Tuesday, December 6, 2016

The Lord's Consuming Fire

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

You will capture all your enemies.  Your strong right hand will seize all who hate you.  You will throw them in a flaming furnace when you appear.  The Lord will consume them in his anger; fire will devour them.  You will wipe their children from the face of the earth; they will never have descendants.  Although they plot against you, their evil schemes will never succeed.  For they will turn and run when they see your arrows aimed at them.  Rise up, O Lord, in all your power.  With music and singing we celebrate your mighty acts.    Psalm 21:8-13(NLT)

David writes this as if the congregation of Israel is responding to God, seeing the Lord in a final flash of victory defeating all His enemies.  Fire devours people and whole families being erased from the future as if they’d never existed.  It is total and irrevocable, this victory – and lethal!  This is what’s left after Armageddon. 
The psalmist teaches to look forward with faith, and hope, and prayer upon what God would further do. The success with which God blessed David, was a type of the total overthrow of all Christ’s enemies. Those who might have had Christ to rule and save them, but rejected him and fought against him, shall find the remembrance of it a worm that dies not.[ii]
I don’t have a warrior-spirit at heart; these images are troubling to me.  I’ve always looked to find ways for everyone to get along.  I like peaceful ways.  That is why I don’t watch most “reality TV” – too much in-your-face anger and confrontation for me. 
While I long for the day when this earth’s conflict will pass away into God’s promised peace and tranquility, it is naïve to think it will pass quietly.  Evil does not go quietly back into its hole!  There are those who plot against God.  It’s inconceivable to me that any being can honestly imagine winning against the Almighty…but God’s Word is true.

And what this harsh part of God’s Word says is as chilling to my bones as the “calmer” passages are comforting.  There is an even-confidence about God dealing with darkness.  The Psalmist holds up the underhanded evil plots of those who reject God for us to consider, but these enemies meet an immovable God like a glass ornament dropped from my Christmas tree meets a hardwood floor; the floor always wins!
Truth meets error boldly, face to face, and is not afraid of a fair fight. In every such conflict error will ultimately yield; and whenever the wicked come openly into conflict with God, they must be compelled to turn and flee.[iii]
Reading these passages of God’s final conquest of evil always evokes two sets of feelings in me:
1.     I feel comforted that God will keep His promises and rescue His family.
2.     I feel compassionately sorry for those who will be punished.
Both sets of feelings pass Biblical muster.  This Psalm is a song of praise for God keeping His promises.  And you don’t have to look far to find compassion for evildoers:
As surely as I live, says the Sovereign Lord, I take no pleasure in the death of wicked people.  I only want them to turn from their wicked ways so they can live.  Turn! Turn from your wickedness, O people of Israel!  Why should you die?  Ezekiel 33:11(NLT)

For You Today

Have trouble wrapping your mind around the judgment of a loving God?  You should; He doesn’t like it any more than you do.
You chew on that as you hit the Rocky Road…have a blessed day!

[i] Title image: By Photo courtesy of National Nuclear Security Administration / Nevada Site Office [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
[ii] Matthew Henry’s Concise Commentary on the Whole Bible, © 1998, Parsons Technology, Inc.
[iii] Barnes’ Notes on the Old Testament, © 1999, Parsons Technology, Inc

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