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Worship

Learn How to Party

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In the days of King Hezekiah - one of the best kings to ever rule over the southern kingdom of Judah - the king called the people to once again celebrate the Passover.  For some reason, the people had been neglecting the feasts of the Lord for a very long time.  Maybe the paganism of the surrounding nations had gradually influenced them to adopt more of their own customs and celebrations, or maybe the various kings who came before had neglected their God-given responsibility to make their own copies of the Law, and thus were unaware that they were commanded to celebrate these things, or maybe it just happened that over time the people stopped thinking that all of those feasts were important enough to justify making a long and expensive journey to Jerusalem.  More than likely all three of these things contributed to the long neglect of God’s feasts.

But the somewhat surprising detail in the story of this historic return to faithfulness is just how much the people all enjoyed participating in the celebration.

“And the people of Israel who were present at Jerusalem kept the Feast of Unleavened Bread seven days with great gladness, and the Levites and the priests praised the Lord day by day, singing with all their might to the Lord.” (2 Chronicles 30:21)

This is such a beautiful picture to me.  The people of Israel, who had been almost indistinguishable from the people of the nations around them for so long, suddenly found their faith and their joy when they were together in obedience!  It reminds us of the importance of not neglecting to meet together with the saints (Hebrews 10:25).  We need each other as we seek to live out all that God commanded.  This is a massively multiplayer game, not a single-player one.

This story of the renewed Passover also makes me long for the kind of thing that we see happening in Acts:

“And they devoted themselves to the apostles' teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers...And day by day, attending the temple together and breaking bread in their homes, they received their food with glad and generous hearts, praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to their number day by day those who were being saved.” (Acts 2:42,46-47)

Christian joy, fulfillment, and - dare I say - happiness are really very easy to foster.  All it really takes is to meet together often - even in your homes - and spend time fellowshipping, eating, and discussing the apostles’ teachings.  This is the God-prescribed cure for loneliness, doctrinal decline, and lack of morals all rolled into one!  What is striking to me is how few churches actually seem to understand this.

Some modern churches reduce the number of meeting times under the false assumption that requiring too much of twenty-first century Americans will chase them all off.  They are so busy and have such short attention spans, after all.  Not to mention, the kind of churches that like to do this don’t really have much to share anyway.  Their doctrine is so shallow, it wouldn’t even get your shoes wet.

Other churches - more doctrinally robust churches - tend to swing the pendulum another direction.  Not understanding the value of true fellowship, they fill every single meeting with a formal program, or else prefer Bible studies to be the kind of affair where only one person speaks.  This kind of buttoned-up stiffness can choke the life out of a church just as surely as a lack of doctrinal purity.

So let’s remember the value of getting together regularly.  We need each other!  Our souls are fed by the worship and fellowship of our brothers and sisters.  And when we do get together, remember to take time just to catch up with each other - and get to know the newer faces.  God has built this spiritual house for the purpose of showing His glory as it is assembled weekly into the visible church for His worship, according to His command.  And if there is no time to pray honestly with one another, or to discuss the apostles’ teaching with one another, then look for ways to make happen, because in so doing there is great, soul-sustaining joy that is free for the taking.

Reform

Josiah and Hezekiah are almost everyone's favorite kings of the Old Testament, and rightfully so!  Both of these men were wholly devoted to God and to His Word, and sought to be obedient to Him in everything that they did.  And somehow the Bible says of both of them that "Before him there was no king like him, who turned to Yahweh with all his heart and with all his soul and with all his might, according to all the Law of Moses, nor did any like him arise after him" (2 Kings 23:25, cf. 18:5). And what did they do that was so right in the eyes of God?  They smashed idols.  They tore down pagan altars, they removed the high places where the people in the land were disobediently worshiping Yahweh (remember that He had told them that they were only to offer sacrifices at His temple, not just any old place they liked), they put mediums and necromancers to death, and they re-instituted proper forms of worship that had been neglected, like Passover.  In short: they cleaned house - literally - because they cleaned God's House.

But before all of that could happen, something else was going on in Judah.  You see, for those kings to be able to clean house to the degree that they did, someone must have been out there dirtying it up!  When you slow down and really read 2 Kings chapter 23, and you find out all about the abominations that Josiah had to remove, it ought to be quite shocking.  There were vessels made for Baal and for Asherah and all of the host of heaven inside the temple (v. 4)!  Previous kings had actually ordained priests for the forbidden high places (v. 5).  There were houses for male cult prostitutes set up within the temple complex (v. 7).  There were pagan altars at the gates of the city (v. 8), pagan altars in the valley where people burned their children (v. 10), giant golden horse idols dedicated to sun worship at the gates of the temple (v. 11), pagan altars on the roof and in the temple courts (v. 12), and there were pagan pillars and poles and altars and shrines all throughout the land (vv. 13-14).  It just goes on and on!

And yet, if you would have asked anyone in Jerusalem which God that they served, they would have proudly declared that they were the people of Yahweh!  They had the temple of the mighty Yahweh in their midst!  They were His people - His possession!  But they had brought all of this other abominable crap right into the heart of His temple and had completely defiled His worship and provoked Him to wrath.  How could this be?

The answer: they had forgotten to closely obey the Word of God and had increasingly allowed the world to influence their worship.  The Book of the Law had lain hidden in the temple for generations before Josiah's officials found it and read it to him.  But other kings had heard the Word of God and yet they still allowed all of this garbage to go on in their land.  What was different about Josiah?  What made him so great was that he heard the Word like a child and embraced it like he would have as if they were instructions from a beloved Father.

The sorry state of worship in Josiah's day was sadly not unique to his time, however.  The grand majority of churches in our own day - even the 'conservative' ones - have started to look a lot different from the simple instructions given for congregations in the Bible.

Now, let me just pause right there and say that I hate legalism.  I think that it is the absolute worst danger to the health of any church.  We should rightly avoid telling other Christians to do things "our way" without a direct Scriptural command from God to do so.  I feel like I need to say this here in this paragraph before you get to the next one, because without this disclaimer you're most likely going to get pretty angry with me.  Just understand that I am right there with everyone else in the modern church, and I don't pretend to have all of the answers.

So permit me just for a moment to list a small selection of examples that I can see in the modern church (especially the protestant evangelical church) of where we have softened our resolve and discipline with respect to ideas and practices that are taught in the Bible.

  • We don't sing to one another in psalms, even though we are told to do so.
  • We have conceded to the world the naming of the days of the week after pagan deities.
  • We celebrate the birth and resurrection of Christ at special times during the year when we were not commanded to do so - and we often join this practice to a lot of other worldly nonsense.
  • We structure our worship services so rigidly as a sort of 'performance' that there is little to no opportunity for the kind of spontaneous worship that we see in passages like 1 Corinthians 14:26-33.
  • Our women don't cover their heads while praying or prophesying, even though the Scripture says that they should.
  • We create 'staff' positions like Youth Minister and Children's Minister and others without any Biblical warrant for doing so.
  • We put all kinds of people in positions of teaching authority without even seriously holding them up to 'deacon' (servant) standards - much less elder standards.
  • We will divide the body according to musical preference or Bible translation preference or age or whatever - flying in the face of the Scriptural importance of oneness and unity.

Now, this is a pretty eclectic list, and it certainly is by no means exhaustive.  Your own church might not participate in some of these things, and instead it may add others to the list.  But as I said, my purpose for pointing these things out is not to say that there is one and only one way of doing church 'correctly', but rather that when I look around at what has become 'normal' or even 'traditional' in a lot of our churches, I see us drawing closer and closer to the chaos of Israel prior to the reforms of kings Hezekiah and Josiah.

So what is the solution?  Step one is not to come up with a blueprint of the perfect church.  Step one is really just to open our eyes to the possibility that we may be overstepping some of our freedoms when we decide to do this or that in church.  Step one is being open to the fact that traditions may not be Biblical after all.  Then step two - I suppose - would be to read the Scriptures with a heart and mind that are willing to be taught, especially in this area of how we should worship.  After all, that's where Hezekiah and Josiah started, and it seemed to work out pretty well for them.

Convenient Worship

I think that King Jeroboam of the northern kingdom of Israel must be the patron 'saint' of the modern American church.  You remember king Jeroboam, right?  He was the one who came before Solomon's son Rehoboam to ask that he reduce the heavy burden of labor that Solomon had forced onto the people.  And after King Rehoboam denied the request, it was Jeroboam who led the rebellion of ten of the tribes of Israel, and who himself was crowned king of those tribes in the north. And Jeroboam hadn't been king very long before he started to see a potential problem for his kingdom.  The fact that the temple of Yahweh was located in Jerusalem would mean that a good many of his people would still travel down to the south in order to worship as Yahweh required at His temple.  He was worried that as his people traveled thus several times per year their hearts would gradually return to the southern king of Judah.  So, Jeroboam came up with a plan, and this is why I say that he must be the patron 'saint' of the modern American church.

First, King Jeroboam would make the pilgrimage to the place of worship more convenient.  Instead of the one temple down in Judah, now the northern king told his people that there were two new alternatives for worship much closer right there in the land of Israel.  He put one of these places in Bethel and one in Dan (1 Kings 12:29).  Now the people would not have to travel so far: a welcome change from the oppressive commands of old!

Second, King Jeroboam made some symbols that people could look at to focus their worship.  Instead of just a place to bring sacrifices and pray, now they had some beautiful golden calves to give their worship some meaning beyond simply bringing the offerings that God required.  Worshipers could focus their attention and finally feel like their god was a little closer to them.  This made the god easier to manage: less spiritual, invisible, all-powerful, and holy.  He became more familiar to them; they could finally understand the one that they worshiped.

Third, King Jeroboam removed the stringent requirements on who could and could not officiate temple service.  Yahweh had commanded that only the Levites could serve the temple, but Jeroboam saw the oppression in that and so he let anyone who desired to do so become one of the leaders of worship (1 Kings 13:33).  Gone now were all of the arguments of years gone by over who could be the special ones who serve the temple.  Now anyone who wanted an inside job with little heavy lifting could sign right up.  This was progress!

Fourth, King Jeroboam invented his own feast days (1 Kings 12:33).  Those others that Yahweh had commanded weren't as good as the ones that he could "devise from his own heart", so he set up new ones.  After all, what could possibly be wrong with inventing a new celebration of worship?  It all just adds to the experience!

Finally, he removed senseless restrictions on where people could worship.  Sure, he had already made the two temples at Bethel and Dan for convenience, but he also allowed the people to worship on any old high hill that they desired.  Yahweh had said that this was off-limits, but the new easier-to-understand gods that Jeroboam had made didn't care one bit!  If you want to worship over there on that mountain in your own way, why should anyone stop you?  The new worship is all about what makes you feel good about the experience!

Note as you read the chapters concerning Jeroboam in 1 Kings that there are no stories of any other sin that the man might have committed.  We are not told about adulteries, murders, covetousness, abortion, homosexuality, or any other 'low' sin that he may have been involved in.  Far more destructive than any of those things in God's eyes is what this king did concerning the worship of Yahweh: how he broke from the clear instructions that God had given in order to make things more convenient and to not have to tell anyone, "No!  You can't do that!"  And the pronouncement that we have in the Scripture concerning all of Jeroboam's changes was that, "this thing became sin to the house of Jeroboam, so as to cut off and to destroy it from the face of the earth" (1 Kings 13:34).

Sadly, it is far too easy to see the many parallels between Jeroboam's great sins and our own in the modern American church.  We try to remove every obstacle we can that might keep lost people from coming to church (even though the gathered worship is for believers and not unbelievers anyway), but in doing so, we remove a lot of what God has commanded should be in there.  We are constantly about the business of reducing God down to a manageable size: something that we can comprehend and that exists only to serve us.  We loathe to tell anyone "No" in worship, and let just about anyone stand behind the pulpit, teach our children in Sunday School (which is itself one of those added-on things that has become a sacred cow in today's church), lead the singing, or whatever.  We invent holidays and celebrate them like we want to (when was the last time you saw a command in the Scripture to celebrate Christmas or 'easter' - named after a pagan goddess that Jeroboam was even credited as worshiping?).  Our worship is all about doing what you feel is right and what makes you happy - what gives you the 'warm-fuzzies'.

God has not refused to speak on the kinds of things that He demands be a part of His worship in New Testament times.  It isn't as if He only really cared about such things during the Mosaic Covenant.  He has purposefully given us many instructions all throughout the New Testament epistles on how we should do church, but tragically most of these get completely ignored in favor of "what we've always done".  Tradition and whim are not the determiners of what true worship should be - God is!  Let's covenant more faithfully to pattern our churches and our worship on what He has said and leave "the devices of our own hearts" outside the doors.

Detention

In 1 Samuel chapter 21 we have one of the most puzzling stories in the Old Testament.  This is the one where David and his men come to Nob - which was apparently where the tabernacle had been set up in those days - and David asks Ahimelech the priest to give them some of the Bread of the Presence because they were hungry. The story is puzzling because we are left unsure as to who did the right thing here and who did the wrong thing.  David is the 'good guy'; he's the hero is so many of these stories.  Saul and his men are the 'bad guys.'  And yet here David does something that is forbidden for him to do: he takes and eats the Holy Bread.

You shall take fine flour and bake twelve loaves from it; two tenths of an ephahshall be in each loaf. And you shall set them in two piles, six in a pile,on the table of pure goldbefore the LORD. And you shall put pure frankincense on each pile, that it may go with the bread as a memorial portion as a food offering to the LORD. Every Sabbath day Aaron shall arrange it before the LORD regularly; it is from the people of Israel as a covenant forever. Andit shall be for Aaron and his sons, andthey shall eat it in a holy place, since it is for him a most holy portion out of the LORD’s food offerings, a perpetual due. (Leviticus 24:5-9)

This bread was reserved only for Aaron and his sons (the family of the High Priest); it was not lawful for anyone else to partake of it.  Jesus even points this out in Matthew 12:3-4: "Have you not read what David did when he was hungry, and those who were with him:how he entered the house of God and ate the bread of the Presence, which it was not lawful for him to eat nor for those who were with him, but only for the priests?"

So is what David did excusable?  Is what Ahimelech did in giving the Bread to David and his men excusable?  Many say yes.  Even one of my great heroes, John Gill, says that pretty much anything is excusable when we're dealing with the preservation of life, and so of course this act is excusable.  I have to take issue with that, though.  Would it have likewise been excusable - it would still have been in the name of preservation of life - if David's men had not kept themselves morally pure on their journey?  As I cited earlier, Jesus said that what they did was unlawful.  The Law does not have some kind of "unless they're really hungry" loophole that suddenly makes everything okay.  Therefore, I think we have no choice but to see this act as a violation of one of the things that God called "most holy" (Leviticus 24:9).

If that is the case, then what follows makes a good deal more sense.  We are told that "a certain man of the servants of Saul was there that day, detained before Yahweh.  His name was Doeg the Edomite" (1 Samuel 21:7).  Phrases like that always catch my attention.  From a human standpoint, a real villain enters the story at this point.  Here is the man who will rat out Ahimelech, telling Saul exactly what he did for David and his men.  And when Saul declares that all of the priests shall be killed for helping his enemy, no one but Doeg the Edomite - this very villain - will lift his sword to carry out the death sentence.  And yet we are told very clearly that this man was "detained before the LORD."

What could that phrase possibly mean?  Since it was the Sabbath day, it could mean that Doeg was "detained" within a Sabbath-day's walk of the tabernacle, unable to travel any further until the following day.  It could mean that he was there to fulfill some sort of vow and so could not leave until that was done.  Regardless of why he was there, though, the fact remains that his detention was a part of God's plan.

There's a reason why God's Name is evoked in that statement: "detained before Yahweh".  God had a purpose for his presence.  Whatever else we may guess about Doeg and his business, we know this much: it was he who got the priests killed, and it happened by his hand.  And so God was in the deaths of these priests.  The text never goes so far to tell us that they died because they defiled the holy things of Yahweh, but it is certainly not a big stretch given similar stories in the Old Testament (Nadab and Abihu come to mind, as does Uzzah and the ark).

All of these stories of deaths surrounding the violation of God's holiness ought to leave us with a healthy and profound fear of misusing any of God's "holy things".  This fear should really hit home for us in the area of worship.  Aside from the holiness of His own Name - which is protected by one of the Ten Commandments - nothing else seems more jealously guarded by God than His formal worship (of which the Holy Bread was only one part).  Oh, we must be so careful to worship our great God only in the ways that He has proscribed.  He does not want our innovation (He showed that with Nadab and Abihu), but only our obedience.  Let us strive to worship Him the way that He commands and leave all of our other ideas at the door.

Those Horrible Saturdays

For some reason I hate Saturdays.  It was not always so.  Saturday was the great free day; you could do whatever you wanted on that day.  It was a day to hang out with friends, explore a new mall, go see a movie, pretty much anything your heart desired.  Then I became a pastor, and while Saturday didn't stop being a day to try to do the things listed above, there is now one huge difference: I have to preach the next morning. What this means for our family is that all the fun stuff has to come to a crashing halt at about 8:00 PM so that my wife can plan her Sunday School lesson (she teaches the young children) and iron the family's clothes and so that I can attempt to get "re-attuned" to God after a day of pursuing other things and then go over my sermon for the next morning.

When I say that I have to "re-attune" myself to God, what I mean is spending a significant amount of time in prayer seeking God's face, reading a good portion of His Word in order to hear His voice, and then trying to relive all that I have studied throughout the week so that I can get to where I need to be spiritually in order to proclaim His Word the following morning.  In biblical terminology it would be called "consecrating yourself for worship" (Exodus 19:10, Joshua 3:5).  In the Old Testament, this action of consecration was seen as a necessary condition in order to see and experience the wonders of God's presence.

Now if that is the case, I want you to think for a second about what the Enemy has done in America by working it so that there are two days off on the weekends for most people.  Those who hate God use Sunday as their day to play the hardest, tempting those who would otherwise like to be a part of worship in a church somewhere to join them.  But even apart from this temptation, and much more sinisterly subtle, by having another day off right before the day of worship, Christians are encouraged to do everything but consecrate themselves for worship the following day.  In fact, we usually desecrate ourselves with an overabundance of worldliness on Saturday that it is impossible for us to indulge in on any other day because of our work schedules.

Now, as I said earlier, I never had the opportunity to even notice this before I became the pastor of a church.  I always played right up until I went to bed on Saturday night, not really ever thinking about the need to consecrate myself for worship.  And I know that I am not alone.

How much more of God might we experience in our worship services on Sunday mornings if the majority of our people actually made their hearts ready for worship on the day before?  How much more of God's glory might be evident in my sermons if I spent the entire day on Saturday consecrating myself for worship rather than just the last three hours of the evening?  What we all seem to be doing is wrapping the weeds of the world (Matthew 13:22) tightly about us on the very day that we ought to be digging them up.  And then we wonder why the church in America is so fruitless these days.

Beware the One-Handed Woman!

The miscellaneous laws of the Old Testament are just awesome.  If you've never taken the time to read through a book like Deuteronomy, then you need to.  It's a real treat.  Not only is this where Jesus got all of the ammunition that He used against the Devil during His temptation in the wilderness (Matthew 4:1-11), but there are also some rare gems among the various laws. Now, I don't mean in any way to make fun of the law that I'm about to discuss, but it's one of those rules that makes me chuckle when I read it.  It makes me think of playground hi-jinks and people making funny faces.  I'm talking about Deuteronomy 25:11-12.

When men fight with one another and the wife of the one draws near to rescue her husband from the hand of him who is beating him and puts out her hand and seizes him by the private parts, then you shall cut off her hand. Your eye shall have no pity.

I suppose you could say that I have an "immature" sense of humor for laughing when I read a law that mentions seizing someone by the "private parts", but so be it.  This is a funny picture in my mind.

The Law makes it clear, however, that this is in no way a minor offense.  Other cultures and religions have various situations in which a person's hand is to be cut off as punishment for an offense, but this is the only case in the Bible's Law that calls for this particular penalty.  But what makes it such a serious crime?  Why take such drastic measures against an action that seems rude but not overly injurious (other than that sickening pain)?

Well, I suppose you could say that since the "eye for an eye, tooth for a tooth" law can't possibly apply here, something else had to be done, but I don't think that's it.  The true answer probably lies a couple of chapters back in Deuteronomy 23:1, "No one whose testicles are crushed or whose male organ is cut off shall enter the assembly of the LORD."  In other words, the woman who reaches out to grab hold of her husband's enemy's "private parts" may end up permanently disqualifying him from participating in the worship assembly.

Sadly, there are a lot of men sitting through worship services in our churches today that probably wish that there was something to disqualify them from having to be there.  Men have become so effeminate in our culture that they abandon the spiritual headship of the home to their wives while they go out and do supposedly "manly" things.  In the Bible, however, faith and worship are extremely masculine pursuits.  One could make a joke concerning these laws that I've mentioned about what you have to have to be able to worship.

Worship of the Almighty Creator and King of the cosmos is at once our highest privilege and the most natural expression of our faith.  Worship is not our right.  God makes that clear by denying many people access to the assembly (Deuteronomy 23:1-8).  It is a gracious blessing to be able to draw near to God, even just to be able to sing with others about His greatness.  But this is exactly what the man who loves God with all his heart, soul, mind, and strength greatly desires to do.  When something or someone is truly praiseworthy, we long to give the deserved praise.

Men who show little or no desire to be in worship ought not to kid themselves that they are genuine believers.  Disobeying the Word of God when it commands attendance at worship (Hebrews 10:25) is not a "cool" and "manly" thing to do.  It is a faithless and cowardly thing.  Real men worship God with all their hearts.  The rest may as well just go ahead and emasculate themselves (Galatians 5:12).

Heavenly Worship

The following quote is from the book, For the Life of the World: Sacraments and Orthodoxy, by Alexander Schmemann, cited in the book, Days of Vengeance: An Exposition of the Book of Revelation, by David Chilton:

The early Christians realized that in order to become the temple of the Holy Spirit they must ascend to heaven where Christ has ascended.  They realized also that this ascension was the very condition of their mission in the world, of their ministry to the world.  For there - in heaven - they were immersed in the new life of the Kingdom; and when, after this 'liturgy of ascension,' they returned into the world, their faces reflected the light, the 'joy and peace' of that Kingdom and they were truly its witnesses.  They brought not programs and no theories; but wherever they went, the seeds of the Kingdom sprouted, faith was kindled, life was transfigured, things impossible were made possible.  They were witnesses, and when they were asked, 'Whence shines this light, where is the source of its power?' they knew what to answer and where to lead men.  In church today, we so often find we meet only the same old world, not Christ and His Kingdom.  We do not realize that we never get anywhere because we never leave any place behind us.

Unburnable Bush

The bush that burns without being consumed (Exodus 3) is a puzzle.  It's just as puzzling to readers today as it was to Moses thousands of years ago.  We want to stop and examine this phenomenon just as much as he did. Why is the bush not burned?

Clearly this meeting is full of revelation from God.  This is where He revealed His eternal Name to His servant Moses.  The signs of the staff-tuned-snake-turned-staff and the hand-made-leprous-made-clean also revealed something about God's power and character.  The instruction for Moses to remove His sandals because the ground was holy further revealed God's character.  But what was the fire in the bush saying?

Moses gives us an indication that the significance of this theophany (a display of God's presence) is radically different than we might at first think in Deuteronomy 4:24: "For Yahweh your God is a consuming fire, a jealous God."  How does the man who first meets God in the symbol of a bush not being consumed with fire end up declaring that this same God is a consuming fire?

What we find here at the bush is nothing less than the wonder and mystery of the gospel.  The fire of God speaks everywhere of His judgment.  It was fire from God that consumed Nadab and Abihu for not worshiping in the commanded way (Leviticus 10:1-2).  He is the jealous God that consumes all who will not worship Him in eternal flames (Deuteronomy 4:24, Revelation 14:11).  This fire is holy fire from a God that is "of purer eyes than to see evil and cannot look at wrong" (Habakkuk 1:13).  And yet here, in this dry bush in the desert - a plant that should be consumed almost instantly - the fire dwells but does not consume.  And standing before the bush is a murderer (Exodus 2:12).

From the expulsion from Eden to this point in God's revelation of Himself to man there has only been one sin enumerated that carries with it the death penalty, and that's murder (Genesis 9:6).  So now here, standing before the presence of the Judge of the universe is one who has no right to appeal the sentence he deserves, and yet God appears as a flame that does not consume.  Herein is the essence of the gospel: the God who made us is a holy and just God who must punish sin, and yet He is also merciful and gracious, giving life where death is due.

How can He do this?  This is the wonder of Christ and His substitutionary atonement.  Sin must be consumed by God's holy wrath, it cannot simply be forgotten.  To simply forget sin would mean that God has no concern for justice.  But in Christ, God is shown to be both just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus (Romans 3:26).  This is because Jesus stood in Moses' place and took the wrath of God that Moses deserved onto Himself.  He became a curse for him so that he would not be cursed (Galatians 3:13).  The fire did not consume the dry kindling because the heat of its flame had been redirected to a Substitute.

We will all meet this flame at one point, if we haven't already.  He is always a consuming fire, but for those whose faith is firmly in Christ, the fire is a beauty and a wonder, for the heat of the blaze has been spent on another.  Many, however, will meet this fire on different circumstances and it will be torment, for it will consume them in their sin, and they will wish more than anything that those that they love who are still alive could know the Savior (Luke 16:19-31).

Don't wait until it gets to that point.  This fire now burns all through the highly flammable pages of a book we call the Bible, and yet it is not consumed.  It reveals all we need to know of this great and awesome God.  It speaks of His Law, His justice, and His grace through the sacrificial death of Jesus Christ.  You can meet God on the same terms that Moses did, and find the same Savior that he did (Hebrews 11:23-26).  Don't miss the wonder.