Our God is so good that even though we mess up, He makes a way for us to have relationship with Him. With the fall to sin from Adam and Eve, we don’t get to experience God in the way that He wanted to. We can’t walk with Him in the Garden of Eden but He has showed us several ways that He manifests His presence among us so that we may have relationship with Him.
One of the ways that God manifested His presence was as a consuming fire. We are not just talking about a small lit flame or even a big campfire, but the unquenchable, overwhelming, spirit of the Glory of God. He first revealed Himself as a consuming fire to Moses, through the burning bush and then later to the people of Israel as they traveled through the desert fleeing from their bondage from Egypt.
“On the morning of the third day there was thunder and lightning, with a thick cloud over the mountain, and a very loud trumpet blast. Everyone in the camp trembled. Then Moses led the people out of the camp to meet with God, and they stood at the foot of the mountain. Mount Sinai was covered with smoke, because the LORD descended on it in fire. The smoke billowed up from it like smoke from a furnace, and the whole mountain trembled violently. As the sound of the trumpet grew louder and louder, Moses spoke and the voice of God answered him. The LORD descended to the top of Mount Sinai and called Moses to the top of the mountain. So Moses went up.” Exodus 19:16-20
God revealed His presence to the people but He had to hide Himself in the midst of a cloud because His glory is too great for mankind to behold. God’s presence is so Holy that He can only manifest a portion of His glory through a consuming fire so that we may have relationship with Him. If God’s presence was so great for the people, why did He chose to dwell among them? Even though God couldn’t walk with them like in the garden, He wanted the people to know Him. God displayed Himself to the people so that He could give them guidance and direction but also that they would know that He was God.
“Ask now about the former days, long before your time, from the day God created human beings on the earth; ask from one end of the heavens to the other. Has anything so great as this ever happened, or has anything like it ever been heard of? Has any other people heard the voice of God speaking out of fire, as you have, and lived? Has any god ever tried to take for himself one nation out of another nation, by testings, by signs and wonders, by war, by a mighty hand and an outstretched arm, or by great and awesome deeds, like all the things the LORD your God did for you in Egypt before your very eyes? You were shown these things so that you might know that the LORD is God; besides him there is no other. From heaven he made you hear his voice to discipline you. On earth he showed you his great fire, and you heard his words from out of the fire. Because he loved your ancestors and chose their descendants after them, he brought you out of Egypt by his Presence and his great strength, to drive out before you nations greater and stronger than you and to bring you into their land to give it to you for your inheritance, as it is today. Acknowledge and take to heart this day that the LORD is God in heaven above and on the earth below. There is no other.” Deuteronomy 4:32-39
Not everyone was able to have a personal relationship with God, to be in His presence. To be close to God it required discipline, obedience and willingness to come to Him. Very few got the opportunity, but Moses for example, had favor in the sight of the Lord, so he was chosen to intercede for the people of Israel.
“As Moses went into the tent, the pillar of cloud would come down and stay at the entrance, while the LORD spoke with Moses. Whenever the people saw the pillar of cloud standing at the entrance to the tent, they all stood and worshiped, each at the entrance to their tent. The LORD would speak to Moses face to face, as one speaks to a friend. Then Moses would return to the camp, but his young aide Joshua son of Nun did not leave the tent.” Exodus 33:9-11
Moses was able to speak face to face with God and when he died, at the age of 120 years old, he still retained his sight and natural vigor because he had walked in the midst of God’s presence. The people could see from his face when he was in the presence of God, because he reflected God’s glory.
God’s presence as a consuming fire shows us His power and glory but also the relationship that we can have with Him just as Moses did. God heeds us to obey Him and worship Him only so that we can receive the most of His blessing. That we can also receive His favor, shine His glory upon our face and let His consuming fire purify our hearts.