THE FLAMING ONES
Let me forever be on a learning curve, and I have just been deeply moved by what I just learned about angels. The familiar passage in the sixth chapter of Isaiah has his well-known vision of God “sitting upon a throne, high and lifted up.” And then included in this picture of God in majesty are the angels, the seraphim, each with six wings. Two wings covered their feet, two covered their face, and two wings were used to fly. Together they said:
“Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts: the whole earth is filled with his glory!”
All this I have known for years, but what I only just discovered is that these angel attendants, called in Hebrew seraphs, have a name that means in Hebrew, “the flaming ones.” These glorious attendants who give God adoration are ablaze. They are radiant, burning worshippers. These praising, blazing angels are saying only one word, “Holy.” That’s the only word that was worthy to be sung at the throne in His presence.
So, what then is the application for us all? It is that God wants all of us to be aflame and to give Him honor with lips ablaze, with adoration from the heart. And we know that a blazing tongue marked the beginning of the church. It seems that God loves blazing servants!
“The supreme need of the church is the same in [this] century as in the first, it is men on fire for Christ.” James S. Stewart
Outstanding Christians through the ages were called “flaming servants of God.” In their holy passion they were often referred to as people “ablaze for God.” Charles Spurgeon said, “… We need red-hot, white-hot men, who glow with intense heat; whom you cannot approach without feeling that your heart is growing warmer; who burn their way in all positions straight on to the desired work; men like thunderbolts flung from Jehovah’s hand, crashing through every opposing thing till they have reached the target aimed at.”
It was Charles Wesley who wrote:
“Jesus, confirm my heart’s desire To work, and speak, and think for Thee; Still let me guard the holy fire And still stir up Thy gift in me”
God wants people lit with a holy flame, a kind of shekinah-glory—this is the New Testament norm: people aflame for His exclusive glory. David Brainerd prayed with passion, “Oh, that I might be a flaming fire in the service of the Lord.”
But a word of caution, this is God-given fire but not wildfire. Wildfire is a house burning down with people in it, but a controlled fire is within a powerful motor of a speeding race car. It’s the big difference between a fire in the fireplace providing heat and a fire in the attic creating destruction and danger.
John Stott was known worldwide as a preacher, evangelist, and a highly respected communicator of Scripture. He makes an insightful comment, so consider his discernment on this subject:
“The idea of being on fire for Christ will strike some people as dangerous emotionalism. ‘Surely,’ they will say, ‘we are not meant to go to extremes? You are not asking us to become hot-gospel fanatics?’ Well, of course, it depends what you mean. If by ‘fanaticism’ you really mean ‘wholeheartedness,’ then Christianity is a fanatical religion and every Christian should be a fanatic.”
Then he skillfully pointed out that for a follower of Christ wholeheartedness is something unique and special—it is “reflection which leads to commitment and commitment born of reflection. This is the meaning of wholeheartedness, of being aflame for God.”
With an evident blaze in his heart, George Liddell wrote:
“Give me a man of God, one man Whose tongue is touched with heaven’s fire, And I will flame the darkest hearts With high resolve and clean desire.”
When we open the Bible, it will be soon discovered that God chose fire to be the single most convincing evidence of His presence. In the Old Testament we find the glory of His shekinah presence—a mysterious fire and a heavenly flame. The people of Israel looked in their best moments to it as proof of His seal of approval. It indicated His presence and pleasure, His glory and guidance.
It has been pointed out that this burning shekinah disappeared totally from the Jewish nation until, as Jesus prophesied, He baptized the church with blazing tongues at Pentecost. (Matthew 3:11, Luke 3:16) After the display at Pentecost the fire was not external but internal, in the hearts of His people. The fullness of the Holy Spirit is said to have the characteristic of fire—it is the mighty ministry of the Holy Spirit. The church is made up of flaming-hearted followers of Jesus Christ.
The two at Emmaus said their hearts were “strangely warmed” and add to it a passion, a zeal to see His name glorified. That desire burns like a fire that will not go out. The Holy Spirit kindles that blaze within.
George Whitefield, the English evangelist of the 1700’s, was ablaze for God. He had a flaming spirit and a holy dynamic. Even the worldly gentleman Benjamin Franklin, who never became a Christian, nevertheless admitted that he was attracted to hear Whitefield preach in order to watch him burn. Many years later the prince of preachers in the twentieth century, D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones, openly insisted that true “preaching is theology coming through a man who is on fire.”
But let us not rush past the fact that fire not only speaks of divine energy displayed but holiness of life evidenced. Fire attracts, but fire also purifies; it is evidence of holiness in a life. We have as an obligation, as God’s people, to live in moral purity and Christ-like holiness. “… as he which hath called you is holy, so be ye holy in all manner of conversation” (I Peter 1:15), literally, in everything that you do.
Paul is specific as he blazes out these words, “For God has not called us to be dirty-minded and full of lust but to be holy and clean. If anyone refuses to live by these rules, he is not disobeying the rules of men but of God who gives his Holy Spirit …” (I Thessalonians 4:7-8, TLB)
“I feel there are two things it is impossible to desire with sufficient ardour,” said McCheyne of Scotland, “personal holiness and the honor of Christ in the salvation of souls.” Everything about our salvation was intended to burn away the impurities and to promote holiness of our life, burning like a consuming fire in the altar of the temple. Paul insisted, “And you know how our very lives were further proof to you of the truth of our message.” (I Thessalonians 1:5, TLB) That only happens with an unquestioned holy lifestyle, and it should be true of all of us.
It could be said in us His Spirit comes like a refiner’s fire or “like a blazing fire refining … Like a refiner of silver he will sit and closely watch as the dross is burned away. He will purify …” (Malachi 3:2-3, TLB) That is the process that is going on now; He uses all things to speed the process toward its completion. A holy lifestyle will produce a shekinah radiance in us, and very often, without our being aware of it.
And this means we intimately know Jesus and become one in spirit with Him, so that, we are transfigured into His likeness. (read II Corinthians 3:18) We become like mirrors that faithfully reflect the glory of the Lord. We cry, “Lord, as the process continues and You work within us, let us become more and more like You.” And then can it be rightly said that we are His “flaming ones” with both power and purity glorifying Him.