My son has had a few friends over, to sit around his fire pit, socially distanced. Inside the impressive square, the remaining flames are inviting.
But my timing is perfect. I just want to take a few photos of the end of this fire.
This morning, I read in Isaiah about a different conflagration, one far less inviting:
Surely they are like stubble;
the fire will burn them up.
They cannot even save themselves
from the power of the flame.
These are not coals for warmth;
this is not a fire to sit by. (Isaiah 47:14)
Isaiah is speaking about the astrologers of Babylon, but the fuel for this fire comes from a broader forest. The false religion that produced soothsayers had more individualistic roots, as explained in a prior verse.
You have trusted in your wickedness
and have said, ‘No one sees me.’
Your wisdom and knowledge mislead you
when you say to yourself,
‘I am, and there is none besides me.’ (47:10)
That last sentence is intended to make a powerful connection. For chapters, God has been declaring his uniqueness: “I am God; there is no other… there is none like me.” (46:9) But here, living in denial of a higher authority, people have made themselves into little, false gods. Their personal opinion is the only guide they need.
They play with fire, says Isaiah. It’s a fire that doesn’t warm, doesn’t bring good. It ultimately destroys.
I worry about the church. Jesus said, “You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden.” My son’s property is on a hill, and I’m sure the bonfire can be seen from some distance. But not if the fire dies down. Or if it is doused.
Pastor and writer Mark Sayers has described a post-Christian culture as “the kingdom without the King.” And I wonder how much the church unknowingly has bought into this zeitgeist, installing personal preference on the cultural throne. But Mom, everybody else is doing it!
We need the King. He is the flame that warms. He is the true light of the world from whom we get our brilliance. He is fire that burns on the hill, drawing people out of the cold and the dark.
Especially now, we need his fire.
Burn in me, Fire of God,
Burn till Your eyes can see
Jesus' own image, strong and sure,
Formed by Your grace in me!
E. Margaret Clarkson
Reader: What is your favorite memory of a warming fire? I’d love to hear about it.