Hebrews 12:14-29                      “God Is Consuming Fire”


            Peace. Today I want to start with the word “peace” because this passage that was read starts with the word “peace.” The word for “peace” in Greek is Ειρήνη (Irene), as many of you may know already because I used to always point this out while Irene Kennett was here worshipping with us before they moved to Blaine, Washington. Isn’t it great to have a name that means peace?  To be absolutely sure, the word Ειρήνη falls out of the regular Greek word order in this passage so that it may stand out and be emphasized as the first word of the sentence and paragraph. So, the English here should better read  “Peace pursue with all.” The emphasize is on “peace.”

            Peace is really difficult. War is easy. When we look at the history of the planet, we see a history of war only interrupted with brief moments of peace. This idea is not my own but I read first in a book by Richard Nixon (Yes, THAT Richard Nixon, former disgraced president of Watergate fame) who wrote a book a long time ago entitled Real Peace.  In that book, he discusses the notion that peace is more than the absence of war—or the intermission between wars. Peace is the hard work of reconciling differences and bringing true tolerance and understanding between peoples. It was Nixon who first went to China!

            I think about the history of Europe, for instance. They had so many wars that they ran out of names to call them. So, we learn from our history books about the “Hundred Years’ War.” By the way, that war actually lasted 116 years. It was between the English and the French. Not just Europe, but in the Americas we had the “Sixty Years’ War” that fought for control of the Great Lakes. There was also a “Sixty Years’ War” in Southern Asia, which is also called the “Caucasian War” because it was fought over the Caucus mountain region. Interesting to note how we do not talk about the “Hundred Years’ Peace” or the “Sixty Years’ Peace,” or even the “Caucasian Peace.” (ha ha)

            Sometimes we will mention in history the Peace Treaty of Versailles. Yet, we know already that that was just a very short intermission between the two World Wars. Peace is very difficult indeed.

            The writer of the Book of Hebrews is addressing this message to the Jewish community in Rome in the First Century. They must have heard these words being spoken in their meeting places and wondered “You’ve gotta be kidding me.” I know that today we speak of the Pax Romana, but there was no peace for Jews or Christians in those days. How to pursue peace when the other side is determined to have a war?

            Guess what? Satan and all the evil forces of this world do not want to have “peace” with us! Therefore, our pursuing peace is one of the most difficult and most Godly things we can do in this world. Amen to that!

            These words were of great comfort to me recently when I found myself in a very odd situation having been called to civil court as a witness this last Monday in a trial about an eviction here in Waimea. Although it was held in civil court, there was very little that was “civil” in the court. Prior to the judge coming in, the defendant verbally abused the bailiff, using angry tones and expletives. Then, the witnesses were excluded from the courtroom to wait for their turn. Actually, I think I was the only witness—and I am still not sure what testimony I was supposed to offer. Three minutes into the trial I could hear a commotion in the courtroom even though the soundproof doors were closed. The defendant was then brought out of the courtroom into the hallway by a sheriff. The defendant was still yelling vile expletives and threats to the judge. He was escorted out of the court building itself.

            I was opening the Bible again and looking up this verse. I had to be holy so that people there would see the Lord. I had to witness for God because the defendant was taken out by the sheriff already. “See to it that nobody fails to obtain the grace of God, that no root of bitterness springs up. . . .” “Through it many become defiled.”   My witness that day for Jesus was to keep my peace and show my trust in Him.

The defendant’s nephew came up to me afterwards and started verbally assaulting me with expletives. The sheriff came to me to see if I needed help. I told the sheriff that I was okay. The very last thing I said to this man was “Just wrap yourself in the trust of God.” And, that is how I witnessed in court on Monday!


            Now, when we look at the rest of this passage for this morning we see that there are many references to fire and the coming of the apocalypse actually. The last line of the text says that “God is an all consuming fire.” I challenge you this morning to put these ideas together—Are you ready? “Peace” and “Tribulation.” Will we be at peace at the time of the Tribulation? Will we be at peace when we finally meet God?

            The example that is given from the Old Testament in our reading for today is about when Moses himself is called up to Mount Sinai to meet God. The test says that Moses was trembling or shaking as he approached the burning bush, that is the fire of God. Why was he shaking? Was he at peace before God? Actually, Moses was not totally at peace before God. We know, and Moses knew, that he had sinned. He had in fact murdered an Egyptian slave master.

            Moses also knew that not even animals such as goats were allowed on that Holy Mountain. If innocent animals were not allowed, what was Moses doing up there? So, he trembled before God.

            What we are promised through Jesus Christ is that although God will shake the entire world--the entire world will tremble—we will be unshakeable because of our unshakeable faith in salvation through Jesus Christ.

            This idea is not new to the New Testament by the way. We find this throughout the Old Testament as well. Let me share Psalm 46 with you all. “God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear, though the earth should change, though the mountains shake in the heart of the sea, though its waters roar and foam, though the mountains tremble with its tumult. . . .He breaks the bow and shatters the spear; he burns the shields with fire. ‘Be still and know that I am God. . . .’”

            You know, we have not been in the Book of Daniel for a while which has this great story about Daniel refusing to worship other gods even at the pain of death. The edict came down that nobody could worship any other god besides the King. . . .his name was Darius. Believe it or not, Darius and Daniel were good with each other. You can read the book of Daniel in the Bible on your own to understand this friendship. When it was learned that Daniel refused to worship Darius, but continued to worship the God of Israel, Darius had no choice because he had written the edict about worship but to put Daniel into the lion’s den.

            Now, we can read in Daniel 6:18 “Then the king went to his palace and spent the night fasting; no food was brought to him, and sleep fled from him.” And, what of Daniel in the Lion’s den? He slept very well, thank you. He just snuggled up to those lions along with an angel sent by God to protect him.

            We can then read that the next morning King Darius rushed to the Lions Den and called out to Daniel: “Has your God saved you?” Daniel answers back, “Sure, my God saved me because I was found blameless.”

            Wait a minute: I have got to do that same Darius call with all of you this morning! You have all been in the Lions’ Den in all the struggles you have faced in your lives: “Has your God saved you?” Then, you all get to answer back “Yes, my God saved me!” Practice saying this because that is what we are all going to be calling out to each other when we are angels in heaven!

            Then we see in this story that Darius made a decree, “All in my royal dominion should tremble and fear before the God of Daniel: For He is the living God, enduring forever. His kingdom shall never be destroyed and his dominion has no end. He delivers and rescues. . . .” (Daniel 6:25-27a)


            What about this last line from our text in Hebrews today? Should we then fear the “consuming fire of God”? I have heard this line mis-translated and misquoted a few times in my life. Sometimes you will read or hear “all consuming fire of God.” Actually this fire does not in any way consume ALL. The text does not say “all.” Just like the shaking leaves that which is sturdy standing, the fire does not burn those who are “fireproof.”

            I used to be a firefighter. You all know that. We had an axiom that we lived by in the fire department: “Stand on the black.” What that means is that if you do not want to get burned or caught in the flames, you fight the fire from where the fire has already burned—stand on the black. Everywhere the faith is strong is where the fire has already burned. Your faith in Jesus Christ is where it is safe to stand. Jesus will make you fireproof. Just stand with Jesus! And, in that you will know the greatest peace.