Loading

Kindling Your Own Fire

By Craig Redmond

Who is among you that fears the LORD,
That obeys the voice of His servant,
That walks in darkness and has no light?
Let him trust in the name of the LORD and rely on his God.
Behold, all you who kindle a fire,
Who encircle yourselves with firebrands,
Walk in the light of your fire
And among the brands you have set ablaze
This you will have from My hand:
You will lie down in torment.

                                            Isaiah 50:10-11 NASB

Here is a challenging passage from the Prophets. Isaiah is one of the best known prophets. His writings are probably best known in foretelling us of the coming Messiah (chapter 53) and giving us a view of the magnificent glory of God (chapter 6).

This is a passage that most of us probably read over quickly when we read the Bible. But let's break it down a little at a time and try to make sense of it.

The first two thoughts are describing a true believer. True believers fear the Lord. Not "hide your eyes from a horror movie" fear. Or "scream your lungs out on a roller coaster" fear. But rather a holy fear - a reverence toward the Lord. True believers likewise obey the teaching of the Lord. At the time of Isaiah Scripture was not complete and prophets spoke with the authority of God Himself. The equivalent today would be to obey the Word of God as recorded in Scripture.

So we've established that believers are being addressed here. Now – how then do we make sense of walking in darkness and not having light? I believe this reference to darkness is referring to times of struggle, frustration, persecution or confusion. There are times in any believer's walk with the Lord where they will struggle to see the light of God's guidance. Where we may struggle is to see how this current obstacle can possibly fulfill the wonderful promise given to us in Romans 8:28.  (cf. Job 2:3, 2 Timothy 3:12, John 9:1-3, 15:20; I Peter 4:12-19)

If you are a believer who is struggling; a believer who is being persecuted or is confused; a believer who is wondering where God is in times of trials - God has two simple instructions for you in this passage. First, trust in His name. In Scripture references to the Lord's name can be viewed as references to the whole of who God is. His righteousness; His love; His holiness; His omnipresence and omnipotence; His mercy; His perfect balance of all of His attributes. When you are struggling and looking for answers you should trust Him.

Second, we're told to rely on God. The King James translation uses the phrase "stay upon his God". I love this image. "Stay" means don't leave, even if it's dark. Even if you've prayed for light and not seen it, don't leave. Wait on the Lord.

Now as we look at the rest of this passage we see a promise from God. This is not a promise that you'll find in one of those little gift books you can find at your local Christian bookstore. They supposedly list all of the promises of God. Read on and you'll find out why this one is probably not there. While we just heard encouragement for those who believe to continue to trust and wait on the Lord, we now see the alternative. "Behold" is a word that should get our attention. It usually signifies a big truth from God (cf. John 1:29), and I believe it does so in this case.

If you are in the dark you can be tempted to kindle a fire...and perhaps surround yourself with fires. Or – you could be prompted to join in the "fire" or "light" of another person, perhaps even a preacher.  I have an image of someone lighting a bunch of tiki-torches out in a dark field. Once there is this light, there is temptation to go ahead and move. What is the problem with this? After all, isn't it ok to desire light? If you're stuck in the dark, isn't it okay to create your own light?  No! Not according to this passage in Isaiah. The light is to come from the Lord and not from ourselves or from other men.

Perhaps you've read this far and can understand how God provides "light" through answered prayers, Scripture, or encouragement from a friend. But you are wondering how man can "kindle a fire" of his own making? This would be letting anything that is not of God's Word take the place of God's Word in your life. What are some contemporary examples? How about turning to psychology and self-help instead of Scripture to address the results of sin in your life? False teachers and false religions are also examples of man's attempts to make their own light. Sometimes we turn to the guidance of the world - popular opinion. Some may reason: if so many others are doing it what could be wrong? (Romans 12:2). The contemporary Christian music group Casting Crowns has a lyric on their first album that reads: "What if the family turned to Jesus, and stopped asking Oprah what to do?" Does anyone ever ask themselves: What is Oprah's pop theology/philosophy based upon?  Some will even turn to illegal drugs for their "light" or even prescription drugs in some cases? Yes – some people - rather than face the consequences of their sin and deal with that sin - may opt to medicate themselves.

What about from Scripture - are there any examples? Yes. The following are a handful.

1. Adam and Eve (Genesis 3:1-7)

God gave Adam and Eve just a few simple instructions, the best known of which was not to eat the fruit from the tree in the middle of the garden (3:3). Eve herself knew this command as she is the one that is quoted in verse 3.

What was the "darkness" in this passage? Eve was facing a time of temptation perhaps for the very first time. What was her temptation? The temptation initially would seem to be whether to eat the fruit or not.  But that temptation is really based on whether to rely on God's Word or her own judgment. While she was influenced by the serpent, she put her own judgment over the Word of God. She kindled her own fire in response to the darkness she was facing.

Adam, of course, did not fare any better at all. He also knew of God's command but still he accepted the fruit from his wife and ate. He put his wife's judgment over the Word of God. He was following and responding to a man-made, serpent inspired, "light" which was no light at all.

Was there a fulfillment of God's promise in Isaiah 50:9-10 in response? Genesis 3:8-24 gives details of both immediate and long-lasting consequences of following man-made light instead of God's Word. No other sin has ever had the consequences of this one!  All other sins are because of this first – primal one. We are all born sinful and in need of a Savior as a result of Adam's fall. And in fact, we all sinned in Adam.

2. Abraham and Sarah (Genesis 12:1-3, 15:1-6, 16:1-12, 17:15-21)

We only need to flip forward in Genesis a few pages to find another example. Let me be quick to point out that Abraham is one of the great examples of faith in Scripture (Genesis 15:16, Romans 4:1-4). I do not mean to imply in any of these comments that Abraham is unworthy of our admiration. However, Abraham, even though he was a man of faith, still sinned - just as we do today (Romans 7).

In Abraham's case the Lord clearly promises him that he would become a father. In fact Scripture teaches us in Genesis 15:16 that Abraham believes this promise. God has provided His Word.

The darkness comes as Abraham and Sarah are awaiting the fulfillment of God's promise. As the years go by Sarah becomes convinced that she will not bear any children. And she convinces Abraham to take Hagar as his wife so she can bear him children (Genesis 16:1-12). Rather than waiting for God and relying on His promises (which we just saw that Abraham believed!), Abraham and Sarah took matters into their own hands. Abraham helped to light his own fire as he did not "stay upon his God".

What are the consequences? Ishmael was born first. And when Isaac was born, there was so much strife between Sarah and Hagar that Abraham had to send Hagar and Ishmael away (Genesis 21:9-21). Many scholars have actually traced the modern conflict between the Jewish people (descendents of Isaac) and the Muslim people (descendents of Ishmael) back to this conflict. In fact the Muslims do claim descent from Abraham through Ishmael.

3. Moses (Exodus 2:11-15, Acts 7:20-36)

Moses is also a wonderful example of faith. He is revered by many as one of the greatest men to ever live. However, similar to both Abraham and us he committed sin. And his sin included trying to kindle his own fire.

Moses intervened when he saw the problems his own people were having. The darkness he faced was in wanting to deliver his people, but he chose to attempt to do so his way. It is interesting to note that when Moses tried to deliver the Israelites by his own hand, he personally killed a man. When Moses actually helped to deliver the Israelites, he was a tool in God's hands. While the Lord caused the deaths of many Egyptians, Moses did not slay a single one as he was being used by the Lord.

So what was the consequence of this sin of Moses? We know that God did deliver the Israelites out of Egypt . But not until after Moses was in the desert for 40 years. God did not talk to Moses until 40 years after his sin.

4. King Saul (I Samuel 15:1-34)

There were many times when King Saul failed to follow God's Word. In just this one passage we see where he deliberately disobeyed God's command to "utterly destroy" (v 3). Instead he opted to follow his own desires and those of the people with him (v 8-9, v 20-21). What is in the text that can be described as "darkness"? Look at verse 24. Saul here claims he was afraid of the people. He knew what God's counsel was, but was facing resistance from his people. Rather than clinging to God's instructions, he instead decided it would be better to appease the people (kindling his own fire by turning to pleasing people instead of pleasing God). The consequence of this decision is laid out in verses 22-23 – God rejects Saul as King.

Scripture gives us plenty of warnings about man-made lights. They can be very appealing (2 Timothy 4:1-5). They can appear in such a way that they seem like they are actually from God (2 Corinthians 11:12-15). They could even use some Scripture like many cults.  We even have the example of Satan misusing Scripture in Matthew 4:1-11 to tempt the Lord Himself.

Don't miss the fact that man-made lights are compared to fire!  This "strange fire" or "false light" is never to be exchanged for the true and pure light...God's light – His Word. And yet mankind has a history of doing this! Recall my analogy of lighting tiki-torches? Is there any comparison between the quality of light from the sun (God provides pure light) and the light from a tiki-torch? Why would we want to accept the tiki-torch when we are promised the sun? Deciding to turn to the tiki-torch is reminiscent of Romans 1:18-25. Why would we want to make such a poor exchange?

Don't forget God's promise here, you'll find it in the second verse of our primary text:

Who is among you that fears the LORD,
That obeys the voice of His servant,
That walks in darkness and has no light?
Let him trust in the name of the LORD and rely on his God.
Behold, all you who kindle a fire,
Who encircle yourselves with firebrands,
Walk in the light of your fire
And among the brands you have set ablaze
This you will have from My hand:
You will lie down in torment.

                                          Isaiah 50:10-11 NASB

This is how God says He will treat those who turn to man-made lights instead of trusting and waiting on Him in times of darkness. We have evidence in Scripture that God holds true to this promise. Let's "trust in the name of the Lord and rely on our God" in times of darkness. Let us never give up on waiting for the pure light of God's Word and settle for the tiki-torches of man-made light.

Copyright, Craig Redmond, all rights reserved.
Can be copied in its entirety for personal use or to be distributed, but not for profit.
Theological Studies
Contemporary Concerns
Deception in the Visible Church