“If you play with fire you will get burned.” This saying is quite sensible. After all, fire is hot! Still we are attracted to the flames. We love its familiarity, beauty and light. We are comforted by the warmth we feel while sitting by a fire. We reason that fire is our friend. It’s a source of security, safety, and provision. Yes, it is all that and more. However, if we chose to play with fire, the results are always the same-you will get burned! The Bible tells us of a sobering story when the Israelites played with fire.
As the story goes Moses, the newly elected senior pastor of the Mount Sinai Church, was engulfed in the flames of a mountain top experience. You see, he experienced the consuming fire of the Lord’s glory and he longed to share God’s presence with his congregation. Moses’ members had been slaves, not only to sin but also to a sinister, merciless Egyptian Pharaoh. As slaves they were unable to have pleasant experiences, fun filled moments or happy days. This new Sinai church plant consisted of believers who had never seen or freely worshiped God. When God showed up to be worshiped in the glow of a hallowed inferno, the light show, smoke, sound effects, and arresting music made the church members nervous. So they called an emergency board meeting and decided that it was better not to let God into their congregation (Ex.20:18-21). Sadly, this worship was unfamiliar and didn’t resemble their past experience.
Moses’ forty day ridge revival seemed like an eternity to his fledgling congregation. During his extended stay, the peoples’ morale dwindled. They met with Aaron, the associate pastor, and decided they needed to do something to fire up the saints. They persuaded Aaron to melt their gold to mold a more acceptable and familiar image of God. Aaron fashioned a calf that resembled the Egyptian bull god, Ptah. Then built an altar and lit a fire! Exodus 32:6 says, “They rose up early on the next day, offered burnt offerings, and brought peace offerings; and the people sat down to eat, drink, and rose up to play.” You can take the Church out of Egypt, but you can’t take Egypt out of the Church! The people rather play with the fire of a familiar false god than be consumed by the life changing, Holy Spirit fire of the One True God.
Are we like the Israelites? Do we reject God’s Word on worship because it doesn’t resemble the familiar styles of our past? Are we burnt out instead of aglow with our worship practices? The Mount Sinai congregation rejected God and chose to play with the fire of an idol. What can we do to avoid a similar mistake in our congregation? How can we experience the fire of God’s presence in our church life today?