Fire & Water
The Queensland city of Brisbane’s water supply dropped to less than 17% capacity. Prayers went up during the drought, but dirty cars, brown lawns and four-minute showers were the order of the day – until the rains came. The less water there is the more appreciated it becomes.
The rich man who wouldn’t give so much as a crumb or a drop of cold water to the beggar Lazarus at his gate died and went to a place where there was no water. ‘Then he cried and said, “Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus that he may dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue, for I am tormented in this flame.”” Luke 16:24. From this, it would appear that, just as some people having lost a limb experience sensations that the missing body part is still there, so those who are missing their bodies still have bodily sensations!
As much as soft drink advertisers might beg to differ, just like the rich man in Hades, water is the thing that you and I would crave most if we were ever lost in a desert of searing heat. Water is humanity’s life-blood. Without it we die and keep on dying. Therefore, Hell and the Lake of Fire, which have fire but no water in them, ought to be avoided at all costs! Jesus says that it is better for us to enter into Paradise missing hands, feet, eyes, etc., than to use these to sin and then ‘be cast into hell, into the fire that shall never be quenched – where ‘Their worm does not die, and the fire is not quenched.”’ Mark 9:45-46. We take water for granted until there is none. Why should we take God’s grace for granted when Jesus warns us about hell fire? Is it simply irony that the wicked in Noah’s day met a watery end before going to the same place as the rich man? And what about Pharaoh’s army when the walls of water collapsed like Jericho’s walls or Siloam’s tower on them?
God holds on His weigh-scales the balance between justice and grace, fire and water. He was in the pillar of fire and the pillar of cloud. While healing a man blind from birth Jesus said to him, ‘“Go, wash in the pool of Siloam” … So he went and washed, and came back seeing.’ John 8:7. My adult niece, Sharon, even though in some sort of coma, made a positive verbal response on her deathbed where her mum and dad were discussing what Christ had done on the cross. A hymn ordinarily reserved for covenant children’s baptism was sung at her funeral, By cool Siloam’s shady rill / How sweet the lily grows! / How sweet the breath, beneath the hill, / of Sharon’s dewy rose! / Lo! Such the child whose early feet / The paths of peace have trod, / Whose secret heart with influence sweet / Is upward drawn to God. Reginald Heber. Tears well up in my eyes whenever I sing this hymn! Baptismal water is the morning dew of grace. When John the Baptizer came baptizing he said of Christ, ‘I indeed baptize you with water; but One mightier than I is coming, whose sandal strap I’m not worthy to loose. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire.’ Luke 3:16. Subsequently Christ baptized His Church on Pentecost with the Holy Spirit and fire. He poured out His Holy Spirit upon it, ‘Then there appeared on them divided tongues, as of fire, and one sat upon each of them.’ Acts 2:3.
Covenant Baptism pictures Christ pouring out His Spirit – as per covenant promise throughout Scripture (see eg, Prov. 1:23; Isa. 44:3-5, 52:15 Ezek. 36:25-27; Joel 2:28-29 etc.) Water baptism also pictures the ‘sprinkling of the blood of Jesus Christ,’ for, ‘the blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanses us from all sin.’ 1 John 1:7. As the writer to the Hebrews puts it, ‘Therefore, brethren, having boldness to enter the Holiest by the blood of Jesus… and having a High Priest over the house of God, let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water.’ Hebrews 10:19-22. That which is pictured in water baptism is covenantal, going way back, ‘And Moses took the blood, sprinkled it on the people, and said, “This is the blood of the covenant…”’ Exodus 24:8 with Hebrews 9:19-22.
Elijah poured water three times on the altar and the sacrifice on Mount Carmel before the LORD holocausted it with poured out fire. Christ was given the Holy Spirit without measure before being consumed on Mount Calvary when God poured out His wrath on Him for our sins. In three days He rose for our justification.
So, let’s not go to be with the rich man, who is craving a drop of water to cool his tongue in the flames. Rather, let’s seek the Lord. For, then we’ll join both Him and Lazarus in the well-watered Paradise. Remember, ‘Whoever calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved.’ Romans 10:13.