I grew up believing all fires destroy and need to be snuffed out. Smokey the Bear posters and billboards were everywhere. A campfire left burning, a cigarette tossed carelessly from a car window could destroy acres of woodlands, or hillside of grass, leaving nothing but ash and devastation. Fire fighters work hard to eradicate every fire, even those started by lightning and diligence paid off. Fires are stopped quickly. For a while. After a time, many get out of control, burn hotter and destroy the very wonders we wanted to protect.
Eventually, scientists learned what God already knows: fire can be beneficial. It is a natural process that cleanses a forest floor, clears a prairie, savanna or chaparral and brings new vitality to ecosystems. When fires are put out too quickly, fuel accumulates in the form of underbrush and weakened, diseased and fallen trees. When another fire starts, that fuel makes the fire burn hotter, so hot that old growth trees and wildlife can’t survive.
After a natural fire clears a forest floor, new grasses, herbs and shrubs grow, providing food and homes for wildlife. With fewer thick stands of shrubs, fewer plants absorb water, increasing the supply for all life. The streams are fuller allowing fish to spawn.
Some plants require fire to survive. Chaparral plants, manzanita, chamise, scrub oaks and lodgepole pines require fire for seed germination. Some even have flammable resins on their leaves. Others are fire resistant. Giant sequoias have thick bark, and were created to withstand low intensity (natural) fire. Bark at the base of one of these giants can be up to two feet thick.
Fire is mentioned over 500 times in the Bible. God is a refiner’s fire, a consuming fire, His eyes and voice like fire. Fire aids in sacrifice, brings forth the aroma of incense for worship, brings deliverance, ends evil. He sent holy fire to destroy two sin-filled cities. God appeared in a burning bush. He was a pillar of fire, guiding and protecting the Israelites through the wilderness. He descended onto Mount Sinai in fire. Following the resurrection of Jesus, God baptized all those who believed in His Son with the Holy Spirit and with fire. God will also use fire to make all things right at the end of the age.
Scripture tells us the life of every person will go through fire, our true motivations for all we have done, said or thought revealed. Even the present heavens and earth are being reserved for fire, kept for the Day of Judgment – a day of cleansing, the time of making all things new; a new earth and mankind sinless again as God intended.
Some pray for that day to come, longing for it with soul hunger to be home. Others refuse to believe and spend their lives walking toward their chosen destination: the lake of fire where death and Hades await. Where are you headed?