Devotional 95: To Purge, Purify, and Punish

Matthew 3:7-11

But when he saw many of the Pharisees and Sadducees coming to his baptism, he said to them, “Brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the wrath to come? Therefore bear fruits worthy of repentance, and do not think to say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our father.’ For I say to you that God is able to raise up children to Abraham from these stones. 1And even now the ax is laid to the root of the trees. Therefore every tree which does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. 11 I indeed baptize you with water unto 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. 12 His winnowing fan is in His hand, and He will thoroughly clean out His threshing floor, and gather His wheat into the barn; but He will burn up the chaff with unquenchable fire.”

Within the Word of G-d, fire has three roles:

The first is to clear the waste of that which is not the work of the Kingdom. The waste itself is part of the harvest, and it is always separated from that which isn’t the Father’s will.  Jesus spoke of these fates to end the parable of the wheat and tares:

29 But he said, ‘No, lest while you gather up the tares you also uproot the wheat with them. 30 Let both grow together until the harvest, and at the time of harvest I will say to the reapers, “First gather together the tares and bind them in bundles to burn them, but gather the wheat into my barn.” 

As people enter the faith and leave it, the harvest will reveal all, but the fire will reveal those of us who’ve remained true to the Lord.

The second is to purify. The Holy Spirit reveals the truth of G-d’s Word to us, convicts us of sin, and leads us to repentance, but also instills within us a desire to share with others the Good News. That which we do unto the Lord, our works, as such, are also tested. Paul tells us this in 1st Corinthians 3:11-15

11 For no other foundation can anyone lay than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ. 12 Now if anyone builds on this foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw, 13 each one’s work will become clear; for the Day will declare it, because it will be revealed by fire; and the fire will test each one’s work, of what sort it is. 14 If anyone’s work which he has built on it endures, he will receive a reward. 15 If anyone’s work is burned, he will suffer loss; but he himself will be saved, yet so as through fire.

As Paul speaks of being saved, that brings us to the third role of fire: to punish:

John’s admonition to the crowd, and in particular to the religious leaders, speaks of this:

12 His winnowing fan is in His hand, and He will thoroughly clean out His threshing floor, and gather His wheat into the barn; but He will burn up the chaff with unquenchable fire.”

Isaiah prophesies to its existence: (Isaiah 66:23-24)

23 And it shall come to pass
That from one New Moon to another,
And from one Sabbath to another,
All flesh shall come to worship before Me,” says the Lord.

24 “And they shall go forth and look
Upon the corpses of the men
Who have transgressed against Me.
For their worm does not die,
And their fire is not quenched.
They shall be an abhorrence to all flesh.”

Jesus affirms it when He speaks of removing that from our lives which causes us to sin:

43 If your hand causes you to sin, cut it off. It is better for you to enter into life maimed, rather than having two hands, to go to hell, into the fire that shall never be quenched— 44 [where

‘Their worm does not die
And the fire is not quenched.’

 

The fire that punishes can’t be put out, and is eternal.

41 “Then He will also say to those on the left hand, ‘Depart from Me, you cursed, into the everlasting fire prepared for the devil and his angels:

Let us be ever conscious of the roles of fire in our walk with the Lord, and let us work to eliminate that which is unfruitful, that our works may stand, and that which will make Him tell us to depart from His presence.

Let us, instead, seek to be purified, that we won’t need to dismember ourselves to enter into Life, and to remain under the covering of the covenant of grace, in all that we do.

Therefore I pray:

Lord Jesus, 

I thank You for the purification of holy fire, holy truth, and salvation.

I thank you for imparting to me the Holy Spirit, that I might remain reconciled to the Father through You. I ask that You give me discernment to do that which is the Father’s will, in all things. I would like to see my tested works of blessing remain, and not suffer loss (though I know I will). 

I would have You say, “Well done, good and faithful servant,” and not be saved with my clothing smoking, or worse yet, to depart.

Help me to know that my willful rebellion is recorded for the Day, and that I will be called to account for my thoughts, and every idle word. Help me to remember that my backsliding means a greater darkness because I claim to be Yours, and that I crucify You again to my shame, which means I abide once again under Your wrath, and not in Your mercy.

You have set me apart, and called me out of the world, and revealed the Father’s will for me through Your teaching, and Your sacrifice. 

I would not cheapen that, or take it lightly, nor for granted. 

Forgive me, Lord Jesus, for the times that I do all these things, and let the Spirit have its way in me. Help me to attune to the still, small voice that guides me to the Narrow Way, that I might be in Your presence, praising G-d forever more.

I ask it in Your Name, believing I’ve received.

May it be done to me as You have said. 

Amen.

 

Devotional 92: Grasshopper Eyes

Numbers 13:30-33

30 Then Caleb quieted the people before Moses, and said, “Let us go up at once and take possession, for we are well able to overcome it.”

31 But the men who had gone up with him said, “We are not able to go up against the people, for they are stronger than we.” 32 And they gave the children of Israel a bad report of the land which they had spied out, saying, “The land through which we have gone as spies is a land that devours its inhabitants, and all the people whom we saw in it are men of great stature. 33 There we saw the giants (the descendants of Anak came from the giants); and we were like grasshoppers in our own sight, and so we were in their sight.”

The Lord had promised them freedom from slavery, which He delivered in a spectacular fashion; they’d all witnessed the power and favor of Jehovah first hand, in ways that no other people of the earth had before, but just before claiming the promise, they replaced His vision with their own, their doubt for His assurance, and His good pleasure to deliver them into a land of no lack with a desert experience full of hardship and death.

They are not alone. Example after example is offered to us that when we are called to do the work of the Living G-d, we do not often give Isaiah’s reply, but rather that of Moses.

Exodus 4:10

10 Then Moses said to the Lord, “O my Lord, I am not eloquent, neither before nor since You have spoken to Your servant; but I am slow of speech and slow of tongue.”

Or Gideon’s:

Judges 6:14-15 

14 Then the Lord turned to him and said, “Go in this might of yours, and you shall save Israel from the hand of the Midianites. Have I not sent you?”

15 So he said to Him, “O my Lord, how can I save Israel? Indeed my clan is the weakest in Manasseh, and I am the least in my father’s house.”

Or the army of Israel:

1 Samuel 17:8-11

Then (Goliath) stood and cried out to the armies of Israel, and said to them, “Why have you come out to line up for battle? Am I not a Philistine, and you the servants of Saul? Choose a man for yourselves, and let him come down to me. If he is able to fight with me and kill me, then we will be your servants. But if I prevail against him and kill him, then you shall be our servants and serve us.” 10 And the Philistine said, “I defy the armies of Israel this day; give me a man, that we may fight together.” 11 When Saul and all Israel heard these words of the Philistine, they were dismayed and greatly afraid.

It is now no less fearful for us, whom the Savior has now called out of the world to finish the work of the Kingdom of Heaven, to do the will of the Father, which hasn’t changed, and to enter in to rest, rule, and reign with Him in the work of praising the Father forever, and dwelling in peace among ourselves.

Who wouldn’t want that? Who wouldn’t work for that? Who wouldn’t we tell about that, so they could come with us?

But we have an enemy, and our flesh doesn’t desire that which makes it uncomfortable, for as we have a Savior who has chosen us for Kingdom work, He paid a terrible cost, as did His disciples, even to this day. But the suffering had an end, and He now sits in inconceivable power and glory at the Father’s right hand.

We must go through one to get to the other, so our Teacher tells us to count the cost, deny ourselves, die to ourselves, take up a daily cross, and follow Him down the Narrow Way.

Our Savior reassures us: “Let not your heart be troubled; you believe in God, believe also in Me.” (John 14:1)

So too, did G-d reassure His servants, telling them He would fill their mouths, be with them, instruct them, guide them, and answer them. The phrase, as it pertains to actual fear, and not the reverence of the Lord, occurs 103 times.

G-d knows what He created, and well does he know our hearts, spirits, and minds. How could it not be so, if the hairs on our heads are numbered, and the length of our days set from the beginning.

If, as the Word says, we are wilting flowers, withering grass, vapors, breaths, fleeting, and our spirits not reconciled to G-d, we are better off trusting and accepting that which God will do through us by faith.

We are marked men and women, and the call is irrevocable. It is we who turn back, run away, and hide from it in our frailty.

G-d would have it that you answer the call, and enter into His rest through faith in the atoning work of His Son, who tells us there is already space:

In my Father’s house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. (John 14:2)

A house that contains mansions…. the G-d we serve, and love, and worship, is bigger than that.

Don’t make yourself small in His sight.

Therefore I pray:

Father in Heaven, 

I confess today, I have not always stepped forward with Isaiah’s desire to be sent to do Your will. My response has been one of fearful doubt, or I pretend not to hear, and go blithely on until I reach the dead end, crouch down at the end of the alley, and wait for darkness to hide me from Your sight. I hope the whole time it isn’t true that You see at midnight as You do at noonday, though I know it is.

Create in me a renewed heart of flesh, and not stone. Make my spirit right, make it as fertile soil where Your word takes root. Give me ears to hear, and in hearing, a will and heart to understand. 

I would not be tossed into the sea as Jonah, or given over to my enemies like Sampson, or give another my glory like Barack.

Replace my quavering spirit with Yours, my fast-beating, fearful heart with Yours, my hating, angry emotions with Your peace, my compromising with Your steadfastness, my backsliding with Your resolve to drink from the cup.

I lay my life down to You today, right now, as an imperfect fleece, dry and knotted, full of spots and stains and blemishes, and I say to You today, right now, water it with the dew of Heaven, and purify it for Your glory, and to Your purposes. 

I would like to say that on the peak of this mountain, where You see a mighty warrior imbued with the power of the Holy Spirit, I will not have to ask again, but I know I will.

And the beauty of knowing You is that You know it too, and will answer when I call.

Blessed be the Name of the Lord.

May it be done to me as You have said.

Amen.