Today I flipped open my Bible to Hebrew 12:14-29. I’ve spent quite a bit of time in the first part of that chapter, but from some reason have usually stopped at verse 13. Thursday was the day to move on.
“Make every effort to live in peace with all men and to be holy.” (Hebrews 12:14)
Hebrews is tough book for me. Verse 14 could be a whole novel topic by itself! So much in crammed into a little verse!
A few months ago, our woman’s Bible study group was going to announce the new book we would be going through starting in February. Excitement was looming around the release of the name of the new book. I will be a leader of one of the groups, and I remember saying a quick prayer right before the name was announced: “Please, Lord, don’t let it be Hebrews!” It’s a hard book, and I quickly get lost in reading it.
Guess I should kept my mouth shut, because our new woman’s Bible study book will be over the book of Hebrews. I’m entering into this challenge positively, though. But it’s funny to me that THAT would be the ONLY book I would call out as the one I’d hope it WOULDN’T be…and it was the very book that was chosen. I have much to learn!
As I read Hebrews on my own, there is sort of this “unlocking the code” that is going on. I’m starting to understand some of the perspective from the writer. Towards the end of chapter 12, I read (I have 2 translations open, so forgive my translation hopping!):
“Do you see what we’ve got? An unshakable kingdom! And do you see how thankful we must be? Not only thankful, but brimming with worship, deeply reverent before God. (MSG) for our ‘God is a consuming fire.'” (NIV) (Hebrews 12:28-29)
“Consuming fire” ? Love this imagery!
When I read this, I’m reminded of a few summers back when here in Austin we had several terrible out-of-control wildfires. One of them happened in Bastrop. Whole sections of the city were completely destroyed. Thousands of acres of forest and trees, gone!
Our family drove through the fire area shortly after they were put out. It was just miles and miles of black, charred, empty, ugly, stumps. Occasionally, you would see a tree that looked as though it survived. Standing there tall, bark marked with the scars of the fire, and small green pine needles hanging on for dear life at the top. It was sad to see.
Well, enough time as past by that new growth has started. The underbrush is green and lush. The forest isn’t as tall and thick as it once was, but it’ll get there as it has time to heal and grow.
“There is a big difference between the flame of a candle and the roaring blast of a forest fire.” (commentary) A candle is contained. It is controlled. With one swift breath, the flickering flame is gone. But a roaring wildfire is not so easily contained. I remember back to the wildfires in Bastrop. Daily, we would hear “the fires are now 10% contained.” It took days for the fires to be extinguished. DAYS! Nothing about a wildfire says “contained” or “controlled.” It is completely ruled by weather, wind, and humidity.
I think God often uses wildfires in our life. We think we have the control of our finances, our life, and our situation. Then something happens. Someone gets sick, car accident, bounced check, etc. We feel out of control. The truth is, none of it is OUR control. God is 150% in control of everything that happens–good, bad, and ugly.
Sometimes when the “flames” get extra hot and out of control, it’s hard to understand why the “fire” started in the first place or what the point of the “fire” is in our life. God uses “fires” to shape us. Just as the forest is cleaned out and fresh growth can grow from the ashes of the fire, so our lives and hearts can be cleaned out to make way for fresh, green, lush growth of a new forest.
God take ashes and makes them into new beauty. Yes, there still may be ugly, black, scared trees….wounds of life…but new growth comes in and soon the marks are almost indistinguishable.
A new life begins.
Following the path,