Calling Down Fire from Heaven

Fire And at the time of the offering of the oblation, Elijah the prophet came near and said, “O Lord, God of Abraham, Isaac, and Israel, let it be known this day that you are God in Israel, and that I am your servant, and that I have done all these things at your word. Answer me, O Lord, answer me, that this people may know that you, O Lord, are God, and that you have turned their hearts back.” Then the fire of the Lord fell and consumed the burnt offering and the wood and the stones and the dust, and licked up the water that was in the trench. And when all the people saw it, they fell on their faces and said, “The Lord, he is God; the Lord, he is God.” (1Ki 18:36-39)

But Elijah answered the captain of fifty, “If I am a man of God, let fire come down from heaven and consume you and your fifty.” Then fire came down from heaven and consumed him and his fifty. (2Ki 1:10)

Calling down fire from heaven was one of the hallmarks of the prophet Elijah. He did it on three occasions. Once, famously, on mount Carmel when he defeated the prophets of Baal, and twice more when two presumptuous military captains thought that fifty men were a more than a match for one man of God.

Elijah is also a powerful type of the church in the Old Testament. Those who in the Spirit and power of Elijah will prepare the way for the Lord by turning the disobedient back to the way of God, and preparing his people for his coming. Just as Elijah made way for Elisha (lit. Lamb of God) and John the Baptist prepared the way for the first coming of Jesus; the church are those with the ministry of getting the world ready for his second coming. Elijah must come first and restore all things.

Does this mean that the church should also be hallmarked by those who call fire down from heaven?

It's an interesting question. I wonder if James and John were thinking along these lines in Luke 9:54? Although though they clearly got the wrong end of the stick, they obviously had an expectation that they should be following the pattern of Elijah.

And when his disciples James and John saw it, they said, “Lord, do you want us to tell fire to come down from heaven and consume them?” But he turned and rebuked them. (Luke 9:54-55)

Jesus' rebuke makes it clear that if we are to call fire down from heaven it is not for the purpose of consuming our enemies. In fact, the disciples would have to wait for Pentecost to see the kind of fire he had in mind.

John answered them all, saying, “I baptize you with water, but he who is mightier than I is coming, the strap of whose sandals I am not worthy to untie. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and with fire. (Luke 3:16)

And divided tongues as of fire appeared to them and rested on each one of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit gave them utterance. (Ac 2:3-4)

It's a fire that does not consume, but rests and abides. A fire that does not destroy the enemies of God, but causes them to turn aside to see. A fire that does not fall upon a sacrifice of dead flesh, but a fire that falls upon living spiritual sacrifices that have laid their lives on the altar and soaked themselves repeatedly in the river of living water that flows out from within. It's a fire that falls upon a restored altar where the living stones are together in unity. It's a fire that falls in response to the prayer, "That they may know that you are God, and we are your people." It's a fire that causes the prophetic spirit to burn so bright within all that men fall down and exclaim, "The Lord, he is God! The Lord, he is God!"

These are the days of Elijah. Now is the time to call down this fire from heaven.


The Festal Shout!

A shout of joy Blessed are the people who know the festal shout, who walk, O Lord, in the light of your face. (Ps 89:15)

I'm back from a great week away at the Without Borders Bible Week. Although this verse wasn't mentioned, it highlights for me one of the main themes of the week.

One of the first prophetic words that came was that we are a people who enjoy the privilege of the light of the Lord's face upon us. Even Moses when he beheld the Lord's glory was not permitted to see his face.

Several times in the evening meetings there was a great shout of praise that went up to the Lord. Not forced, not manufactured, though on occasion encouraged, they were an entirely fitting and appropriate response to the presence of God in the midst of his people. A festal shout from a people celebrating the light of the Lord's face upon them.

The word translated here as "festal shout" is the Hebrew word "teruwah" - it represents a powerful tumultuous noise. It was used for a loud shout or cheer of joy, the blast of the trumpets, a war cry, and the sound of a tempest.

It was in response to the people of God's mighty shout [teruwah] that God brought down the walls of Jericho. It was with a joyful shout [teruwah] that the people of God responded when the ark of the Lord was brought into their midst (1Sa 4:5) and when the foundation of the Lord's temple was laid (Ezr 3:12).

I like the way the ESV translates this word as "festal shout" in Ps 89. The NASB uses "joyful sound" and the NIV just uses "acclaim" which doesn't really capture the means (or volume) of this acclimation of joy! You can't really imagine the walls of Jericho falling to a polite hand-clap and a muttering of "well done" or "good show!"

Perhaps this highlights a problem that exists in many of the expressions of the church today, where to shout in a church meeting seems strange, foreign, out of place, inappropriate or maybe even sacrilegious. Many believers today have lost the blessing of the festal shout.

Is it because we (in this country) are too British? I don't think so. Up and down the length of this nation you will hear roars of festal shouts rising from stadia every time a leather ball hits the back of a net. I've never yet had to hear a commentator address a home crowd and say. "Now we are going to watch the replay, and this time, when the ball goes in I want you to stand up and make some noise." It's a natural expression. It's almost unnatural not to raise a festal shout in such situations. Yet in the church, it seems so often such instruction is required. Those who have so much more to celebrate. Do we not realise the significance of what God has done, or do we not know how to respond?

I believe the problem is not too much Britishness (or insert other nationality here) but too much religion! Shouting is an affront to the high-minded religious prude that can lurk beneath the surface of our spirituality. While our inner child wants to shout with joy to the king, our inner Pharisee will try its best to reign it in.

But when the chief priests and the scribes saw the wonderful things that he did, and the children crying out in the temple, “Hosanna to the Son of David!” they were indignant (Mt 21:15)

Perhaps this is part of the blessing of the festal shout. It binds the spirit of religion and releases the true spirit of worship. It is an appropriate response from earth to heaven that provokes a response of blessing from heaven to earth.

He has not beheld misfortune in Jacob,
nor has he seen trouble in Israel.
The Lord their God is with them,
and the shout[teruwah] of a king is among them. (Nu 23:21)


Michael's Baptism

Today was a great day. I baptised Michael my five-year-old son. It was his second attempt. The first time he didn't go through with it because the water was too cold. This time, despite his enthusiasm, nerves nearly got the better of him - but I'm delighted to say that he overcame his apprehension and was one of about ten children baptised at the Without Borders Bible Week today. Praise God!


First mobile post

This is my first blog post from my mobile

Sent using a Sony Ericsson mobile phone


Prevention is better than cure

So put away all malice and all deceit and hypocrisy and envy and all slander. (1Pe 2:1)

Beloved, I urge you as sojourners and exiles to abstain from the passions of the flesh, which wage war against your soul. (1Pe 2:11)

Be subject for the Lord's sake to every human institution. (1Pe 2:13a)

Love the brotherhood. Fear God. Honour the emperor. (1Pe 2:17b)

I want to conclude my study on the warnings of Cain, Balaam and Korah by looking at this one chapter in 1st Peter.

I mentioned right at the start how my own preference is for example rather than warning (though we ignore the warnings at our peril). And I believe that the Scriptures have the same bias. I love the fact that before we ever get exposed to the danger of the poison of these three men, we have already been given the antidote!

Warnings are good for us, because they alert us quickly when the road we are going down is not good. They help us to turn around quick and get back on the right path. But there is a better way... and that is to never stray from the path in the first place.

That is why examples are better than warnings. They teach us to stay on the path, and not stray. If we learn what keeps us on the path that is pleasing to God we will not need to bring the correction that the warnings give us.

As dangerous as the errors of Cain, Balaam and Korah are, and though they have claimed many a man of God over the Centuries (the strategies of the enemy seldom change!) this one chapter in Peter, and verse 17 in particular gives us all we need to steer clear.

Love the brotherhood. Fear God. Honour authority.

If we cultivate a love for our brothers we block off the entrance to the way of Cain.

If we cultivate a fear of God, we see through the deception of Balaam's error.

And if we cultivate an attitude that honours all authority, both within the church and without, we separate ourselves from Korah's rebellion.


The Rebellion of Korah

Woe to them! For they walked in the way of Cain and abandoned themselves for the sake of gain to Balaam's error and perished in Korah's rebellion. (Jude 11)

Korah is the last of the three men Jude mentions who serve as eternal warnings. He is last, but by no means least!

Every time the people of God came to the temple of God to worship, they would see a sign that was to remind them of Korah's rebellion and warn them to steer clear from his folly. The bronze plating around the altar, where the people came to offer their sacrifices, was made from the hammered out censers from Korah and his followers. [Nu 16:39-40]

Nor is he just a warning under the old covenant. Jude makes that clear. His warning is just as relevant to us who are under the grace of the New Covenant.

What was Korah's rebellion? Let's have a look at what he said:

They assembled themselves together against Moses and against Aaron and said to them, "You have gone too far! For all in the congregation are holy, every one of them, and the Lord is among them. Why then do you exalt yourselves above the assembly of the Lord?” (Nu 16:3)

Korah basically makes two statements and then a conclusion:
Statement 1: All of God's people are holy.
Statement 2: God dwells in the midst of his people, whoever they are.
Conclusion: I've got just as much right to minister as you - so move over!

What is interesting is that although Korah's conclusion was wrong, his statements were spot on! In fact it shows that he had understanding, insight and revelation that went beyond many of his peers, for these are truths that do not fully come out until the New Testament.

Korah did not perish because of theological error - he perished because of his rebellion!

This is a sober lesson. It shows you can be right, and still be wrong! That is, your understanding and revelation is correct, but the way you go about communicating it or acting upon it is all wrong!

One of the most fundamental aspects of God's Kingdom is that it operates under authority. Not a democracy, certainly not a free-for-all, and not even a meritocracy. All authority belongs to God. Those who exercise authority in God's kingdom only have it because it has been delegated to them by God's choice and not because they necessarily deserved it more than others, and never because they decided to take it!

Consider the example of Christ:

who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, (Ph 2:6)

If anyone was worthy to take authority for himself it was Jesus. Yet he did not grasp at authority, but rather submitted to it. He only did what he saw his father doing, even though he was the very equal to God the Father himself.

Jesus showed us the way of the Kingdom. You do not grasp at what you think you deserve, but humble yourself and allow God to raise you up:

Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name (Ph 2:9)

Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you (1Pe 5:6)

You see Korah, although he had the correct understanding, had the wrong attitude. He thought he could short-circuit the need for authority amongst God's people and elevate himself in the process. As such, he bears the pattern not of Christ, but of Satan!

You said in your heart, ‘I will ascend to heaven; above the stars of God I will set my throne on high; I will sit on the mount of assembly in the far reaches of the north. (Isa 14:13)

Jude describes such men as "wandering stars". This is a useful illustration. God arranged the stars in he heavens as he saw fit. Assigning a glory (brightness) and position to each. The brightest are not always at the top, nor are the ones at the bottom the most dim. The stars often represent the people of God in the scriptures.

The attitude of Satan was that he would exalt himself above the stars of God. He wanted a glory and a position that had not been given to him. He did have glory and position, but he was not content with that, he wanted more.

Likewise the "wandering stars" are not those who are devoid of influence, revelation or gifting in the Church. Korah shows this is not the case. It is those who "wander" outside of the measure and sphere of authority they have been given and seek to take a position which does not belong to them.

The priesthood of all believers does not equate to the eldership of all believers! There is still a godly order in God's house that must be submitted to. Those who think they can be their own source of authority, or who want to set themselves against those whom God has appointed for that role, had better take another look at Korah... and learn fast!

You may think you know better; you may even be right! But the path of blessing is never found outside of the way of submission to Godly authority.