“Therefore let us be grateful for receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, and thus let us offer to God acceptable worship, with reverence and awe, for our God is a consuming fire.” Hebrews 12:28-29
There’s a Thanksgiving tradition I’ve always loved in which each person around the table tells one thing they’re grateful for before everyone dives into the meal. Sadly, the feast gets cold when groups become too large and stories of gratitude become too long. I doubt we’ll do the tradition this year, so I’m taking this space to tell one thing I’m grateful for.
I’m grateful for God’s nearness.
I had a dream a few days ago. I hear everyone dreams all the time, but it’s unusual for me to awaken from a vivid dream—rich in details and plot—and actually remember it. So when that happens, I always examine it for meaning. Here’s my dream.
I was on holiday with friends. We were staying in a house and next to the house—actually physically joined to it—was a large warehouse. A fire started in the warehouse, which was filled with bags of mulch or possibly fertilizer. The fire started spontaneously.
Inside the house, we were not concerned about the fire on the other side of the common wall. We felt no urgency. It was morning, and we were drinking coffee and doing our hair and putting on makeup. I went into my bedroom to get something and noticed the electricity had gone out in there. The room was dark and hot from the fire roaring on the other side of the wall. Uh oh, I thought, time to go.
I looked around for my flash drives and laptop, which contained all my work, but they were in another room and the door was closed. Not wanting to be rude, I hung around waiting for the door to open. I don’t think I even knocked. When the door finally opened and the occupant came out, that room was also dark and hot from the fire.
I suddenly realized that if the fire, which had seemed contained within the warehouse, broke through that wall, the fresh oxygen would cause it to flash through the house. I remember telling my friends we had to hurry. I must’ve cried out then because I woke up.
I thought about the dream on and off the rest of that day and the next. I wondered if I should be praying about imminent danger. Differences of opinion in my country, America, are running hot. The nation feels explosive. Of course, I should always pray for our nation, but was the dream a warning?
The more I pondered the dream and the longer I asked the Lord to help me understand it, if indeed it needed to be understood and not just forgotten, the less I felt as if the fire represented an event or situation.
As I go about my mundane daily life—doing all the little and large tasks with which I busy myself—the Lord is near, just on the other side of the thin membrane that separates the seen from the unseen. In my mind’s eye, He is gentle. He is quiet. He resembles a man because He is Jesus—the man who is also God. He does not resemble a roaring firestorm with dark smoke shot through with lightning and wind from the heat of it.
The writer of Hebrews said that, unlike the people Moses led out of Egypt, we have not come to “a blazing fire and gloom and a tempest and the sound of a trumpet and a voice whose words made the hearers beg that no further message be spoken to them….Indeed, so terrifying was the sight that Moses said, ‘I tremble with fear.'”
The writer said we “have come to Mount Zion and to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to innumerable angels in festal gathering, and to the assembly of the firstborn who are enrolled in heaven, and to God, the judge of all, and to the spirits of the righteous made perfect.” He said we have come to Jesus.
Then the writer ended the thought with a reminder that God is a consuming fire. I know He is because of how I feel when I turn my heart and mind toward Him in prayer and worship and meditation. When His presence fills my consciousness, I am smitten, overwhelmed, even consumed.
Some day—be it far away or very soon—God will break through the barrier that separates seen from unseen. Suddenly, without warning, he’ll be upon us all in fierceness and glory and undeniable sovereignty.
In that day, most of us will wish our priorities had been different. Even now, I sense an urgency to pay attention to God’s nearness. He is here, right here, just on the other side of what I can see.
Is God’s nearness the takeaway from my dream? I don’t know. Maybe. Dream or no dream, this is certain: He is very near, and He is the God who breaks through.