Living in a country setting has many rewards. Observing the beauty of God’s creation is enhanced, and the opportunity to provide a place of enjoyment for family and friends has its own rewards. But there are several areas of real concern which are more pronounced in the country than in the city. One of those is the threat of fire. In the event of a fire in the city there are city services that will quickly respond to provide help. This is not always true in the country. Many rural areas are dependent upon a volunteer fire department in the event of a serious fire. These services are usually very good, but the logistics, and sometimes the lack of quality equipment make real help a little more difficult to obtain. Response time is always critical wherever a fire occurs, but usually it is impeded in the country because of distance and the calling of volunteers. Sometimes a city fire department can be summoned if one lives within a certain distance from town.

Since we have been living in the country we personally have had three close calls with a potential fire threat. Each time we were spared a catastrophe and I thank the Lord for his providence. The first time, someone flipped a cigarette out the window into the dried grass on our county road near the front gate. Thankfully the fire was put out before it spread toward our home. The next time the pasture behind our property was set on fire by a welder building a fence. It was a large fire because the wind was strong that day and I feared we might be affected, but the Lord was watching over us and thankfully we were spared. The volunteer fire department was called and the fire was extinguished before it advanced to our property line. The third time was a similar experience with that same pasture. We never learned the cause, but several neighbors came running and the fire was put out before it spread very far. Perhaps someone was eliminating a “burn pile” (something which most everyone has in the country) and it simply got away from them. It is a healthy thing to be on guard against a fire in the country, and this leads me to this lesson from the farm.


The Bible has many references to fire, some instructive, some fearful. Significant fires in the Old Testament come to mind, often representing God’s presence and His judgment. The Lord spoke to Moses (Ex. 3:2) from the burning bush as a symbol of God’s presence. A pillar of fire was Israel’s guide by night during the exodus (Ex. 13:21); and it descended upon Mount Sinai as Israel journeyed in the wilderness (Ex. 19:18). God refers to himself as a consuming fire (Deut. 4:24; Isa. 33:14) suggesting judgment. While soldiers were consumed as they threw three Hebrew men into the fire, God’s presence was observed as these men walked freely in the midst of the flames. Fire is a common image throughout the prophets. It provides a fitting analogy to God’s judgment. The closing book of the O.T., Malachi, refers to the judgment of the refiner’s fire at the coming of the Lord (Mal. 3:2) when the evildoer eternally will be set ablaze (Mal. 4:1).


This description of fiery judgment might seem to be at odds with the message of love and grace in the New Testament. Didn’t Jesus say that “God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him” (John 3:17)? Yes he did, but Jesus also said, “I have come to bring fire on the earth, and how I wish it were already kindled” (Luke 12:49). However, the sweetness of God’s grace and love and the harshness of His judgment are not opposed to each other; they are sides of the same coin. The only reason we are forgiven is because Jesus received the fire of God’s judgment in our place (1 Pet. 2:22-25). But Jesus has a fire of his own. John the Baptist said that when Jesus would come, He would “baptize with the Holy Spirit and with fire” (Matt. 3:11). His baptism of the Holy Spirit came on Pentecost (Acts 1:5; 2:4), but the baptism by fire is yet to come. Believers are blessed to be recipients of that first baptism.


There is a sense in which the fires of judgment have already begun for believers, for after all Peter said, “It is time for judgment to begin at the household of God; and if it begins with us, what will be the outcome for those who do not obey the gospel of God” (1 Pet. 4:17). The argument of this verse is clear. If God sends “fiery trials” to His own children, what will happen to lost sinners when God’s fiery judgments fall? Our present “fiery trials” are nothing compared to the “flaming fire” that shall punish the lost when Jesus returns in judgment. The fire for believers is one that does not destroy us; rather it purifies us. We are being refined by the fires of God’s love. We are presently being refined and set apart for His glory (1Pet. 1:15; 2:5). Additionally, the works and deeds of believers are being judged by the Heavenly Father’s refining fire. Paul declared that our “works will become manifested, for the Day will disclose it, because it will be revealed by fire, and the fire will test what sort of work each one has done” (1 Cor. 3:13). Believers need to be reminded that God is preparing us for what he has in store for us in heaven. He is preparing us for the life and service yet to come. Hence the trials come to test the genuineness of our faith which is “more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire…” (1 Pet.1:7).


One final thought recorded in scripture is designed to sober all mankind. On more than one occasion Jesus talks bout an eternal, unquenchable fire known as Hell (Matt. 18:9; 25:41; Mk. 9:43) A fire in the country can be terrible, but it is nothing compared to what Jesus talks about. A tragic reality is that this fire, while originally prepared by God for the devil and his angels (Matt. 25:41), will devour eternally many who have never believed in Jesus. Scripture plainly says the God “wishes that none should perish, but that all should reach repentance” (2 Pet. 3:9). Unfortunately, many commit the unpardonable sin of not believing in Jesus Christ, the Savior and Redeemer of our soul until it is too late. At the Great White Throne Jesus will dispense judgment for those who have never believed in His name. For those whose names are not recorded in the Book of Life, they are thrown into the lake of fire (Rev. 20:14-15). For those who do not accept God’s love, He is a “consuming fire” (Heb. 12:29).


Sometimes while driving home from town, I see a large cloud of gray smoke billowing high into the sky (thankfully, not often). If it is from the direction of our home, I become increasingly alarmed. What relief, however, when I see that the fire is nowhere near our home; but still it is a concern because someone is affected. Likewise, if one does not know Jesus as Savior, the Bible says that one day he will be affected eternally by the fire of God’s judgment. I pray that the flames of God’s wrath will not consume your soul; but take heart, today Jesus can extinguish that fire forever if one trusts in Him.