We have lot's of bonfires this time of year! This article is adapted from a recent Youth Club talk which looked at some of the times God has used fire to make his point, and when fire can hurt people.
God uses the word FIRE about 500 times in the Bible, and there are loads of other places where he uses words like smoke or flames too, but do you know which is the first time?
And Abraham took the wood of the burnt offering, and laid it upon Isaac his son; and he took the fire in his hand, and a knife; and they went both of them together. And Isaac spake unto Abraham his father, and said, My father: and he said, Here am I, my son. And he said, Behold the fire and the wood: but where is the lamb for a burnt offering? (Genesis 22:6-7)
The Jews had to make many kinds of sacrifice, and often had to burn up the animals they killed so that the smoke would drift up to Heaven. Abraham really trusted God and knew the Isaac would be OK. Remember how God saved him by stpping his hand?
Fire was important for Moses too. The first he knew that God wanted him to lead His people out of Egypt was when God spoke to him from the burning bush. Exodus 3:1-9
So finally Pharaoh let the people go, but he soon changed his mind and sent his soldiers to chase after them. The soldiers were drowned when they tried to cross through the Red Sea after the Jews.
Do you remember how God lead the people through the Wilderness? Exodus 13:21-22
God gave lots of rules to guide the lives of the Jews, and there is one which says that they mustn’t light a fire on the Sabbath Day - Exodus 35:3. To this day, strict Jews will not even switch a light on during the Sabbath, because it is like lighting a fire!
Do you remember the story about Elijah and the prophets of Baal? To prove to them that God is real, and can do anything, and that Baal was just a wooden statue who couldn’t do anything, he challenged the prophets to a contest. 1 Kings 18:23-25.
Well, we can read what happened. The prophets of Baal danced and sang and called on their god all day but the fire didn’t light but even after Elijah had poured loads of water over his sacrifice God lit it in a flash! 1 Kings 18:38.
Now fire can be very dangerous. It can burn us, and a burn is very painful and a bad burn can kill. It makes smoke which can make us cough, or can stop us breathing so that we might die – do you have a smoke detector at home? It can burn up our things or even our whole house. Have you seen The Monument, in London which marks the spot where the Great Fire of London started hundreds of years ago? The worst thing about fires is that they can get out of control. The might start very small, so the we could easily put them out if we wanted to, but before long the fire can get too big to put out and could burn up a great forest or even a city. We have to be very careful what we do with fires and must never play with fire.
Sometimes in the Bible, God uses things we can understand to explain things which maybe we find hard to understand, and there are a couple of places where He uses fire to help us understand. Proverbs 26:20
Words we say can be like a fire that has got out of control, and not just words we speak with our mouths but things we write too. James has an important lesson for us:
Likewise the tongue is a small part of the body, but it makes great boasts. Consider what a great forest is set on fire by a small spark. The tongue also is a fire, a world of evil among the parts of the body. It corrupts the whole person, sets the whole course of his life on fire, and is itself set on fire by hell.
All kinds of animals, birds, reptiles and creatures of the sea are being tamed and have been tamed by man, but no man can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison.(James 3:5-8)
If we say something unkind or untrue about someone we can hurt them, and soon other people may pick up what we have said and repeat it to even more people. Soon, loads of people are saying untrue or unkind things, just because we said something we shouldn’t have. These days we have mobile phones and text messages, or Facebook and it is so easy to start something we can’t stop. Then someone can get hurt – like we have lit a little fire that grew and grew until it was out of control.
So we need to be careful when we have bonfires, and just as careful about what we say, or text or post on our timelines!