14 The sinners in Zion are afraid;ESV (C) Crossway – All Rights Reserved
trembling has seized the godless:
“Who among us can dwell with the consuming fire?
Who among us can dwell with everlasting burnings?”
15 He who walks righteously and speaks uprightly,
who despises the gain of oppressions,
who shakes his hands, lest they hold a bribe,
who stops his ears from hearing of bloodshed
and shuts his eyes from looking on evil,
16 he will dwell on the heights;
his place of defense will be the fortresses of rocks;
his bread will be given him; his water will be sure.
Who can dwell in the consuming fire? Who can dwell with everlasting burnings? Can you?
Some have interpreted Isaiah’s words to be a reference to Hell, which didn’t exist in Jewish teaching at that time. The Jews taught of a place called Sheol, a realm of the dead that was deep, dark, and depressing. Very similar to other cultures of the Levant. Instead, Isaiah is talking about something positive, transformative, and purifying. He’s talking about the Fire of God. A fire that has the power to burn away our iniquities, that which is not pleasing to God, and leaves behind the version of ourselves that God intended for us. It separates the chaff from the seed.
If the Fire of God is a good thing, then why does Isaiah ask “who can dwell within it”? Sounds like he’s suggesting some may not, that they’ll be burnt up or fully consumed. What if you are a vessel, and because of Free Will you get to choose what goes in you. You get to choose things that are good and of God, and things that are not. Things that are evil, self-serving and unrighteous. What if you chose to fill yourself with so much evil, that there was nothing left? What if there wasn’t enough of the *you* God intended left to pass this test of fire? Perhaps you’d be burnt up, unable to dwell in the consuming Fire of God. A sacrifice found unworthy, like Cain’s in Genesis or the priests of Baal in 1 Kings where Elijah prayed before God atop a mountain.
What kind of person can survive this consuming fire then? Thankfully, Isaiah answers this question in verses 15 & 16. Read it again. He points out some traits that help identify those who are righteous enough to pass through this purgative fire to be presented to God:
- Integrity – your life and words match. (Proverbs 28:6)
- Just – you reject dishonest gains. (Micah 6:8)
- Conviction – your values don’t allow you to accept bribes. (Exodus 23:8)
- Positive – you refuse to dwell on destructive issues. (Romans 12:19)
- Purity – your mind is disciplined, remaining clean and pure. (Romans 12:1-2)
- Secure – you are firm in your identity as a child of God. (Proverbs 10:9)
Live your life with integrity, be just in your dealings with others, and let your conviction shine through you as an example to those around you by renewing your mind so that it’s positive and pure– which is only made possible by allowing ourselves to be secured in the knowledge of who we truly are.
19 And this is the judgment: the light has come into the world, and people loved the darkness rather than the light because their works were evil.
20 For everyone who does wicked things hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his works should be exposed.
21 But whoever does what is true comes to the light, so that it may be clearly seen that his works have been carried out in God.