Sunday, October 19, 2014

A consuming fire

In 79 AD Mount Vesuvius erupted. Volcanos had erupted prior to that fateful day and they have certainly erupted since but there is no more infamous and devestating volcano in recorded history than the eruption of Vesuvius. That volcano leveled cities and buried them in ash. It demolished towns and obliterated whole populations of people. Molten rock, stones and ashfall laid waste to the land it attacked and stole the lives of the unsuspecting inhabitants below.
The story of Vesuvius is well known and often taught in grade school. If you recall the lesson from your days spent starting at a chalk board then you probably remember that Pompeii was the most notable of cities destroyed by Vesuvius. For most people that it as much as they will ever know about Pompeii. It was in Italy and it was destroyed by a volcano. But there is more to the story of Pompeii.
The town of Pompeii was established at the foot of a volcano, not the greatest of locals but apparently that didn't raise alarm bells for the inhabitants because they built up a thriving port city. In 89 BC they were annexed from Roman rule and that is when things really started boombing. They revamped their infrastructure, built temples, grew their economy and added to their population. Suffice it to say, Pompeii was popping.
But then strange things started happening: earthquakes. It started in 62 AD with minor quakes and then in 79 AD the world as Pompeii knew it erupted. Vesuvius woke up and consumed the whole town below in a show of volcanic force that has yet to be duplicated.
What makes the eruption of Vesuvius even more chilling then utter death and destruction is what was taking place right before it erupted. Just the day before it came to its fateful end, the town of Pompeii had been celebrating "Vulcanalia," the festival devoted to the god of fire.
It is presumptious to say that because the citizens of Pompeii worshiped a "god of fire," the true God reigned down on them with all the fiery fury in His power. I won't pretend to know the mind of God. But there is a lesson in the life and tragic death of Pompeii. It is the lesson of being consumed.
No matter who you are or what time period you live in there will always be a temptation to become consumed with false gods. The false god doesn't always fall into the category of a bronze statue or angry volcano. Sometimes the false gods are money, relationships, material possessions or even something as seemingly good as compaionship. When put on a pedistal and fixated upon those things become all consuming and, in turn, all destroying.
There is only one thing that is to consume us and that is God himself. As Hebrews 12:29 says, "our God is a consuming fire." In Deuteronomy it says that our God is a jealous God, wanting to consume us. He doesn't want idols, fixations, money or any earthly desire to consume us. Those are all false gods that will only destroy us in the end. But when you and I are consumed by God we are not headed for a firey end. We are consumed by the God of love who will take us up to Heaven when our time on earth is done. We have the privilage of being consumed by the God of the universe who knows every detail of our past and has every second of our future plotted on the palm of His hand. There is no other god like our God. The god of fire that the citizens of Pompeii worshiped led to death. Being consumed by the one and only God leads to life.
In Pompeii, back in the late BCs and early ADs, the citizens of that town fell into the habit of being consumed. First they were consumed with building a city they could take pride in. And by human standards they succeeded but that life of material and idol fixation didn't lead to an eternal life. They worshiped fire and statues and false idols but their worship gave way to their destrction. The town they labored over and the gods they worshiped pointed straight to their utter ruination when Vesuvius consumed them in a firey furnace.

You and I face the same temptation that the citizens of Pompeii faced. We can become consumed with the wrong things. We can worship false idols and labor for fleeting glory and worldly success. But it will all end in ruin.
Being consumed by Christ and the love of God is the only path to eternal life and everlasting glory. Our jealous God wants all of our attentions, all of our worship and every ounce of our dedication. When we give that to Him here on earth He will give us a beautiful ending that leads straight to the golden gates of Heaven. There we will come face to face with our God, the all consuming fire, who will be waiting with open arms to greet us into His House of endless praise and worship.
Dear Reader (and dear self), don't allow yourself to become consumed with the false gods that abound on this earth. Fix your eyes on the God of the universe, the King of Kings. He alone is worthy of praise. He commands us to submit ourselves to Him and be consumed by His mighty power. So let Him have His way. Fall into the arms of your all-consuming fire and let Him have His way in your life.

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