that he might look into it and stand and view its raging flames and see the glowings of its heat, that he might know where he was going and what he was about to suffer.”[i]
In the garden, as Jesus is gazing intently into the cup of wrath, he understands that he is about to experience the full and eternal wrath of God against your sin and mine. He is about face the reality of bearing our sins and becoming the object of God’s full and furious wrath on our behalf.
He is about to be abandoned by his Father…all because of the fullness of sin resting upon him. Jesus must be utterly removed and separated from the presence of a Holy God. The sky grows dark and luminous. Breaking forth from the blood-stained lips of our savior, He uttered the most terrible words “My God my God why have you forsaken me.” William Hendriksen comments graphically on the darkness that portends Jesus’ cry,
“The darkness meant judgement, the judgment of God upon our sins, his wrath as it were burning itself out in the very heart of Jesus, so that he, as our Substitute, suffered most intense agony, indescribable woe, terrible isolation or forsakenness. Hell came to Calvary that day, and the Savior descended into it and bore its horrors in our stead”[ii]
As R.C. Sproul writes,
“This cry represents the most agonizing protest ever uttered on this planet. It burst forth in a moment of unparalleled pain. It is the scream of the damned for us.”[iii]
Literally for the first time in history Jesus is ripped from his Father’s embrace. Jesus understands the pain of abandonment, and that’s why now, he can promise, “I was abandoned so you will never have to be abandoned ever again. Never will I leave you, never will I forsake you” (Hebrews 13:5).
Jesus says to you and I today, “I heard your cries, when they left you…I hear the cries of this fatherless generation and that’s why I came to this earth to be utterly forsaken by my Father, so that you would never have to be forsaken ever again.”
Not only was he ripped away from the loving embrace of his Father for you, but he also endured the eternal wrath of the fiery flames of hell on our behalf. What is our penalty for sin? It is eternal separation from God. It is the pain and agony of enduring the fiery flames of hell. Jesus experienced the hell that we were supposed to endure for our sin. God the Father took His eternal wrath, condensed it, and emptied it into His cup. He distilled eternal judgment, the very lake of fire, hell’s blazing fury and then asked His Son to drink it on our behalf. The fiery flames of wrath blazed forth and consumed the Lord Jesus on the cross, as the final burnt offering sacrifice!
It’s like the true story of the mother who awakened one night smelling smoke. She shook her husband and raced upstairs to the baby, but a wall of flames drove her back. Outside the neighbors and firemen fought the blaze. But the mother kept hearing the cry of her baby from the upstairs window. Her husband held her back, knowing that there was nothing to do. Finally she broke from his grip and tore into the house. Covering her face with her hands, she charged up through the wall of flames into her baby’s room. Gathering her little one in her arms, she pressed back through the flames. IN a crumpled heap of charred flesh, she fell to the grass outside. And though she was disfigured for life, she had saved her baby…[iv]
Just like that story Jesus heard your cries, he felt your pain, he saw you heading toward the eternal flames of hell…so he LEFT Heaven, charged through the flames of wrath to rescue you…he took your hell and drank your cup on the cross, he swept you into his embrace and brought you through to safety, though He too was disfigured, he still bears the scars and marks on his body to show what he did for you….He took your Hell, so you could have His Heaven!
Jesus had entered the garden for a brief interlude before the hour of the cross, but found hell thrust in his face. Jesus had every right to turn his tearful eyes towards you and me and thrust this cup into our hands, shouting “you drink it…this is your cup, you are responsible for this?” And yet instead he takes it freely for you and I…
Prayer Focus: Find a place to bow down or lay prostrate before the Lord. In this posture, spend some time focusing on the agony of Jesus in Gethsemane. Re-commit your heart to the Lord, “Father not my will but your will be done.”
[i] Jonathan Edwards, Christ’s Agony, pg 869.
[ii] Hendriksen, William, Matthew, pg 970
[iii] CJ Mahaney, Cross-Centered Living, pg 88
[iv] Sandy Kirk, The Glory of the Lamb, pg 68-69