Song #1 of the day: Good Morning by Mandisa
Come Holy Spirit, fill me with Your fire so that I can be more like You; help me, I trust You. Father, open my eyes so that I may see You clearly, open my ears so that I may hear You soundly, open my mind so that I may understand You more, open my heart so that I may love you completely, open my hands so that I may give generously and receive humbly, in Jesus‘ name, Amen.
Today‘s reading: Amos 1:1-4:5
So I will send a fire upon Judah, and it shall devour the strongholds of Jerusalem. Amos 2:5
Thus far in Amos the phrases “I will send fire upon _____“ & “it shall devour the strongholds of _________“ has appeared seven times. Now I don‘t know about you, but when God says something once I do my best to listen, but when God says something more than once, well, I do my best to pay close attention and obey! When I saw this phrase seven times (which is the number of completion) I knew that God was trying to, not just make a point but to send a message. The fire of affliction was coming, HE was the one sending it, and it would destroy all the strongholds of the people who were receiving it.
All too often we think that as Christians our afflictions come only from the Enemy that our pain is all from him. But that just is not the truth. God‘s word testifies against that theory over and over again and today‘s passages are proof of that. Like a spanking from a father who lovingly corrects his child so that their dangerous behavior doesn‘t happen again, this fire of affliction is from the hand of our Heavenly Father because He wants to destroy our strongholds. He wants to obliterate the things that hold us back from a perfect relationship with Him. Above every instance of the mention of the fire of affliction is the phrase “I will not revoke the punishment“, the affliction is a punishment. And for Judah, it is a punishment for following the Law of Moses over the Law of the Lord, Love.
God‘s Law was given to His people as a commandment to them to love one another more than they loved themselves. That Law hasn‘t changed one iota from day one! The Law to “love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind, and your neighbor as yourself“ (Deuteronomy 6:5 & Luke 10:27), that hasn‘t changed at all since it was first spoken thousands of years ago.
In these passages God explains to us through the prophet Amos what the purpose of the fire of affliction is for, to “devour the strongholds of Jerusalem“. The Israelites (and us) tended to find themselves depending more on their own strength, their own power, their own might, than on God‘s. But God wants us to “lean, not on our own understanding (or abilities) but in all our ways to acknowledge Him“ (Proverbs 3). He wants us to place our faith in HIM and not in ourselves. He wants us to trust His ability to keep us on the straight and narrow and not our own. The fire of affliction is intended to take away the thing that we are trusting more than God. If we are trusting in our savings to keep us from financial ruin, then God will devour those savings so that we are forced to once again place our trust in Him alone to keep us from begging for bread. If we are trusting in the medicine and doctors to heal us of our infirmities then God may take those doctors and that medicine away from us so that we have to remember that HE is the great healer. If we are relying on other people to bring us happiness and fulfillment then He may take those people out of our lives in order to bring our focus back to where it belongs, on Him.
The fire of affliction has its purpose in our lives. It is not sent to torture or to merely bring us pain, if it were then it wouldn‘t be from the LORD it would be from the Enemy. No, An enemy multiplies kisses, but wounds from a friend can be trusted (Proverbs 27:6). God is our friend, and the wounds from Him are given in love. “Does disaster come to a city unless the LORD has done it?“ (Amos 3:5)
God gave me the most beautiful picture of how He works in our lives through physical pain. My husband gave me a package of Godiva chocolates for Valentine’s Day this year. Each yummy caramel-filled chocolate was wrapped in beautiful gold foil. God had me hold one of those chocolates in my hand and stare at it. He said “While the wrapper is beautiful, it‘s not the best part of what‘s in your hand. If that wrapper gets dirty, or torn, or thrown away, you‘re not sad as long you still have the chocolate that was inside that wrapper. It‘s the chocolate that matters the most, not the wrapper. And if the wrapper needs to be sacrificed so that the chocolate survives, then it‘s worth the cost of that beautiful gold wrapper. That wrapper is your body, the chocolate is your soul, and it‘s your soul that matters the most to Me.“ If our bodies need to endure a “Light and momentary affliction“ (2 Corinthians 4:16-18) in order to save the chocolately goodness of our souls, then He is willing to do that. It‘s not that He doesn‘t care about that beautiful gold wrapper that surrounds and protects our souls; He will do everything that He can to keep it from falling into the mud and getting ruined. But sometimes, the wrapper just has to get sacrificed to save the chocolate.
And even when we are going through the fire of affliction, we‘re never alone. Daniel chapter three shares with us the story of Shadrack, Meshack, and A-bed-ne-go. These three men of God were exiled to Babylon where they served King Nebu-chad-nezzar they had been appointed over affairs of the province of Babylon. The king had built a giant golden statue and decreed that when the music played everyone in Babylon was to bow down to the statue and worship it. Shadrack, Meshack, and A-bed-ne-go refused to bow down and worship the statue because they would only worship the LORD. When they were confronted of this the king commanded that they be thrown in to the firey furnace that had been heated to seven times its normal temperature. To this the three men of God replied, “If this be so, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and He will deliver us out of your hand, O king. But if not, be it known to you, O king, that we will not serve your gods or worship the golden image that you have set up.“ They declared their faith in God‘s ability to save them from their circumstances, but they also pointed out that even if God chose not to save their bodies, they would still be delivered from the king‘s hands and safe within God‘s. They didn‘t know HOW God would choose to save them, whether He would snatch them from the fire completely or simply use it to burn off their gold wrappers and take home the chocolate, but either way they were trusting God completely to deliver them in His way of choosing.
What happened next is one of the most amazing things in all of history. When they were thrown into the fire, bound with their cloaks, tunics, hats and other garments on, the men doing the throwing died from the heat of the furnace, but Shadrack, Meshack and A-bed-ne-go did not die when they fell into the furnace. However, the cords that bound them burned off immediately allowing them to walk around in the fire. The king saw them walking around and said “Did we not cast three men bound into the fire?“ They answered “True, O king.“
“But I see four men unbound, walking in the midst of the fire, and they are not hurt; and the appearance of the fourth is like a son of the gods.“ In the darkest, most dangerous, terrifying, death-defying moment in these men‘s lives, someone with the appearance of a Son of God was WITH them in that fire. That fire served its purpose of burning off the cords that bound them from living freely and allowed them to walk with God in a way they had never been able to do before the fire.
King Nebu-chad-nezzar called into the fire “Shadrack, Meshack and A-bed-ne-go, servants of the Most High God, come out and come here!“ and when the men came out of the fire the king and his officials gathered around them in amazement to inspect these men who had survived the deathly fire. They saw that the fire had not had ANY power over the bodies of those men. The hair of their heads was not singed, their cloaks were not harmed, and no smell of fire had come upon them. Nebu-chad-nezzar answered and said, “Blessed be the God of Shadrack, Meshack and A-bed-ne-go, who has sent His angel and delivered His servants, who trusted in Him, and set aside the king‘s command, and yielded up their bodies rather than serve and worship any god except their own God. It was when they were willing to sacrifice their own bodies to glorify God that God chose to save every single hair on their heads and kept even the smell of fire off of the clothes they were wearing. The fire burned off the cords that bound them, but did not TOUCH the clothes that covered them. If they had not been willing to completely sacrifice themselves, if they had held their bodies in higher esteem than God‘s glory, then they would have saved their lives, but they would have lost so much more in the process. More than anything, they would have lost the experience of walking with God within a fire that killed the other men who even got close to it let alone IN it! We simply can not be afraid of the fire of affliction, it will not kill us. It can only make us stronger and faster by removing the things that are holding us back from a closer relationship with God.
God wants what is best for us, and what is best for us is HIM. King Nebu-chad-nezzar said it best “for there is no other god who is able to rescue in this way“. Only God is able to save us so completely that the fire of affliction can‘t harm us. Yes, it brings pain, sadness and hardships that make us uncomfortable – you know that fire still had to feel hot to them – but it did not harm them. We may suffer pain and possibly even lose a physical limb in the process, but we have to believe that that limb was worth the cost of potentially losing our souls!!! God would rather have us enter heaven with limbs missing than into the pit of hell with our bodies completely intact.
So I will send a fire upon Judah, and it shall devour the strongholds of Jerusalem. Amos 2:5
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. His winnowing fork is in His hand, to clear His threshing floor and to gather the wheat into His barn, but the chaff He will burn with unquenchable fire. Luke 3:16
Suddenly there came from heaven a sound like a mighty rushing wind, and it filled the entire house where they were sitting. 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. Acts 2:2-4
When the Spirit of truth comes, He will guide you into all the truth, for He will not speak on His own authority, but whatever He hears He will speak, and He will declare to you the things that are to come. He will glorify Me, for He will take what is Mine and declare it to you. All that the Father has is mine; therefore I said that He will take what is mine and declare it to you. John 16:13
So Jesus said to the Jews who had believed in Him, “If you abide in My word, you are truly my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.“
For though we walk in the flesh, we are not waging war according to the flesh. For the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh but have divine power to destroy strongholds. We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ, being ready to punish every disobedience, when your obedience is complete. 2 Corinthians 10:3-6
Allow God‘s Holy all-consuming Spirit of Truth that came in fire come and consume your strongholds today. Take every thought captive. Obey Christ. Love the Lord your God with EVERYTHING you have. He was with you before the fire, He is with you through this fire and He will be with you after it‘s over.
I can do all things through Him who strengthens me.
The fire of affliction has come, God is the one who sent it, and it will destroy all the strongholds of the people who receive it. Praise be to God!
Song #2 of the day: Through the Fire by the Crabb family