Today’s selected reading continues in the Old Testament poetic book of the Psalms, which is a collection and compilation of prayers, petitions and praise found within psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs. More specifically, today’s passage is found in chapters seventy-three through seventy-seven of this Old Testament book. TRULY GOD IS GOOD TO ISRAEL, EVEN TO SUCH AS ARE OF A CLEAN HEART! BUT AS FOR ME, MY FEET WERE ALMOST GONE; MY STEPS HAD WELL NIGH SLIPPED. FOR I WAS ENVIOUS AT THE FOOLISH, WHEN I SAW THE PROSPERITY OF THE WICKED! VERILY I HAVE CLEANSED MY HEART IN VAIN, AND WASHED MY HANDS IN INNOCENCY! FOR ALL THE DAY LONG HAVE I BEEN PLAGUED, AND CHASTENED EVERY MORNING. IF I SAW, I WILL SPEAK THUS; BEHOLD, I SHOULD OFFEND AGAINST THE GENERATION OF THY CHILDREN. WHEN I THOUGHT TO KNOW THIS, IT WAS TOO PAINFUL FOR ME; UNTIL I WENT INTO THE SANCTUARY OF GOD; THEN I UNDERSTOOD THEIR END! THUS MY HEART WAS GRIEVED, AND I WAS PRICKED IN MY REIGNS. SO FOOLISH WAS I, AND IGNORANT: I WAS AS A BEAST BEFORE THEE. NEVERTHELESS I AM CONTINUALLY WITH THEE: THOU HAST HOLDEN ME BY MY RIGHT HAND. THOU SHALT GUIDE ME WITH THY COUNSEL, AND AFTERWARD RECEIVE ME TO GLORY. WHOM HAVE I IN HEAVEN BUT THEE? AND THERE IS NONE UPON EARTH THAT I DESIRE BESDIE THEE! MY FLESH AND MY HEART FAILETH: BUT GOD IS THE STRENGTH OF MY HEART, AND MY PORTION FOR EVER! FOR, LO, THEY THAT ARE FAR FROM THEE SHALL PERISH: THOU HAST DESTROYED ALL THEM THAT GO A WHORING FROM THEE. BUT IT IS GOOD FOR ME TO DRAW NEAR TO GOD: I HAVE PUT MY TRUST IN THE LORD GOD, THAT I MAY DECLARE ALL THY WORKS! O GOD, WHY HAST THOU CAST US OFF FOR EVER? WHY DOTH THINE ANGER SMOKE AGAINST THE SHEEP OF THY PASTURE? REMEMBER THY CONGREGATION, WHICH THOU HAST PURCHASED OF OLD; THE ROD OF THINE INHERITANCE, WHICH THOU HAST REDEEMED; THIS MOUNT ZION, WHEREIN THOU HAST DWELT! LIFT UP THY FEET UNTO THE PERPETUAL DESOLATIONS; EVEN ALL THAT THE ENEMY HATH DONE WICKEDLY IN THE SANCTUARY. THINE ENEMIES ROAR IN THE MIDST OF THY CONGREGATIONS! THEY HAVE CAST FIRE INTO THY SANCTUARY, THEY HAVE DEFILED BY CASTING DOWN THE DWELLING PLACE OF THY NAME TO THE GROUND. THEY SAID IN THEIR HEARTS, LET US DESTROY THEM TOGETHER: THEY HAVE BURNED UP ALL THE SYNAGOGUES OF GOD IN THE LAND! WE SEE NOT OUR SIGNS: THERE IS NO MORE ANY PROPHET: NEITHER IS THERE AMONG US ANY THAT KNOWETH HOW LONG! REMEMBER THIS, THAT THE ENEMY HATH REPROACHED, O LORD, AND THAT THE FOOLISH PEOPLE HAVE BLASPHEMED THY NAME! UNTO THEE, O GOD, DO WE GIVE THANKS, UNTO THEE DO WE GIVE THANKS: FOR THAT THY NAME IS NEAR THY WONDROUS WORKS DECLARE!
MASCHIL! A PSALM TO GIVE INSTRUCTION! AL-TASCHITH, A PSALM OR SONG! ON NEGINOTH, A PSALM OR SONG! TO JEDUTHUN, A PSALM! When you come to this particular group of psalms you will find a different author coming into focus within the book. Up until now we have seen a vast majority of the psalms which were written by David the son of Jesse, as well as psalms which were written to the chief musician for the sons of Korah. There were various other psalms that don’t have any name or author to which they’re attributed to within the book of Psalms, however, a vast majority of them have been attributed unto David or for the sons of Korah. There is one exception up to this point within this compilation of psalms, and that is Psalm 50, which Scripture reveals was written by Asaph. While it is true that the psalms which are before us at this point were written by Asaph, we must understand that this was not the first time Asaph was mentioned within the book, nor would these be the first psalms which were written by him. What’s actually quite interesting to think about and consider is the language that is found in the fiftieth chapter of the Old Testament book of the Psalms as compared to that which is found within these psalms. If you turn and direct your attention back to the fiftieth chapter of this Old Testament poetic book you will find that the language contained within Psalm 50 is such that invited the hearers, that invited the worshippers, and that invited those who were willing to participate in worship to ascribe unto the living and eternal God greatness, honor, majesty, glory, splendor, and wonder. Before we delve into the words and language found within these particular chapters it is absolutely necessary and imperative that we understand that the very first time we encounter Asaph in the midst of the book of the Psalms, he is not only worshipping before the greatness and glory of the living God, but he is indeed inviting the worshippers found among the people of God to join in this tremendous and mighty chorus. Consider if you will the words which are written and contained within this particular chapter beginning to read with and from the first and opening verse:
“The mighty God, even the LORD, hath spoken, and called the earth from the rising of the sun unto the going down thereof. Out of Zion, the perfection of beauty, God hath shined. Our God shall come, and shall not keep silence: a fire shall evoke before him, and it shall be very tempestuous round about him. He shall call to the heavens from above, and to the earth, that he may judge his people. Gather my saints together unto me; those that have made a covenant with me by sacrifice. And the heavens shall declare his righteousness: For God is judge himself. Selah. Hear, O my people, and I will speak; O Israel, and I will testify against thee: I am God, even thy God. I will not reprove thee for thy sacrifices or thy burnt offerings, to have been continually before me. I will take no bullock out of thy house, nor the he goats out of thy folds. For every beast of the forest is mine, and the cattle upon a. Thousand hills. I know all the fowls of the mountains: and the wild beasts of the field are mine. If I were hungry, I would not tell thee: For the world is mine, and the fulness thereof. Will I eat the flesh of bulls, or drink the blood of goats? Offer unto God thanksgiving; and pay thy vows unto the most High: And call upon me in the day of trouble: I will deliver thee, and thou shalt glorify me. But unto the wicked God saith, What hast thou to do to declare my statues, or that thou shouldest take my covenant in thy mouth? Seeing thou hatest instruction, and castest my words behind thee. When thou sawest a thief, then thou consetnedst with him, and hast been partakers with adulterers. Thou gavest thy mouth to evil, and thy tongue frameth deceit. Thou sittest and speakest against thy brother; thou slanderest thine own mother’s son. These things hast thou done, and I kept silence; thou thoughtest that I was altogether such as an one as thyself: but I will reprove thee, and set them in order before thine eyes. Now consider this, ye that forget God, lest I tear you in pieces, and there be none to deliver. Whoso offereth praise glorifieth me: and to him that ordereth his conversation aright will I shew the salvation of God” (Psalm 50:1-23).
If you are going to understand the psalms which were written by Asaph in chapters seventy-three through eighty-three you must first understand the words which are found within this psalm, for the language that is found and contained within this psalm is truly and absolutely remarkable when you take the time to consider it. Upon reading the words found within this psalm you will find Asaph beginning by prophetically speaking concerning the voice of the LORD, and how the mighty God, even the LORD hath spoken, and has called from the earth from the rising of the sun unto the going down thereof. We dare not be quick to dismiss or overlook these words, for with these words Asaph begins to speak—not only poetically since this language is found in the midst of the book of the Psalms, but also prophetically as the words contained within this psalm are words which not only describe the mighty God speaking, but they also describe what the living God is and was speaking. In the first six verses of this chapter we encounter the voice of the mighty God speaking and calling the earth from the rising of the sun unto the going down of the same, and yet beyond simply the LORD speaking, we also find directly linked and connected to His speaking is the manifestation and demonstration of His strength, His power and His might. In the opening verse of this psalm we find Asaph prophetically speaking concerning the living God, and how the living God had indeed spoken—and not only spoken, but also called the earth. In the midst of the mighty God speaking and calling the earth we also find a powerful declaration of the glory, the strength, the power and the might of the living God and the manifestation of His presence. There is within these verses a wonderful and powerful declaration of the presence, the person and power of the living God, and before we even get into the words which the living God spoke, we must first encounter the manifestation of His presence and power that is directly linked to His voice. Consider if you will the words which are found specifically in verses two through six of this psalm concerning this manifestation of the divine presence and power of the living God:
“Out of Zion, the perfection of beauty, God hath shined. Our God shall come, and shall not keep silence: a fire shall devour before him, and it shall be very tempestuous round about him. He shall call to the heavens from above, and to the earth, that he may judge his people. Gather my saints together unto m e; those that have made a covenant with me by sacrifice. And the heavens shall declare his righteousness: for God is judge himself. Selah” (Psalm 50:2-6).
Within these words we find a powerful declaration of the splendor, the majesty, the wonder, the beauty, the power and the presence of the living God. In the second verse we find and read of God shining forth brightly out of Zion, which was the perfection of beauty. In the third verse, however, we begin to notice something drastically different about the manifestation of the divine presence and power of the living God, for while the second verse speaks to God shining out of Zion, the third verse speaks of God coming, of God not keeping silent, and a fire devouring before him, and being very tempestuous round about him. Whereas in the second verse of this chapter we find God shining out of Zion the perfection of beauty, we find in the third verse a consuming and devouring fire not only going before the living God, but also being round about Him. It is this reality of a consuming and devouring fire that is not only found within the Old Testament book of Deuteronomy, but is also mentioned in the New Testament epistle which was written unto the Hebrews. The reason I feel compelled to write about the consuming and devouring fire that goes before the LORD, the consuming and devouring fire that is round about God, and the consuming and devouring fire which is indeed the living God Himself, is because I am absolutely convinced that we in this generation desperately need a fresh vision of the holiness, the majesty, the splendor and the wonder of the living God. There is not a doubt in my mind that we as the people of God need a true and powerful revelation of the power and presence of the living God, and in that place of revelation, manifestation, and habitation, we recognize and understand that the LORD our God is a consuming fire. This reality of the LORD our God being a consuming fire not only speaks directly to His holiness, but it also speaks of His ability to destroy and consume wickedness, as well as His ability to purify and refine the people of God. When we think about and consider the reality of the LORD our God being a consuming and devouring fire, we must recognize and understand that this fire which is His very nature can serve one of two purposes and functions—either it can devour and consume the wicked, or it can purify and refine the righteous. We dare not, we cannot and must not miss and lose sight of this absolutely tremendous reality, for we need to know and understand—I mean truly understand—the nature of the living and eternal God whom we worship in this life. With that being said, consider if you will the words which are found in the Old Testament book of Deuteronomy—words which are also echoed in the New Testament epistle written unto the Hebrews:
“Take heed unto yourselves, lest ye forget the covenant of the LORD your God, which he made with you, and make you a graven image, or the likeness of any thing, which the LORD thy God hath forbidden thee. For the LORD thy God is a consuming fire, even a jealous God. When thou shalt beget children, and children’s children, and ye shall have remained long in the land, and shall corrupt yourselves, and make a graven image, or the likeness of any thing, and shall do evil in the sight of the LORD thy God, to provoke Him to anger: I call heaven and earth to witness against you this day, that ye shall soon utterly perish from off the land whereunto ye go over Jordan to possess it; ye shall not prolong your days upon it, but shall utterly be destroyed. And the LORD shall scatter you among the nations, and ye shall be left few in number among the heathen, whither the LORD shall lead you. And there ye shall serve gods, the work of men’s hands, wood and stone, which. Neither see, nor hear, nor eat, nor smell. But if from thence thou shalt seek the LORD thy God, thou shalt find him, if thou seek him I with all thy heart and with all thy soul. When thou art in tribulation, and all these things are come upon thee, even in the latter days, if thou turn to the LORD thy God, and shalt be obedient unto his voice; (For the LORD thy god is a merciful God;) he will not forsake thee, neither destroy thee, nor forget the covenant of thy fathers which he sware unto them” (Deuteronomy 4:23-31).
“Hear, O Israel: Thou art to pass over Jordan this day, to go in to possess nations greater and mightier than thyself, cities great and fenced up to heaven, a people great and tall, the children of the Anakims, whom thou knowest, and of whom thou hast heard say, Who can stand before the children of Anak! Understand therefore this day, that the LORD thy God is he which goeth over before thee; as a consuming fire he shall destroy them, and he shall bring them down before thy face: so shalt thou derive them out, and destroy them quickly, as the LORD hath said unto thee. Speak not thou in thine heart, after that the LORD thy God hath cast them out from before thee, saying, For my righteousness the LORD hath brought me in to possess this land: but for the wickedness of these nations the LORD doth drive them out from before thee. Not for thy righteousness, or for the uprightness of thine heart, dost thou go to possess their land: but for the winked ness of these nations the LORD thy God doth drive them out from before thee, and that he may perform the word which the LORD sware unto thy fathers, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. Understand therefore, that the LORD thy God giveth thee not this good land to possesss it for thy righteousness; for thou art a stiffnecked people. Remember, and forget not, how thou provokedst the LORD thy God to wrath in the wilderness: from the day that thou didst depart out of the land of Egypt, until ye came unto this place, ye have been rebellious against the LORD. Also in Horeb ye provoked the LORD to wrath, so that the LORD was angry with you to have destroyed you. When I was gone up into the mount to receive the tables of stone, even the tables of the covenant which the LORD made with you, then I abode in the mount forty days and forty nights, I neither did eat bread nor drink water: and the LORD delivered unto me two tables of stone written with the finger of God; and on them was written according to all the words, which the LORD spake with you in the mount out of the midst of the fire in the day of the assembly. And it came to pass at the end of the forty days and forty nights, that the LORD gave me the two tables of stone, even the tables of the covenant. And the LORD said unto me, Arise, get thee down quickly from hence; for thy people which thou hast brought forth out of Egypt have corrupted themselves; they are quickly turned aside out of the way which I commanded them; they have made them a molten image. Furthermore the LORD spake unto me, saying, I have seen this people, and, behold, it is a stiffnecked people: Let me alone, that I may destroy them, and blot out their name from under heaven: and I will make of thee a nation mightier and greater than they. So I turned and came down from the mount, and the mount burned with fire: and the two tables of the covenant were in my two hands. And I looked, and, behold, ye had sinned against the LORD your God, and had made you a molten calf: ye had turned aside quickly out of the way which the LORD had commanded you” (Deuteronomy 9:1-16).
“For ye are not come unto the mount that might be touched, and that burned with fire, nor unto blackness, and darkness, and tempest, and the sound of a trumpet, and the voice of words; which voice they that heard untreated that the word should not be spoken to them any more: (For they could not endure that which was commanded, And if so much as a beast touch the mountain, it shall be stoned, or thrust through with a dart: and so terrible was the sight, that Moses said, I exceedingly fear and quake) But ye are come unto mount Sion, and unto the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to an innumerable company of angels, to the general assembly and church of the firstborn, which are written in heaven, and to God the Judge of all, and to the spirits of just men made perfect, and to Jesus the mediator of the new covenant, and to the blood of sprinkling, that speaketh better things than that of Abel. See that ye refuse not him that speaketh. For if they escaped not who refused him that spake on earth, m ugh more shall not we escape, if we turn away from him that speaketh from heaven: whose voice then shook the earth: but now he hath promised, saying, Yet once more I shake not the earth only, but also heaven. And this word, Yet once more, signifieth the removing of those things that are shaken, as of things that are made, that those things which cannot be shaken may remain. Wherefore we receiving a kingdom which cannot be moved, let us have grace, whereby we may serve God acceptably with reverence and godly fear: For our God is a consuming fire” (Hebrews 12:18-29).
The words which we find within these two passages of Scripture must be truly recognized and understood, for in both passages we find and read Moses the man of God speaking directly unto the second generation which would emerge and grow up into the wilderness as he prepared them to pass over the Jordan River under the leadership of Joshua, and enter into the land of Canaan to take possession of it. What is so incredibly unique about the language which Moses spoke unto this generation of the congregation and assembly of the children of Israel is that twice he declared unto the people that the LORD their God was indeed a consuming fire. This would not have been something difficult for the congregation and assembly of the children of Israel to consider, for not only had some of them witnessed and beheld the consuming fire upon the mountain of God in the wilderness, not only did they witness fire coming out from before the LORD and consuming the sacrifice upon the altar, but they also witnessed fire coming out from before the LORD and consuming Nadab and Abihu. What’s more, is that there was at least one instance when a fire began to devour toward the outskirts of the camp as judgment from the LORD upon the rebellion and wickedness of the people of God before Him and in His sight. When Moses declared unto the congregation and assembly of the children of Israel that the LORD their God was a consuming fire, it was not something that would have been difficult for them to think about and consider, as they had already had multiple encounters with the fire of the living God—that fire which consumed and rested upon the mountain of God in the midst of the wilderness, that fire which consumed the sacrifice, as well as that fire which consumed and devoured wickedness in the sight of the living God. We must recognize and understand this truly wonderful and astonishing reality, for when Moses declared unto the children of Israel that the LORD their God who was going before them into the land of Canaan was a consuming and devouring fire, it would n to have been something difficult for them to understand, nor would it have been something they would not have had any knowledge of. They would have already witnessed and beheld the manifestation of that fire burning, consuming and devouring among them in their midst. In fact, I would like to bring you face to face with the manifestations of this consuming fire which not only was the living God among the congregation of the children of Israel, but would also come out from before the LORD. Consider if you will the following passages of Scripture which describe the consuming fire upon the mountain, the consuming fire upon the altar and the sacrifice, as well as the consuming fire which devoured Nadab and Abihu, which were two sons of Aaron the brother of Moses and high priest of Israel:
“And it came to pass on the third day in the morning, that there were thunders and lightnings, and a thick cloud upon the mount, and the voice of the trumpet exceeding loud; so that all the people that was in the camp trembled. And Moses brought forth the people out of the camp me to meet with God; and they stood at the nether part of the mount. And Mount Sinai was altogether on a smoke, because the LORD descended upon it in fire: and the smoke thereof ascended as the smoke of a furnace, and the whole mount quaked greatly. And when the voice of the trumpet sounded long and waxed louder and louder, Moses spake, and God answered him by a voice. And the LORD came down upon mount Sinai, on the top of the mount: and the LORD called Moses up to the top of the mount; and Moses went up. And the LORD said unto Moses, Go down, charge the people, lest they break through unto the LORD to gaze, and many of them perish. And let the priests also, which come near to the LORD, sanctify themselves, lest the LORD break forth upon them. And Moses said unto the LORD, The people cannot come up to mount Sinai: for thou chargedst us, saying, Set bounds about the mount, and sanctify it. And the LORD said unto him, Away, get thee down, and thou shalt come up, thou, and Aaron with thee: but let not the priests and the people break through to come up unto the LORD, lest he break forth upon them. So Moses went down unto the people, and spake unto them” (Exodus 19:16-25).
“And all the people saw the thunderings, and the lightnings, and the noise of the trumpet, and the mountain smoking: and when the people saw it, they removed, and stood afar off. And they said unto Moses, Speak thou with us, and we will hear: but let not God speak with us, lest we die. And Moses said unto the people, Fear not: for God is come to prove you, and that his fear may bear before your faces, that ye sin not. And the people stood afar off, and Moses d few near unto the thick darkness where God was. And the LORD said unto Moses, Thus thou shalt say unto the children of Israel, Ye have seen that I have talked with you from heaven. Ye shall not make with me gods of silver, neither shall ye make unto you gods of gold” (Exodus 20:18-23).
“And Aaron lifted up his hand toward the people, and blessed them, and came down from offering of the sin offering, and the burnt offering, and peace offerings. And Moses and Aaron went into the tabernacle of the congregation, and came out, and blessed the people: and the glory of the LORD appeared unto all the people. And there came a fire out from before the LORD, and consumed upon the altar the burnt offering and the fat: which when all the people saw, they shouted, and fell on their faces” (Leviticus 9:22-24).
“And Nadab and Abihu, the sons of Aaron, took either of them his censer, and put fire therein, and put incense therein, and offered strange fire before the LORD, which he commanded them not. And there went out fire from before the LORD, and devoured them, and they died before the LORD. Then Moses said unto Aaron, This is that the LORD spake, sayin, I will be sanctified in them that come nigh me, and before all the people I will be glorified. And Aaron held is peace. And Moses called Mishael and Elzaphan, the sons of Uzziel the uncle of Aaron, and said unto them, Come near, carry your brethren from before the sanctuary out of the camp. So they went near, and carried them in their coats out of the camp; as Moses had said. And Moses said unto Aaron, and unto Eleazar and unto Ithamar, his sons, Uncover not your heads, neither rend your clothes; lest ye die, and lest wrath come upon all the people: but let your brethren, the whole house of Israel, bewail the burning which the LORD hath kindled. And ye shall not go out from the door of the tabernacle of the congregation, lest ye die: for the anointing oil of the LORD is upon you. And they did according to the word of Moses” (Leviticus 10:1-7).
With these passages found within the Old Testament books of Exodus and Leviticus we not only see the consuming and devouring fire which burned upon the mountain of God in the midst of the wilderness, but we also see and encounter the consuming and devouring fire would and could come out from the presence of the LORD and consume and devour. At the end of the ninth chapter of the Old Testament book of Leviticus we encounter fire coming out from before the LORD and consuming the sacrifice which was upon the altar, while in the very next chapter—yea, even after Nadab and Abihu had not only seen the consuming fire upon the mountain, and even went up with Moses into the presence of God and saw the living and eternal God, and had even witnessed the glory of the LORD filling the tabernacle of the congregation, and now the fire coming out from before the LORD as it consumed the sacrifice upon the altar—you will find Nadab and Abihu being devoured by the very same fire which had previously come out from before the LORD. In the nineteenth and twentieth chapters of the Old Testament book of Exodus we find a fire burning upon the mountain of God in the wilderness, and yet not consuming, nor devouring the mountain—similar to the fire which burned within and upon the bush forty years earlier when Moses himself saw a bush burning with fire, yet not being consumed. In the ninth and tenth chapters of the Old Testament book of Leviticus, however, we almost seem to find the fire moving from the top of the mountain where it had previously been, and now accomplishing something entirely and altogether different. In the ninth chapter of the book of Leviticus we find fire coming out from the presence of the living God and consuming the sacrifice, while in the tenth chapter we find fire coming out from the presence of the living God and devouring Nadab and Abihu which were not only the sons of Aaron, but also priests of the LORD. It is absolutely necessary that we recognize and understand this reality, for it reveals two distinct truths concerning the declaration that our God is a consuming fire—namely, that as a consuming fire He can and will either consume that which is holy, that which is acceptable, that which is approved, and that which is pleasing in His sight, or He can devour that which is wicked, that which is rebellious, that which is evil, and that which is displeasing in His sight. When we think and speak about our God being a consuming fire we must recognize and understand that this fire can indeed serve two distinct purposes, roles and functions—namely, consuming that which is pleasing in His sight, or devouring that which is displeasing in His sight. In all reality, I would dare say that the fire of God might very well be burning within many of our churches today in this generation, however, the question we must ask ourselves is whether or not it is a fire which is consuming that which is pleasing in the sight of the LORD, or whether it is a fire which is devouring that which is evil in the sight of our God.
This reality of the LORD our God being a consuming fire is a reality and truth we must recognize and understand as those who worship and serve Him, for it is something that must dramatically alter and transform how we view, and how we respond to Him. It’s worth noting that in the fourth chapter of the Old Testament book of Deuteronomy we find Moses declaring the LORD is a consuming fire, and directly links that consuming fire to the jealousy within the heart of God. Moses emphatically declares unto the second generation of delivered Israelites that their God is a consuming fire, that their God is a jealous God, and His jealousy is like a consuming fire. What’s more, is that Moses directly links the declarations of our God being a consuming fire and our God being a jealous God to the command and warning against making any graven image, or the likeness of any thing, which the LORD their God had forbidden them. We know and understand that Nadab and Abihu were devoured by fire which came out from before and which came out from the LORD, and yet within this particular portion of Scripture we find and discover that the consuming fire of God is linked to His jealousy over the affection, the attention, the worship, and the devotion of His people. It is no wonder why immediately after we read of the LORD God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob coming down upon the mountain of God in the wilderness we find the first commandments He gave the congregation and assembly dealing exclusively and specifically with their worship of Him, and the command and warning against fashioning and forming for themselves any image or idol after the likeness of any thing in heaven or on the earth. We must recognize and understand that not only is the LORD our God a consuming fire, but that consuming fire is a direct manifestation of His jealousy—and not only His jealousy, but also His holiness. In all reality, I would dare say that the jealousy and holiness of God are intrinsically linked and connected to each other, and must be understood in relation to each other. We cannot have a discussion about the jealousy of God without and apart from also having a discussion about the holiness of God, and we cannot have a discussion about either of these attributes of the character and nature of God without understanding them in direct context of our God being a consuming fire. Moses emphatically declared that the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob was a consuming fire, and immediately before and after that he speaks directly to the warning against making them any graven image or likeness of any thing, thus provoking Him to anger. This must be realized and recognized, for when we speak about our God being a consuming fire, we must understand that this manifestation of the person and presence of God is not only linked to His jealousy, but also His anger. In the fourth chapter of the Old Testament book of Deuteronomy we find Moses declaring and speaking of the LORD their God as a consuming fire, but also goes on to speak of Him as a jealous God and being able to be provoked to anger.
I sit here this morning thinking about and considering the narrative of our God being a consuming fire, and not only am I in awe of the fact that as a consuming fire He is a jealous God, but also as a consuming fire He can indeed consume that which pleases Him in His sight and in His presence. When fire came out from before the LORD and consumed the burnt offering and sacrifice which was upon the altar in the sight of the entire congregation of the children of Israel, it was not only a sign of the delight and pleasure of the LORD their God in what was being offered upon the altar, but it was also a declaration of the living God concerning His consuming that which pleases Him in His sight and in His presence. We dare not and must not miss and lose sight of this absolutely tremendous reality, for to do so would be to miss out on truly understanding the nature and character of the living God. It is indeed true that our God is a consuming fire, and that consuming fire is intrinsically and inseparably linked to His jealousy, to His holiness, and even to His anger against those who would choose to operate outside of His commandments, outside of His statutes, outside of His precepts, and outside of His Law. The reality and truth that our God is a consuming fire cannot and must not be separated or understood apart from His anger and His jealousy, for the LORD is fierce about His desire for the hearts of His people. The LORD our God is a jealous God, and as such He desires that you worship Him in Spirit and in truth, and that your attention and your affection is properly placed on Him above everything else. This is not something we can afford to treat lightly, or even treat casually, for in order to worship God the way He desires to be worshipped, and the way He should be worshipped, we as the people of God must recognize that He demands and desires in hearts that are single-minded and not divided before Him. Lest you think for one minute this isn’t the case, I invite you to consider—not only the words which are found in the twentieth chapter of the Old Testament book of Exodus, but also in the sixth chapter of the Old Testament book of Deuteronomy. If you will, please consider the following Old Testament passages which powerfully and wonderfully demonstrate the desire the LORD our God has for worship and for commitment and devotion to Him within and throughout our daily lives:
“And God spake all these words, saying, I am the LORD thy God, which have brought thee out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage. Thou shalt have no other gods before me. Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image, or any likeness of any thing that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth: thou shalt not bow down thyself to them, nor serve them: for I the LORD thy God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation of them that hate me; and shewing mercy unto thousands of them that love me, and keep my commandments. Thou shalt not take the name of the LORd thy God in vain; for the LORD will not hold him guiltless that taketh his name in vain. Remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy” (Exodus 20:1-8).
“Now these are the commandments, the statutes, and the judgments, which the LORD your God commanded to teach you, that ye might do them in the land whither ye go to possess it: that thou mightest fear the LORD thy God, to keep all his statutes and his commandments, which I command thee, thou, and thy son, and thy son’s son, all the days of thy life; and that thy days may be prolonged. Hear therefore, O Israel, and observe to do it; that it may be well with thee, and that ye may increase mightily, as the LORD God of thy fathers hath promised thee, in the land that floweth with milk and honey. Hear, O Israel: The LORd our God is one LORD: And thou shalt love the LORD thy God with all thine heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy might. And these words, which I command thee this day, shall be in thine heart: and thou shalt teach them diligently unto thy children, and shalt talk of them when thou sittest in thine house, and when thou walkest by the way, and when thou liest down, and when thou risest up. And thou shalt blind them for a sign upon thine hand, and they shall be as frontlets between thine eyes. And thou shalt write them upon the posts of thy house, and on thy gates” (Deuteronomy 6:1-9).
These words must be carefully understood in direct connection and relation with each other, for while in the book of Exodus we find the LORD declaring unto the children of Israel that they were to have no other gods before Him, and to not make for themselves any graven image, or any likeness of any thing in heaven or on the earth, we find in the book of Deuteronomy the LORD inviting the congregation of the children of Israel to love the LORD their God with all their heart, with all their soul, and with all their might. What makes this command all the more captivating and convicting is when you think about and consider the fact that since and because the LORD our God is one LORD, He must be worshipped by and we must worship Him as one full and complete being. The LORD our God is one LORD made up of three distinct persons—The Father, The Son, and the Holy Spirit—and just as there is no division found within the LORD our God, so also there must be no division within ourselves. We must worship the LORD fully and completely as one man and as one being, and must love Him with our whole being and our whole selves. I can’t help but be reminded of the words which the apostle Paul wrote in the fifth and final chapter of the first New Testament epistle which was written unto the saints of Thessalonica. If you read and consider the words which are found in the twenty-third and twenty-fourth verses of this particular chapter you will encounter the following words concerning our being: “And the very God of peace sanctify you wholly; and I pray God your whole spirit and soul and body be preserved blameless unto the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. Faithful is He that calleth you, who also will do it” (1 Thessalonians 5:23-24). Within this passage we again come to the knowledge and reality that man is one being, yet that being is made up of three distinct and unique parts—namely, body, soul and spirit. When you read the words which are found within the Old Testament you again encounter this holistic view of man with the difference being Moses speaking of the heart, the soul, and the strength of a man. The LORD our God is indeed one LORD, and because and since the LORD is indeed one LORD we must worship Him with our entire beings without anything being omitted. When we speak about our love for the living and eternal God we must recognize and understand that it is something that requires absolutely every part of us—our heart, our soul, and our might. Please don’t miss and lose sight of this, for not only does it speak to the tremendous reality of our living the LORD from the very depths of our being, but it also speaks directly to the reality of our loving the LORD with all our might and strength. When we think and speak about loving the LORD our God we must understand that it requires everything within us—our heart and soul which are the seabed of our emotions, our feelings, and the like—as well as the strength of our being. In other words, love isn’t simply about loving the LORD strictly from an emotional or relational standpoint and perspective, but it is about loving the LORD with all our might, with all our strength, and with a tremendous effort on our part.
This reality of loving the LORD our God with all our heart and soul, as well as with all our might directly speaks to the reality of our worship of the LORD, for at the very heart and foundation of worship is indeed and is in fact love. We cannot, we dare not, and must speak about worship as though it is something separate and independent of love and affection, for true worship is more than simply an action we perform with our lips, with our hands, and with our bodies, but it is something that involves our full heart and our full soul. When we think about worshipping the LORD our God we must understand that worship is as much internal as it is external, and our loving the LORD is just as much internal as it is external. We must understand that when we speak about worship, and when we speak about not having any other gods before the LORD, this is something that can and will be made possible through and as a direct result of our love for the living and eternal God. If you love the LORD—I mean truly love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your might—it is going to be incredibly difficult, and perhaps even impossible for you to allow another god to take the place of the eternal God. If you truly do in fact love the LORD with all your heart with all your soul and with all your might then you cannot and will not allow anything to interfere with your worship of Him, and you cannot and will not allow your heart to be divided with idols and false images of the God you believe you’re worshipping, or even idols and images you have made. This was the tremendous danger which the prophet Ezekiel saw during his day and his generation, for Ezekiel had seen and witnessed how men had set up and established idols within their heart—in that very place where the children of Israel were commanded to love the LORD. Oh, I would dare say that if you are able to allow, and/or if you have allowed idols to be set up within your heart, then I would dare say that it has affected and will affect your soul, and even your might and strength. It is impossible to allow an idol or idols to be set up within your heart and not allow your love for the LORD to be directly impacted and affected. What’s more, is that if you have allowed or are willing to allow idols to be established within your heart, then you must also be willing to take a look at your soul and your strength, for it can and will be only a matter of time before those are affected and impacted—if they have not already been impacted and affected. Oh we must understand the tremendous danger in setting up idols within our heart—particularly and especially when we consider that out the heart flow the issues of life, and out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks. If we allow idols to be set up within our hearts, I can guarantee you that not only is our love for the LORD going to be impacted and affected, but we will also notice that it can and will spill over into the other areas of our life, and will impact the words which come out of our mouth. It is no wonder that Scripture not only links idolatry to the heart—and thus linking worship to the heart—but also links loving the LORD our God to the heart. True worship is birthed out of a genuine and authentic love for the LORD, and that love must in fact not only touch every part and the very depths of our heart and soul, but also every part of our strength and our might.
When we speak about the LORD our God being a consuming fire it is absolutely necessary to consider the fact that this fire not only consumes sacrifices and that which pleases and delights His heart, but it also goes before His people and devours their enemies. When Moses spoke of our God being a consuming fire which went before the people of God, he spoke of it as being a devouring fire which would utterly destroy the enemies and adversaries of the people of God. It’s something truly remarkable to think about and consider the fact that our God being a consuming fire not only touches the sacrifice upon the altar, but it also touches the enemies and adversaries of the LORD, and that which displeases and dishonors Him. IN the ninth chapter of the Old Testament book of Deuteronomy Moses declared unto the children of Israel that the LORD their God was He who would go over before them, and would do so as a consuming fire which would destroy their enemies and adversaries, and would bring them down before their faces. Please don’t miss and lose sight of this truth, for when we think and speak about our God being a consuming fire we must recognize that as a consuming fire He can and will destroy and devour everything that displeases and dishonors Him. The LORD God of Israel would go before the people of Israel as a consuming fire, and that fire would destroy and devour all their enemies before them, as He would bring them down before their face. The LORD our God is a consuming fire, and yet what we have to realize is that as a consuming fire He can either consume that which pleases Him, or He can devour that which displeases Him. When you read the words of Asaph in the fiftieth chapter of the Old Testament book of the Psalms you will find him speaking prophetically concerning the LORD, and how He would come and not keep silent. Moreover, the LORD our God would come, and a fire would devour before him, and would be very tempestuous round about Him. Oh, when we seek to understand the nature of the LORD our God it is absolutely necessary that we recognize that He is indeed a consuming fire, and that fire is directly linked to His holiness, directly linked to His jealousy, and directly linked to His anger. The LORD can indeed be a consuming fire and consume the sacrifices we bring before Him as was evidenced at both the Tabernacle of the congregation as well as the Temple, or the LORD can be a consuming fire which devours and destroys that which is displeasing in His sight, and those who are His enemies and adversaries. Moses linked our God as a consuming fire—not only to worship, but also to warfare, for our God is a consuming fire that consumes the sacrifice in worship, and He is a consuming fire which devours and destroy the enemy in warfare.
The words which we find in the fiftieth chapter of the Old Testament book of the Psalms is absolutely necessary to think about and consider, for they help set the stage and foundation for the words which Asaph would write in Psalms seventy-three through eighty-three. We are first introduced to Asaph’s words and writing in the fiftieth chapter of the book of the Psalms when he not only speaks of the greatness and glory of the LORD, but also speaks of the LORD’s judgment against wickedness. As you come to the seventy-third chapter of this Old Testament poetic book, you will find what is truly astonishing language spoken by Asaph, for he begins and opens up this psalm by declaring how God is good to Israel, and to such which were of a clean heart. Asaph opens the seventy-third psalm with a declaration of the goodness of the LORD, but then abruptly turns and transitions to a struggle and conflict he had when he observed the wicked. Despite the fact that he spoke of the destruction and judgment of the wicked in the fiftieth chapter of the book of the Psalms, and despite the fact that he opened the seventy-third chapter of this book with a declaration of the goodness of the LORD, he found himself struggling with what appeared to be the comfort and ease of the wicked. Asaph—who wrote and declared that the LORD was good to Israel, and to those who were of a clean heart—would go on to speak about a moment within his life when he struggled with the comfort and ease of the wicked as directly set against the goodness of the LORD. If you begin reading with and from the second verse of this chapter you will find Asaph describing how his feet were almost gone, how his steps had almost slipped, for he was and had become envious of the foolish and saw the prosperity of the wicked. Consider if you will the following words which were recorded in the seventy-third chapter of the book of the Psalms beginning to read with and from the second verse:
“But as for me, my feet were almost gone; my steps had well nigh slipped. For I envious at the foolish, when I saw the prosperity of the wicked. For there are no bands in their death: but their strength is firm. They are not in trouble as other men; neither are they plagued like other men. Therefore pride compasseth them about as a chain; violence covereth them as a garment. Their eyes stand out with fatness: they have more than heart could wish. They are corrupt, and speak wickedly concerning oppression: they speak loftily. They set their mouth against the heavens, and their tongue walketh throughout the earth. Therefore his people return hither: and waters of a full cup are wrung out to them. And they say, How doth God know? And is there knowledge in the most High? Behold, these are the unholy, who prosper in the world; they increase in riches. Verily I have cleansed my heart in vain, and washed my hands in innocency. For all the day long have I been plagued, and chastened every morning. If I say, I will speak thus; Behold, I should offend against the generation of thy children” (Psalm 73:2-16).
As you read the words found within this section of Scripture you will find Asaph struggling—and not only struggling with the prosperity of the wicked, but also with his own righteousness. In verses two through twelve of this passage you will find Asaph speaking directly to the comfort, the ease, the prosperity, and the apparent ease of the wicked, while in the thirteenth verse you will find him speaking of how he had cleansed his heart in vain, and washed his hands in innocence. Stop for a moment and consider what Asaph is saying here, for not only is he struggling with the apparent ease of the wicked, but he is also struggling with his own righteousness before and in the sight of the LORD. Asaph saw, looked upon and beheld the pride and prosperity, the comfort and ease, and the arrogance and boasting of the wicked, and he saw it in direct connection and relation to his own righteousness before the LORD. Here he was diligently working to ensure that his heart was cleansed before the LORD, and washing his hands in innocence, and yet he feels as though all the day long he is being plagued, and chastened every morning. The words which Asaph present us with in this particular psalm must be carefully understood, for how many times have you thought about your own life and your own righteousness, and have wondered why you continue to walk in righteousness, and why you continue to walk in obedience and faithfulness before the LORD. How many times have you beheld the wicked who seem to not have a care in the world, and yet here you are engaged in a constant struggle and conflict? You devote a great deal of time, effort and energy into ensuring that your hands and heart are clean before the LORD, and yet there are times when you struggle with your own righteousness. Job struggled with his righteousness in the midst of his own suffering, and Asaph struggled with his righteousness in light of the comfort, ease, pride, prosperity and boasting of the wicked. We dare not and must not miss and lose sight of this particular reality, for it is not uncommon to find ourselves in a place where we doubt and struggle with our righteousness and with our walk with the living God—particularly and especially in the midst of our own suffering and/or when we view the prosperity of the wicked before and all around us. If we are truly willing to be honest with ourselves we have to admit that there have been times when we have asked why we even bothered with cleansing our hearts and as David spoke of—“having clean hands and a pure heart.” We would deceive ourselves and would be incredibly naïve to think that there haven’t been times within our lives when it hasn’t been a struggle of righteousness when we not only beheld our own suffering, but also beheld the prosperity and relative ease of the wicked.
THE STRUGGLE AND CONFLICT OF RIGHTEOUSNESS! I would be lying to and deceiving myself if there haven’t been times within my life when I have struggled with my own righteousness (or the righteousness I perceive myself to have)—particularly in the midst of suffering and what I see in the world all around me. I have to admit that there have been times within my life when I have found myself struggling with observing the ease and comfort the wicked seem to have, and almost the carefree life that they seem to be able to have. While clean hands and a pure heart should not be an obligation on our part, there are times when we feel as though we need to continually spend time, effort and energy in making sure we are clean in the sight of the LORD, while the wicked walks round without caring or showing any concern for this at all. I would be absolutely and completely remiss if I didn’t point this reality out, for there are countless men and women who I know struggle with their own righteousness—not necessarily whether or not they are righteous, but why they spend so much time, effort and energy in making sure they are righteous. The wicked don’t care or even worry about whether or not their hearts are clean, nor whether or not their hands are clean. The wicked have absolutely no desire, care or thought to make sure they are walking in obedience before and in the sight of the LORD. The wicked seem to be able to go about their daily lives without any care or concern whether or not they are walking in holiness and obedience in the sight of the LORD. They live their lives how they want, when they want it, with who they want, and where they want it, and care absolutely nothing about walking in a manner that pleases the LORD. This is what Asaph struggled with, and what he wrestled with, and he even declared that it was too painful to try to understand and figure out why and how this was possible. The words which we find within this particular chapter not only bring us face to face with the conflict and struggle of righteousness when viewed through the lens of the prosperity and ease of the wicked, but it also brings us face to face with the awesome reality of how Asaph’s entire perspective and view would be changed by entering into the house and sanctuary of the LORD. In the sixteenth verse Asaph declared that when he thought to know the details surrounding his complaint, his struggle and conflict, it was too painful for him—that was until he went into the house of the LORD. What makes Asaph’s words so incredibly captivating is when you consider the fact that he didn’t record what he did once in the house of the LORD. Asaph didn’t record what he prayed, nor even how long he had been in the house of the LORD—only that when he went into the house of the LORD his entire perspective changed, and he understood the end of the wicked. Consider if you will the following words which are written within this psalm beginning to read with and from the sixteenth verse concerning Asaph’s change in perspective when he entered into the house of the LORD:
“When I thought to know this, it was too painful for me; until I went into the sanctuary of God; then understood I their end. Surely thou didst set them in slippery places: thou castedst them down into destruction. How are they brought into desolation, as in a moment! They are utterly insured with terrors. As a dream when one awaketh; so, O Lord, when thou awakest, thou shalt despise their image. Thus my heart was grieved, and I was pricked in my reigns. So foolish was I, and ignorant: I was as a beast before thee. Nevertheless I am continually with thee: thou hast Holden me by my right hand. Thou shalt guide me with thy counsel, and afterward receive me to glory. Whom have I in heaven but thee? And there is none upon earth that I desire beside thee. My flesh and my heart faileth: but God is the strength of my heart, and my portion for ever. For, lo, they that are far from thee shall perish: thou hast destroyed all them that go a whoring from thee. But it is good for me to draw near to God: I have put my trust in the LORD God, that I May declare all thy works” (Psalm 73:16-28).
We dare not miss and lose sight of these words, for although Asaph struggled with the prosperity, the pride, and the ease of the wicked, his entire view and perspective changed when he entered into the house of the LORD. Despite the fact that we don’t know what Asaph prayed in the house of the LORD, and despite the fact that we don’t know how long Asaph was in the sanctuary, we know that his heart was grieved within him, and that he was pricked in his reigns. Asaph realized and recognized that he had been foolish, and ignorant, but that he was continually with the LORD. What’s more, is that despite his struggle and conflict over the wicked Asaph realized that he was continually with the LORD, and that the LORD held him but his right hand, and would guide him with His counsel. Asaph would go on to realize and understand that he had and there was no one in heaven but the LORD, and there was no one upon the earth whom he desired beside the LORD. Oh that we would enter into this place before the LORD—the place where we realize that we have no one in heaven but Him, and the place where there is no one here in the earth we desire more than him. Moreover, it is my prayer that we would come to the place where our flesh and our heart might fail, but God is the strength of our heart, and our portion for ever. I absolutely love how Asaph ends this particular psalm, for the psalm concludes with Asaph declaring that it was good for him to draw near to God, and that he put his trust in the LORD God. Despite the conflict and struggle he had with his own righteousness when viewed through the lens of the prosperity and pride of the wicked, he would realize that there was none in heaven beside the LORD, there was none in the earth he desired as much as the LORD, and how good it was for him to draw near to the living God. This psalm would conclude with Asaph declaring unto the LORD that he put his trust in the LORD God, and that he might declare all His wonderful works. Essentially Asaph would come full circle as he would move from the declaration of the goodness of God to Israel and to those who were of a clean heart, and he would put his trust in the LORD God, that he might declare all His works. Oh how wonderful, oh how glorious, oh how beautiful, oh how remarkable is the sanctuary of the living God, and how entering into the sanctuary and entering into the presence of the living and eternal God can and will completely and radically altar and change our entire perspective and our entire view before and in the sight of the living God.