It turns out this is a huge topic, but in glancing over all the mentions of fire in the Bible, I found two truths to stand out. Fire is present when there is a sacrifice ... freely given or when sacrifice is demanded of a nation for disobedience. And fire is present when God is present.
Fire at the altar consumed the sacrifices. But it wasn't just any fire. The fire at the altar was originally breathed by God Himself, and the Israelites were commanded to keep the fire burning.
"Then fire came out from before the Lord and consumed the burnt offering and the portions of fat on the altar"- Leviticus 9:24a
"Fire shall be kept burning continually on the altar; it is not to go out."- Leviticus 6:13
God made Himself know before the people of Israel in the desert and He did not want them to forget Him, and He did not want them to try to recreate His power on their own. Perhaps keeping the fire burning was to keep their minds focused on Him and what He had done for Him.
We all know the story of Moses and the burning bush. Imagine you are alone in the desert watching sheep, trying to keep them safe. If you've ever been to Texas in the summer, especially during a drought, you know that fire is something we watch for. Even as rainy as this summer has been, until a few weeks ago burn bans had still been enacted in many counties. So again, imagine you are Moses, in a dry place with your livelihood wandering around you. A fire is going to get your attention.
A fire that doesn't consume is going to keep your attention. Science says fire requires fuel ... so if the fuel is not being exhausted ... this is no natural fire. You just might be, like Moses, enticed to hesitate ... examine more closely this phenomenon.
"So Moses said, "I must turn aside now and see this marvelous sight, why the bush is not burned up."- Exodus 3:3Only after he stopped, transfixed, did God speak to him. Moses may be more familiar with God's presence as a flame than any other man that has lived. He watched God rain an inferno on the Egyptians, he followed God's luminosity through the desert, and he was among those who witnessed God fill the tabernacle with His glorious, blazing presence.
"Then the cloud covered the tent of meeting, and the glory of the Lord filled the tabernacle."- Exodus 40:34
In the New Testament, on the feast of Pentecost (more about the significance of that in a moment) the Holy Spirit fell on the early Christians as tongues of fire. Surely to Jewish converts this was far more meaningful that it has become today ... the small flames like a kiss, an assurance, of God's supernatural presence.
"And there appeared to them tongues as of fire distributing themselves, and they rested on each one of them. And they were filled with the Holy Spirit ..."- Acts 2:3-4aThe feast of Pentecost was to celebrate the giving of the 10 Commandments. God sent His fire to write His law on our hearts on that same day. Don't you just love how He works? He weaves such beautiful mysterious for us to discover and rediscover!
"I will put my law within them and on their heart I will write it; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people."- Jeremiah 31:33
While we may not see God's fire dancing above our heads, we have that same access to His presence. Have you ever served with passion ... with an excitement or compulsion that you can't hold back? Perhaps the Spirit is moving you in sacrifice of service to Him. God's intensity is no less today than it was when He spoke to Moses. We just have to stop and listen.