Fire is both beautiful and dangerous. There is something about it that seems to draw us in. When I sit in front of a fire pit on a crisp dark night, I find that I am often mesmerized. But while fire attracts with its stunning movement and color, it also repels with its dangerous heat. It’s a fascinating paradox: you cannot get too close to it without being injured, and at the same time, you cannot look away.
It is no coincidence that in the Bible, God’s presence is often made manifest in fire. His holiness and wrath against sin cause us to approach Him with humility and reverence as broken sinners. And, in the first few chapters of Amos, the writer marshals the attention of the rebellious Israelites by using fire as a primary metaphor in his message. For Amos in particular, the imagery of fire is predominately used for judgment. It is abundantly clear in Amos chapters 1 and 2, that in response to Israel’s repeated rebellion, “God will not revoke the punishment” (1:3). Our God roars from Zion!
And yet, even as God has decided to judge the world for sin, His gavel falls only after a season of patient endurance. Thankfully, in the sweep of biblical history, we are able to see that God is slow to anger (Psalm 103:8). Like the Israelites of the Old Testament, we can cry, “Lord, have mercy.” And thankfully, God answers that cry, extending mercy to those who honor and fear Him (Psalm 33:18-19).
With the coming of Christ, the fire of judgment has been lit. The question for all of us is this: Will we cry out to God for mercy in Jesus Christ? Every person that has ever lived will acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord. That means that either we repent and confess Him by faith now, or we will confess Him in shame and terror on the last day. We will either be consumed in fiery wrath on the last day, or we can become the products of fiery refinement today. Our response to the gospel determines our outcome in the final day of fire.
The good news of the gospel is this: it is by grace through faith in Christ alone that we are delivered from death (Ephesians 2:8). He is calling out to us. “The Lord roars from Zion and makes his voice heard from Jerusalem” (Amos 1:2). And while we approach God with both humility and reverence, as Christians we can also rest in His steadfast love.
O Lord, be upon us, even as we hope in you.
Written by Matt Capps