How can God be both loving and kind yet hate and judge sin? Since the Bible uses fire to symbolize God, it helps me to compare Him to fire. It burns to both purify and to destroy. It creates warmth yet also reduces to ashes. Fire cooks food yet can burn it to nothing. Fire gives light that signifies glory and can guide our way, but it can also blind eyes. Fire is both friend and foe, helpful to forge weapons, but also a force that consumes sacrifices or ruins cities, idols, or anything that will burn.
The Old Testament speaks of God being like fire that protects and purifies:
“But who can endure the day of his coming, and who can stand when he appears? For he is like a refiner’s fire and like fullers’ soap.” (Malachi 3:2)
Jesus also spoke of the Holy Spirit as fire who would burn up all that does not glorify God by bearing fruit that shows His power:
But when he saw many of the Pharisees and Sadducees coming to his baptism, he said to them, “You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the wrath to come? Bear fruit in keeping with repentance. And do not presume to say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our father,’ for I tell you, God is able from these stones to raise up children for Abraham. Even now the axe is laid to the root of the trees. Every tree therefore that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. “I baptize you with water for repentance, but he who is coming after me is mightier than I, whose sandals I am not worthy to carry. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire. His winnowing fork is in his hand, and he will clear his threshing floor and gather his wheat into the barn, but the chaff he will burn with unquenchable fire.” (Matthew 3:7–12)
Then, after Jesus ascended to heaven the Holy Spirit came — as fire:
“When the day of Pentecost arrived, they were all together in one place. And suddenly there came from heaven a sound like a mighty rushing wind, and it filled the entire house where they were sitting. And divided tongues as of fire appeared to them and rested on each one of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit gave them utterance.” (Acts 2:1–4)
As Tozer writes, “The God who had appeared TO them as fire throughout all their long history was now dwelling IN them as fire.” He revealed Himself in what is called the Shekinah glory and then came to live in the hearts of all who believe. This is Deity giving Himself to His ransomed people, sealing them as His own and “making them men and women of the Fire.”
These are lofty thoughts, but also practical. Everything fire symbolizes about the power of God is now part of my life. Because of the Holy Spirit, I can be loving and kind yet also hate sin (especially my own). I can have a purifying effect, creating warmth and being a light in this world, but in my flesh can ruin things. In the power of the Holy Spirit, I can bring light to darkness but must remember that without Him, this fire can be negative and destructive. It must be handled with care.
Lord Jesus. You say to me:
“You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.” (Matthew 5:14–16)
The bottom line is that the light and the fire that You put in my heart is there to bless others for Your glory. May I always be mindful that I’m not here to destroy but to illuminate Your goodness.