In thinking about fire today, September 11th, I can’t help but think of the fires in New York, Washington D. C., and Shanksville in 2001. These fires burned because of wickedness and hate. These fires burned and were eventually extinguished. These fires were the consequences of what men had done. These fires were and are today connected with death and destruction.
When fire is spoken of in the Scriptures it is also often connected with death and punishment. Certainly, the eternal punishment of hell is connected with fire and torment. However, fire is also mentioned in connection with the work of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost and also from the prophet Jeremiah (23:29). In 1 Kings as Giertz says, “then the fire fell.” When the fire fell it was a clear and decisive intervention on behalf of the people of God and the prophet Elijah.
Giertz says something interesting to the individuals being ordained. He says, “Beloved young brothers, you who stand here today to be ordained to the holy pastoral office! If it is your prayer and your longing to see the Lord’s fire fall from heaven and have a little of it light your own heart, then Elijah’s story will come alive again in you. In different ways and through various experiences, God comes to carry out the work that He does with every true pastor that longs for the Lord’s fire. God testifies to such a pastor. He does it first and foremost by keeping him under His discipline. There is so much that must be pruned by the vineyard keeper’s knife” (Then Fell the Lord’s Fire p. 3).
The fire of terrorist plots has terrible and far reaching effects. It shattered lives and brought about fear in the hearts of a whole nation. The fire of God’s word brings about fear as well. As we see in the Bible God’s word consists of the Law which proclaims the Holy standard which we so completely fall short of (Romans 3:23). But the fire of God’s word also brings about life. The Gospel tells us that the full wrath of God was poured out upon Jesus Christ so that we need not fear eternal torment in the fires of hell. The fire of God’s word purifies (Isaiah 6), so that guilt is taken away.
The pastors that Giertz was preaching to would be given the task of proclaiming the Word of God. Some would be offended when they heard the Law preached. Others would be offended when the Gospel was preached. But by this word of God, which is a fire, people are brought to repentance; they see their sin and their great Savior. May the Lord’s fire fall upon us. Amen.