A fire that does not consume
“Fire!” 1,600 voices sing out. The hall literally reverberates at the première of the pop oratorio in Dortmund (Germany). But what is this choir singing about? And what does all of this have to do with a medicinal plant? Follow us on a journey through the Bible.
Cassia senna is the name botanists have given to the thing which we find at the beginning of this story: a senna, a shrub. A fugitive by the name of Moses sees the bush burning, but although the bush was on fire, it was not being burnt up (Exodus 3: 2).
Showy yellow flowers and coronal discharges
The flowers of the shrub are a bright yellow. Some suggest that this is what Moses took to be a fire. Seriously? A shepherd who had been travelling in the region for years? St Elmo’s fire is a rare phenomenon in which luminous plasma is created by a coronal discharge from a sharp or pointed object in a strong electric field. This happens in thunderstorms, for example.
Even if a physicist had been standing right next to it, there would not have been anything to measure: what Moses experienced at Mount Horeb was so real that it shaped the destiny of a whole nation. A human encounters God and receives a personal commission from Him.
Fire: from sene to Sinai
The Hebrew name of the shrub sene resembles Sinai—not without reason. Because the burning bush is the prelude to a much greater fire: “Now Mount Sinai was completely in smoke, because the Lord descended upon it in fire. Its smoke ascended like the smoke of a furnace, and the whole mountain quaked greatly” (Exodus 19: 18).
And even if one were to consider this description as the figment of someone’s imagination or as a myth: what Moses experienced at Mount Sinai was so real that to this very day it has influenced the lives of billions of people. God meets man in the commandments and leads them on the path to eternal fellowship with Him.
The power beyond the fire
There is a second story of a mountain and a bush, and of a fire and a man on the run: Elijah is lying under a broom tree shortly before he heads to Mount Horeb. He is deeply depressed and wants to die. God comes and strengthens him: “And after the earthquake a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire; and after the fire a still small voice” (1 Kings 19: 12).
Elijah gathers new courage and new strength. He remembers the mission God gave him and continues. In the end, Elijah does not die but is taken up to heaven. From then on people hope for his return—as a forerunner who will bring God and man together once again.
Witnesses of the truth
There is a third mountain. Later on it came to be named Mount Tabor. This is where Moses and Elijah meet, who are regarded as the greatest prophets. But in spite of all that they have experienced and accomplished—this time they are not playing the main role. They are only there as witnesses for the greatest fire that God ever ignited: “And a cloud came and overshadowed them; and a voice came out of the cloud, saying, ‘This is My beloved Son. Hear Him!’” (Mark 9: 7). God encounters mankind in the man Jesus Christ. He is closer to them now than ever before. And He shows them a new way into fellowship with Him.
Between feeding and consuming
“Fire!” 1,600 voices cry out at the premiere of the pop oratorio in Dortmund (Germany). The song describes the events of the first Pentecost, but not only the tongues of fire which came to rest on the Apostles and the church (Acts 2: 3). The song celebrates the fiery enthusiasm for the glad tidings of Jesus.
And which fire is burning in you? Both the Hebrew Bible as well as the Greek of the new covenant have different terms for “fire”: there is a term for fire that consumes and one for fire that warms; there is a term for flames that illuminate and for flames that cast shadows. Which fires do you feed in yourself?
Photo: Smileus / Fotolia