Saturday, 18 July 2015

Dear Pilgrim, has He breathed upon you?


Dear Pilgrim, has He breathed upon you? Has the living God breathed life into you?

For so long, dear Pilgrim, you chased after the wind. When you surveyed all your hands had done, all you had toiled to achieve, you saw that everything was meaningless, a chasing after the wind, that nothing was gained under the sun (Ecclesiastes 2:11). You saw that everyone, yourself included, is senseless and without knowledge, shamed by the idols they trust in, for those images are false – for they have no breath in them (Jeremiah 10:14).

But God, the God who gives breath to all living things, came and He called your name. The One in whose hand is the life of every creature and the breath of all mankind (Job 12:10) came near. The One who made the heavens by His word and their starry host by the breath of His mouth (Psalm 33:6) came close to you.

He came so close that He breathed into your nostrils – He gave you the kiss of life.

He breathed, and His breath came from the four winds (Ezekiel 37:9).

He breathed, and the east wind came! The east wind came in judgement to scorch, to wither and shrivel up the fruit of the world from you (Ezekiel 19:12). For this fruit has no place in Him, this fruit that you bore for death (Romans 7:5). It was consumed by the east wind of judgement.

He breathed, and the north wind came! The north wind came in power and brought an unexpected storm upon you (Proverbs 25:23). You saw clearly for the first time your meaningless chasing after the wind. O Pilgrim, how you cried out to Him as you stood there, stripped and naked before Him, as the storm blew away all the fig leaves that you had attempted to clothe yourself in, your own righteousness of filthy rags ripped away by the powerful north wind.

He breathed, and the west wind came! The west wind carried your sins and iniquities far away (Exodus 10:19). The west wind came and hurled your iniquities into the depths of the sea. As far as the east is from the west, so far has He removed our transgressions from us (Psalm 103:12).

He breathed, and the south wind came! The gentle south wind (Acts 27:13) brought a hush and calmness upon you (Job 37:17) as He clothed your nakedness with His own righteousness. For the first time you rested in Him. A wondrous peace came into your heart as realisation dawned on you that you had been reconciled to Him. He gave you the kiss of life – and righteousness and peace kissed each other deep within your heart (Psalm 85:10), the heart that He had now won for Himself.

So His breath came from the four winds, and brought life (Ezekiel 37:9). The One who rebuked the wind (Mark 4:39-41) and terrified His disciples when they saw how the wind obeyed Him came, and He breathed upon you and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit” (John 20:22). And for the first time you were able to exclaim, “The Spirit of God has made me, the breath of the Almighty gives me life!” (Job 33:4). And you began to see that it is the spirit in a person, the breath of the Almighty, that gives them understanding (Job 32:8), for understanding comes from the mouth of the Lord (Proverbs 2:6).

O Pilgrim, you now see how meaningless it is to trust in idols. For when those who trust in them cry out for help, the wind will carry the idols off, a mere breath will blow them away (Isaiah 57:13). There is no breath in the mouth of the idols (Psalm 135:17). But His breath, the breath of the living God, is like a rushing torrent, rising up to the neck (Isaiah 30:28). The breath of God produces ice, and the broad waters become frozen (Job 37:10). The valleys of the sea are exposed and the foundations of the earth are laid bare at His rebuke, at the blast of breath from His nostrils (2 Samuel 22:16). With righteousness He will come and He will strike the earth with the rod of His mouth; with the breath of His lips He will slay the wicked (Isaiah 11:4). The Lord Jesus will overthrow the lawless one with the breath of His mouth and destroy him by the splendour of His coming (2 Thessalonians 2:8). Who is like our God?

O Pilgrim, as we tremble, watching and waiting for His return, may we draw close to Him. May we lean against His breast, just as the beloved disciple did, and who was later chosen to receive a great revelation from Him. For the One who creates the wind is the One who reveals His thoughts to mankind (Amos 4:13). May the God-breathed words of Scripture be our meditation and our food, as He unfolds His words to give us understanding. May the fragrance of our breath be to God the pleasing aroma of Christ among those who are being saved and those who are perishing. And may He receive praise from everything that has breath!

Tuesday, 19 May 2015

Dear Pilgrim, are you approaching the valley of deep darkness?


Dear Pilgrim, are you approaching the valley of deep darkness? Does your heart lurch within you as you are confronted with this valley? As your enemy pursues you, crushing you to the ground, forcing you towards the valley of darkness, do your fears rise? As the gates of this valley of deepest darkness open for you as you pass through, does your courage fade?

Pilgrim, there is no need to fear any evil as you walk through this valley, for He is with you, His rod and His staff will comfort you. Listen to His Word of comfort: “Never will I leave you, never will I forsake you”.

As you walk through this valley, Pilgrim, are any memories being stirred in your mind? Does any of this look familiar to you? In this valley of darkness, there are those who rebel against the light, who do not know its ways or stay on its paths (Job 24:13). All their days they eat in darkness, with great frustration, affliction and anger (Ecclesiastes 5:17). They are prisoners, sitting in darkness, suffering in iron chains (Psalm 107:10).

Ah, Pilgrim, I see a look of realization dawning upon you – this is where you and I used to dwell! We were willing subjects of the dominion of darkness. We did not want to come to the light, for fear that our deeds of evil would be exposed (John 3:19-20). We thought the darkness would hide us. We thought even light would become night around us, and that we could keep our faces concealed. We committed our deeds of sin in the dark, and made friends with the terrors of darkness (Job 24:13-17).

And then we saw something, dear Pilgrim. The people walking in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of deep darkness a light has dawned (Isaiah 9:2). And then we heard something, dear Pilgrim. We heard Him call! He called us! He called us out of darkness into His wonderful light (1 Peter 2:9)! And as we turned our faces towards the Light, He brought us out of darkness, out of utter darkness, and broke away our chains (Psalm 107:14)!

Pilgrim, take heart from the fact that your dislike of this valley is so intense. This is a sign of His grace towards you! For He has rescued you from the dominion of darkness and brought you into the kingdom of the Son He loves (Colossians 1:13)! You are now a child of the light and a child of the day. You do not belong to the night or to the darkness (1 Thessalonians 5:5)!

For the Lord our God is making distinctions, Pilgrim. He is making distinctions between the righteous and the wicked, between those who serve God and those who do not (Malachi 3:18). At the dawn of creation, He saw that the light was good and He separated the light from the darkness (Genesis 1:4). He brought a plague of darkness upon Egypt, a darkness that could be felt, so that the people of Egypt could not see anyone else or move about for three days. Yet all the Israelites had light in the places where they lived (Exodus 10:21-23). As He delivered His people from Egypt and brought them to the sea, His pillar of cloud stood between the armies of Egypt and Israel. Throughout the night the cloud brought darkness to the one side and light to the other (Exodus 14:19-20). See, darkness covers the earth and thick darkness is over the peoples, but the Lord rises upon you and His glory appears over you (Isaiah 60:2). The Lord our God is making distinctions, Pilgrim.

So do not fear as you pass through the valley of deep darkness, dear Pilgrim. This is no longer the place of your abode. You are now a foreigner, an alien, a stranger, to this valley. It no longer has any hold over you. For the darkness is passing, the true Light is already shining (1 John 2:8). For He who is the Light of the world is with you, and His words are true: “Whoever follows Me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life” (John 8:12). So even here, as you cross the valley of deep darkness, the Light of Life is with you, precious Pilgrim. The Light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it (John 1:5)! He is your lamp, and He will turn your darkness into light (2 Samuel 22:29). Even in darkness, light dawns for the upright, for those who are gracious and compassionate and righteous (Psalm 112:4).

So take courage, dear Pilgrim. You will pass through this valley. For this is not your home. You are heading for the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, whose gates are never shut, for there will be no night there (Revelation 21:25). No night! For God is light, and in Him there is no darkness at all (1 John 1:5). There will be no night there, and there will be no need for a lamp, or the sun, for He Himself will give the light (Revelation 22:5)! What a glorious hope this is to meditate upon as you pass through this valley.

Tuesday, 21 April 2015

Dear Pilgrim, are you in times of trouble?


Dear Pilgrim, are you in times of trouble? Are difficulties and concerns crowding in around you? Are you feeling oppressed and afflicted?

Then lift your head, dear Pilgrim, for we worship the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God (2 Corinthians 1:3-4). God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble (Psalm 46:1). The righteous person may have many troubles, but the Lord delivers him from them all (Psalm 34:19). What a testimony! He will deliver you from all your troubles, dear Pilgrim!

How is this possible? Through Christ! Listen to His words: “In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world!” (John 16:33). Though trouble comes our way, He has overcome the world. He has the victory! It is finished!

For it is His desire that though we walk in the midst of trouble, yet in Him we have peace (John 16:33). Peace with God! O why, my soul, are you downcast? Why so disturbed within me? Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise Him, my Saviour and my God. My Saviour and my God! Our Saviour and our God, dear Pilgrim! He has saved us out of our trouble!

How He has saved us, dear Pilgrim! Behold, the Valley of Achor (Joshua 7:26) – the valley of trouble. Oh, what a wretched place this is. The site of Achan’s sin against God. The place where Achan stole from God, and lied to God, in a vain attempt to cover up what he had done. But nothing is hidden from the eyes of God, and He saw. Achan’s sin was uncovered by God. Achan was revealed to be the one who had brought trouble upon Israel because of his sin. And trouble came upon him that day as he was stoned to death because of his sin in the Valley of Achor, the valley of trouble.

O Pilgrim, does this not cause us to tremble? For are we not troubled by our sin? There is no one who is good, not one. Are we not as guilty as Achan? Do we not cry out with the Psalmist, “…troubles without number surround me; my sins have overtaken me, and I cannot see. They are more than the hairs of my head, and my heart fails within me” (Psalm 40:12).

O Pilgrim, take heart, be encouraged, for in the Valley of Achor, a door is appearing in the midst of this valley of trouble! A door! It is a door of olive wood (1 Kings 6:31). Olive wood….the olive tree which has been beaten for its fruit (Isaiah 24:13), and is now stripped bare for all to stare at. O Pilgrim, the symbolism is impossible to ignore. This door is His cross – the cross where all of the trouble of sin, all of it, fell upon His shoulders as He died the death that should have been ours. The trouble of sin that fell upon Him was so great that darkness fell across the land for three hours. As He breathed His last breath, it appeared that all hope was gone. But that would be to ignore His last words: “It is finished!” For three days later, the trouble of sin was transformed into a door of hope, as He rose triumphant from the grave, opening up a new and living Way to enter the Most Holy Place, through this Door of Hope, Jesus Christ. For He said, “I am the door” (John 10:9). Christ Jesus, our hope, is the narrow Door leading to the Most Holy Place, and it is this narrow Door that we must enter through! So let us make every effort to enter through the narrow door, for many will try to enter and will not be able to (Luke 13:24). Let us ask, seek and knock that the Door may be opened for us (Matthew 7:7).

O Pilgrim, He promised that He would make the Valley of Achor a Door of Hope (Hosea 2:15). He promised that the Valley of Achor would become a resting-place for herds (Isaiah 65:10). And no matter how many promises God has made, they are “Yes” in Christ! As we pass through the Door of Hope, we are delivered from our troubles of sin, and we walk into His promised rest in Christ. As we pass through the Door of Hope, may we not be like King Ahaz, who in his time of trouble became even more unfaithful to the Lord (2 Chronicles 28:22). Rather, may we be like Paul, who in his time of trouble made his good confession of faith, saying, “This happened that we might not rely on ourselves but on God, who raises the dead” (2 Corinthians 1:9). O Pilgrim, let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for He who promised is faithful! It is our hope in our Lord Jesus Christ that will inspire us to endure. Let us set our hope on Him alone, and as we do so, dear Pilgrim, may the God of hope fill us with all joy and peace as we trust in Him, so that we may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit (Romans 15:13).

Tuesday, 24 March 2015

Dear Pilgrim, are you in fear of your enemies?


Dear Pilgrim, are you in fear of your enemies? Is your heart in anguish within you? Have fear and trembling beset you?

Then the Lord has brought you to the Valley of Elah, dear Pilgrim, so that the proven genuineness of your faith – of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire – may result in praise, glory and honour when Jesus Christ is revealed (1 Peter 1:7).

The Valley of Elah – the place where the Israelites were dismayed and terrified as they listened to the words of the Philistine giant as he defied the armies of the living God. The place where the Israelites fled from their enemy in great fear whenever they saw him.

You know the story well, dear Pilgrim, you know how the young shepherd, David, came and stood against the heavily armoured Goliath with nothing more than five stones and his sling. What gave David the courage to stand against his enemy when all others were filled with terror? He knew the Name of his God, dear Pilgrim. He knew His Name.

“I come against you in the Name of the Lord of Hosts, the God of the armies of Israel, whom you have defied!”
(1 Samuel 17:45)

The Lord Almighty – Yahweh Sabaoth –the Lord of Hosts.

The Lord of Hosts, dear Pilgrim. Oh, lift up your eyes and look to the heavens: who created all these? He who brings out the starry host one by one and calls forth each of them by name. Because of His great power and mighty strength, not one of them is missing (Isaiah 40:26). He is the One who appoints the sun to shine by day, who decrees the moon and stars to shine by night, who stirs up the sea so that its waves roar – the Lord of Hosts is His Name (Jeremiah 31:35)! He is not like the images, the worthless idols which will perish when their judgement comes. He is not like these, for He is the Maker of all things, including Israel, the people of His inheritance – the Lord of Hosts is His Name (Jeremiah 10:16)! He who forms the mountains, who creates the wind, and who reveals His thoughts to mankind, who turns dawn to darkness, and treads on the heights of the earth – the Lord of Hosts is His Name (Amos 4:13)!

Pilgrim, has He revealed Himself to you as the Lord of Hosts? Have you asked Him to reveal Himself in this way to you? He will surely answer! Joshua received revelation when the Commander of the army of the Lord came and stood in front of him with a drawn sword in his hands (Joshua 5:13-14). Elisha prayed and asked for revelation for his servant, whose eyes were then opened by the Lord to see the hills full of horses and chariots of fire all around, and he finally understood that those who were with them were more than those with their enemies (2 Kings 6:16-17).

Once your eyes have been opened to see the Lord of Hosts, dear Pilgrim, they will forever reflect this encounter. Isaiah’s eyes looked upon the Lord of Hosts, and it was through him that the Lord declared: “The Lord of Hosts is the One you are to regard as holy, He is the One you are to fear, He is the One you are to dread” (Isaiah 8:13). Job had heard of the Lord God, but it was after he saw the One who had laid the earth’s foundations, while the morning stars sang together and all the angels shouted for joy, that he despised himself and repented in dust and ashes (Job 42:5-6).

O Pilgrim, take courage! For He is our Redeemer, the Holy One of Israel – the Lord of Hosts is His Name (Isaiah 47:4)! For the Lord of Hosts took David from the pasture, from tending the flock, and appointed him ruler over His people, Israel. He promised to establish the throne of the Son of David forever (1 Chronicles 17:7,14), and the zeal of the Lord of Hosts would accomplish this (Isaiah 9:7). When the Son of David was born at Bethlehem, a great company of the heavenly host appeared and proclaimed peace to those on whom His favour rests. Peace, Pilgrim! You have peace with the Lord of Hosts now that you are trusting in Him! Blessed is the one who trusts in the Lord of Hosts (Psalm 84:12)!

The Valley of Elah is the place where David’s trust in the Name of the Lord of Hosts was proclaimed before Israel. It is the place where hearts that had been melting with fear and hands that had been hanging limp were strengthened and encouraged as the faith of the young shepherd in his God shone brightly for all to see. It is the place where a spirit of despair was changed into garments of praise, where oaks of righteousness were a planting of the Lord for the display of His splendour. The Valley of Elah – the Valley of oaks, of strength. Be strengthened, dear Pilgrim, in the Valley of Elah! 

Wednesday, 25 February 2015

Dear Pilgrim, are you keeping in step with the Spirit?

Darfo Boario Terme [source: wikicommons. Photo: Luca Giarelli]

Dear Pilgrim, are you keeping in step with the Spirit? Or are you running ahead up the mountain? Are you ever mindful of your need for Him and dependence upon Him, or have you returned to the folly of trusting in your own strength?

O Pilgrim, it is glorious to be atop the mountain peaks where He reveals Himself to His children. To feast your eyes upon magnificent panoramic views, to feel the breeze on your face, to taste the fresh air in your mouth – there is nothing more exhilarating. But take care, precious Pilgrim, that you ascend in step with Him, in response to His call. It may yet be His desire for you to dwell in the valleys awhile. Do not despise the valleys, O Pilgrim. He goes down to look at the new growth in the valley to see if the vines have budded or the pomegranates are in bloom (Song of Songs 6:11). The valleys are a place of growth!

Pilgrim, heed the warning – do not allow the pride of your heart to deceive you, that you make your home on the heights (Obadiah 1:3). Unless the Lord builds the house, the builders labour in vain. Do not yield to the temptation to trust in your own strength, your own flesh. Take heed, Pilgrim, for there is another who makes use of the mountain summits - the enemy of our souls.

It was he who, through Balak, called Balaam to the rocky peaks that the people of Israel might be cursed. Balaam, a sorcerer and diviner, was called up to Bamoth Baal, the heights of Baal, from where he could see part of the people of God (Numbers 22:41). They were camped in the Valley of Shittim below, along the east side of the Jordan across from Jericho in the plains of Moab .  O, what a foolish endeavour this was, to attempt to curse those whom the Lord had blessed! For the Lord would not listen to this sorcerer and practiser of divination who loved the wages of wickedness.  Instead, the Lord caused Balaam to bless the people of Israel.

Balaam was called up the mountain by the enemy of our souls a second time, this time to the field of Zophim on the top of the Pisgah mountain range. A second time the Lord ensured that Balaam blessed the people of Israel. God is not a man, that He should lie, nor a son of man, that He should change His mind. He had blessed His people, and no mere man could change that.

Balaam responded to a third call up the mountains from the enemy of our souls, to Peor, another Moabite mountain. This time, Balaam did not resort to sorcery but turned his face towards the desert and looked out. When he saw Israel encamped tribe by tribe, he saw the tabernacle of the Lord at their centre, the dwelling-place of God amongst His people. Israel, encamped in the Valley of Shittim, had the presence of God with them! As the eyes of Balaam took in this glorious sight, the Spirit of God came upon him and he uttered words of profound depth and revelation – expressing the truth that this people of God encamped in the Valley below were blessed in abundance, as had been true of the first people of God on the mountain in Eden – for the Lord their God was with them.

“How beautiful are your tents, O Jacob,
your dwelling-places, O Israel!

Like valleys they spread out,
Like gardens beside a river,
Like aloes planted by the Lord,
Like cedars beside the waters.
Water will flow from their buckets;
Their seed will have abundant water”
(Numbers 24:5-7)

There are many occasions when the Lord calls His people to dwell in the valleys that His purposes might be fulfilled through them. Those on the mountain were working against the purposes of God, yet in His Sovereignty the Lord caused them to bless His people in abundance. The Lord foils the plans of the nations and thwarts the purposes of the people (Psalm 33:10), because it is the Lord’s purpose that prevails (Proverbs 19:21).

It was on this same mountain range not long afterwards that the Lord Himself called His own servant up the mountain. Moses, whom the Lord knew face to face, ascended Mount Nebo in response to the call of the Lord, in step with His Spirit (Deuteronomy 34:1). And when Moses was atop the mountain peak, having climbed it in the strength of the Lord alone, the Lord Himself came and showed Moses the whole land of Promise –  a land of mountains and valleys that drinks rain from heaven (Deuteronomy 11:11). For precious Pilgrim, the truth is that when we dwell in the valleys, having had revelation from the peaks, we can see more clearly that He tabernacles with us – and He fills us with joy in His presence whether we are on the mountains above or in the valleys below. For the valleys drink rain from heaven, just as the mountains do.

So Pilgrim, remember that those who are led by the Spirit are the children of God. Allow Him to lead you – whether it be to the mountains or the valleys, to the deserts or to the fertile fields. For blessed are those who have learned to acclaim Him, who walk in the light of His presence (Psalm 89:15).

Tuesday, 27 January 2015

Dear Pilgrim, is He your song in the night?


Dear Pilgrim, is He your song in the night? Is He the theme of your song both by day and by night? Your spirit longs for Him in the morning – does your soul yearn for Him in the night?

O Pilgrim, how our heart rejoices to sing His praise in response to His great deliverance, in the light of the day! Dawn breaks forth across the land, sending the darkness and shadows scurrying away, and just like Miriam, we take our tambourines and dance before the Lord - “My lips will shout for joy when I sing praise to You – I whom You have delivered” (Psalm 71:23). Just like David, we sing the words of our song when the Lord has delivered us from the hand of our enemies (2 Samuel 22:1). Just like Deborah, we sing a new song to Him in praise of the marvellous things He has done. The songs of the day are glorious! With His light shining on all His creation, the sea resounds and everything in it, the rivers clap their hands, and the mountains sing for joy! Oh, shout for joy all the earth!

Pilgrim, when the evening fades, when darkness closes in, when the terrors of the night come along and your enemies are gathered against you, can your soul still find it within you to sing His praise? Do the songs of Zion continue to tumble from your lips? Or are the joyful tambourines stilled, is the joyful harp silent?

O Pilgrim, let me offer you this encouragement for those times of darkness – it is not you who has to find this song from within. For listen to this great truth – God your Maker is the One who gives songs in the night (Job 35:10)! By day the Lord directs His love – at night His song is with you (Psalm 42:8)! He is the One who will give you a song to sing at this time of great darkness. For it is He who instructed the temple musicians to be responsible for their work both by day and by night (1 Chronicles 9:33). And as the servants of the Lord ministered by night in the house of the Lord, lifting up their hands in the sanctuary and praising the Lord, He blessed them from Zion (Psalm 134:1-3)! The Maker of heaven and earth blessed them from Zion with songs from Zion!

The people of Judah gathered before the Lord at a time of darkness – as a vast army approached them. King Jehoshaphat called out to the Lord from within the darkness: “We have no power to face this vast enemy that is attacking us. We do not know what to do, but our eyes are upon You.” All the men of Judah, with their wives and children and little ones, stood there before the Lord (2 Chronicles 20:12-13). The Spirit of the Lord spoke to a descendant of Asaph, whom David had appointed to lead the praise of the Lord (1 Chronicles 16:5), encouraging them to go and face their enemies, “for the battle is not yours, but God’s” (2 Chronicles 20:15). As they headed out to meet their enemies, Jehoshaphat appointed men to sing to the Lord and to praise Him for the splendour of His holiness as they went out at the head of the army. God their Maker gave them songs in the night. And as they began to sing and praise, the Lord set ambushes against their enemies (2 Chronicles 20:21-22).

Paul and Silas had been severely flogged and thrown into prison, for they had been counted worthy of suffering for the gospel. God their Maker gave them songs in the night. And about midnight, as they prayed and sang hymns to the Lord, a violent earthquake shook the foundations of the prison and loosened their chains (Acts 16:25-26)!

O Pilgrim, think of Him through the watches of the night, meditate on His promises as your eyes stay open through the watches of the night, and as He comes alongside you in the darkness, sing in the shadow of His wings (Psalm 63:6-7)! As He draws near to you, so near that you reach out and cling to Him, sing for joy on your bed! May the praise of God be in your mouth and a double-edged sword in your hands (Psalm 149:5-6). For as you sing and make music from your heart to the Lord, as you sing psalms, hymns and songs from the Spirit (Ephesians 5:19), you are holding a sword in your hands (Ephesians 6:17). And He will use this sword to defeat your enemies – for “not by might, nor by power, but by My Spirit” says the Lord of Hosts (Zechariah 4:6). The darkness will pass, and the light will return.

O Pilgrim, sing praises to the Lord! Sing praises in the Valley of Berakah, in the Valley of Praise (2 Chronicles 20:26)! The whole earth is filled with awe at His wonders, for where morning dawns, and where evening fades, He calls forth songs of joy (Psalm 65:8)!


Wednesday, 31 December 2014

Dear Pilgrim, has He baptised you with fire?


Dear Pilgrim, has He baptised you with fire? He came not only to baptise with the Holy Spirit, but to baptise with fire. Have you experienced the fire of His baptism?

For the Lord our God is a consuming fire. His voice spoke out of the fire with which He set Mount Sinai ablaze, and terrified the people of Israel. Ezekiel saw a vision of the likeness of the glory of God. He saw high above on the throne a figure like that of a man, who from His waist up looked like glowing metal, as if full of fire, and from there down He looked like fire (Ezekiel 1:27). Daniel saw a vision of the Ancient of Days. His throne was flaming with fire, its wheels were all ablaze, whilst a river of fire was flowing, coming out from before Him (Daniel 7:9-10). O Pilgrim, our God is a consuming fire!

He is a God who answers by fire. He answered by fire when Elijah called out to Him from Mount Carmel that the people might know He was the God of Israel. The fire of the Lord fell and burned up the sacrifice, the wood, the stones, the soil, which were all drenched in water (1 Kings 18:36-38), for He makes flames of fire His servants.

He is a God whose fire burns amongst His people. O Pilgrim, come with me to Taberah – the place of burning. See the Israelites, redeemed out of the hands of their enemies, brought to the wilderness. They have just left the base of Mount Sinai from where God has been speaking to them out of the fire, and now just 3 days into their journey to the promised land, they are complaining of their hardships. See, Pilgrim, He has heard their complaining and it has aroused His anger. Look, Pilgrim – how fire from the Lord has come and has burned among them and consumed some of the outskirts of their camp. But listen, Pilgrim – they are crying out to Moses, and now he is crying out to the Lord – and the fire has died down (Numbers 11:1-3).

O Pilgrim, what a picture, what a picture for us of Christ. Yet first, He had a baptism of His own to undergo. For the wrath of God burns like fire against all sin, and so the Passover Lamb, the Lamb of God, was roasted over a fire of wrath as He Himself bore our sins in His body on the cross. But just as the bush did not burn up even though it was on fire, just as the four men in the blazing furnace were untouched by the flames, so our Lamb of God was not consumed by the fiery furnace of wrath, but emerged triumphant and victorious from the grave! And now we can cry out to Jesus to deliver us from the fires of the wrath of God!

Saved from the fires of the wrath of God – yet everyone will be salted with fire (Mark 9:49). Now that we have been saved from the fires of His wrath, what is this fire with which we will be salted? Pilgrim, is it not the fires of His jealousy? For He says, “I am very jealous for Zion; I am burning with jealousy for her” (Zechariah 8:2). The Bride calls out to her beloved, “Place me like a seal over Your heart, like a seal on Your arm; for love is as strong as death, its jealousy unyielding as the grave. It burns like blazing fire, like a mighty flame” (Song of Songs 8:6). For we have been promised to one husband, Christ, and we are to be presented as a pure virgin to Him. So the Lord will wash away the filth from Zion; He will cleanse the bloodstains from Jerusalem by a spirit of judgment and a spirit of fire. 

O Pilgrim, would you return to the Garden of Eden, the Garden on the mountain from which man fell? Would you return to the Garden that He planted, that you may walk with Him, in unity with Him? Then you must walk through the flaming sword that flashes back and forth guarding the way to the tree of life (Genesis 3:24). The flaming sword fell on Him as He died our death, paying the penalty for our sin. We must also walk through the flaming sword, the sword of fire, as we die with Him that we may also live with Him.

Come, Pilgrim, come to the refiner’s fire! For after He provided the sacrifice for our sins, He sat down at the right hand of God, and now He sits as a refiner and purifier of silver, as He refines us like gold and silver (Malachi 3:2-3). He sits, paying careful, unhurried attention to His task, as all the impurities are burned away through the grief we may have had to suffer in all kinds of trials, that we might better reflect His glory. He counsels us to come and buy from Him gold refined in the fire, that we might become rich. Take heart from His words of comfort to us, that when we walk through the fire, we will not be burned; the flames will not set us ablaze, for He will be with us (Isaiah 43:2). O Pilgrim, rejoice that He would take such care and attention over His Bride, that we might be found spotless, blameless and at peace with Him when He returns in blazing fire!

For it is only as incense is burned that its fragrance rises as a pleasing aroma. It is only as the oil in the lamp burns that the light shines in the darkness. It is He who keeps our lamps burning, it is He who keeps the incense burning. And as His Word burns like fire, we will find that our hearts burn within us as our Refiner talks with us and opens the Scriptures to us.