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Sermon – 11/9/03
Exodus 13:21 - Fire


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And the Lord went before them by day in a pillar of cloud to lead the way, and by night in a pillar of fire to give them light, so as to go by day and night” (Exodus 13:21)

Fires raged through Southern California, which are said to be only rivaled in severity by those during the 1930’s.  But now, the effects are the worst ever because of population density and the increase of suburban homes.  Many homes have been lost and a number of people have been killed as hundreds of thousands of acres were burned.  Horribly, at least some of the fires are said to have been caused by arsonists.  PEOPLE caused this debacle, and it’s a reminder that the bulk of our problems are caused by the sins of mankind.

Scripture does attach PURPOSES to fires, which are used figuratively of: God’s protection (Zechariah 2:5), God’s vengeance (Hebrews 12:29), God’s Word (Jeremiah 5:14), the Messiah (Malachi 3:2), the Holy Spirit (Acts 2:3), Angels (Hebrews 1:7), the tongue (James 3:6), strife (Luke 12:49-53), affliction (Isaiah 43:2), along with many other such references.  But we are concerned with just one, where the Lord guided Israel at night, by a “pillar of fire.”  We are designed to follow the Holy Spirit of God, and He will lead us.

Immediately prior to the infernos in areas of Southern California, there was another, relatively “smaller” fire in the City of Carson, though it was not “small” to those who were affected by it.  Roselle, a lady with the given name of Maria, had been a caregiver for quadriplegics for a number of years in a variety of “group homes” such as the one in Carson which burned on October 25th.  Two quadriplegics, Rudy and Reggie, were living in the home at the time of the fire.  Both of them lost their lives during the blaze.  Roselle also died in the fire, as did her fiancé.

There were news stories about the fire, which tended to suggest that the operators of the group home were at fault in what happened.  The battery in the smoke alarm did not work, and it was stated that “the house did not have a residential care license from the California Department of Social Services” (Long Beach Press Telegram, 10/25/03).  The fire was quickly forgotten in the press, overshadowed by the great fires that were beginning to rage in Southern California.  However, the casualties in the group home have not been forgotten by those who love them.

Dennis Stinson, a Board Member of Friday Study Ministries, and a quadriplegic himself, remembers Rudy, Reggie and Roselle with great affection.  They were his roommates, for Dennis actually lived at that very same group home in Carson until just a few months ago.  “Everybody” knew Rudy and Reggie at the VA, and “everybody liked them.”  Indeed they were nice guys.  All of them personally knew the Lord Jesus Christ, and as Dennis said, their lives reflected Him and His love.

The news stories intimated that Roselle (Maria) was trying to get out of the house when she was stopped by a steel-barred grate from climbing out a bathroom window.  Dennis Stinson does not agree.  He points out that Roselle’s master bedroom had a door into the garage where she could have quickly exited to safety.  He says that “It wasn’t Roselle’s nature to run away.  She loved the men in her care and would have given her life for them.”  The bathroom, he says, was in the hallway between her bedroom and the room where Rudy and Reggie slept.  “She was on her way to them, to try and help them,” Dennis said.  “She just didn’t get there.”  Roselle died attempting to help others.

Roselle’s actions in life were not perfect and ours aren’t either, but from Dennis’ impassioned description of her caring nature, she was indeed a heroine and deserves our praise.  Rudy, Reggie and Roselle have gone to be with the Lord and that is a good thing.  Roselle died trying to save others, which is very good indeed.

Her action did not succeed in saving the men, but it reminds us of another exceptionally brave deed 2000 years ago.  Scripture reveals, “When we were still without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly” (Romans 5:6).  Rudy and Reggie, as quadriplegics, were “without strength” – they were in wheelchairs because they could not move their arms and legs.  You may not realize it, but every one of us is “without strength” as well.  Only, our greatest lack of strength is spiritual.  We can do nothing at all because we are by nature “ungodly.”  But there is good news – “Christ died” for you and me.

Scripture reveals, that, in Christ, the “love of God has been poured out in our hearts by the Holy Spirit who was given to us” (Romans 5:5).  Israel was guided by God, who “went before them… by night in a pillar of fire to give them light, so as to go by day and night” (Exodus 13:21).  The One who led them, however, was, by and large, external to them.  That is, the NATION was guided by Him, but most of the individuals did not personally trust in God or His Holy Spirit.  There were notable exceptions, such as Moses, Caleb, Joshua and others, but most looked to themselves rather than trusting in God.

The Holy Spirit of God is “IN our hearts” when we receive Jesus Christ.  Roselle could not save “her” veterans, Rudy and Reggie because she was merely human, though she was brave indeed.  She was stopped by the smoke and the frailness of her humanity.

Jesus Christ is, and always was, the Son of God (John 1:1-14).  He became human, but He is also God.  What we could not do because of our weakness, He did – “God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8).  Jesus Christ died, but in Him, we are made ALIVE to God.

Through faith in Him we are given His Holy Spirit, who leads us just as surely as Israel was led in the wilderness through the pillar of cloud and fire.  The Spirit we are given is IN us, when we trust in Him.  We “HEAR” Him in our hearts and know what to do.  The circumstances of our lives often seem destroyed as if by fire, but we are given LIFE, whether in this world or the next, and we are LED safely through, by Him.

Jesus Christ is the Caregiver who brings you safely out of the “fires” of this life.  He gives you His Spirit, who is like a guiding fire that lights your way, until you are safely in the presence of God Himself.  Will you be led by Him?

Lord, I trust in You now.  Please forgive my sins, and fill me with Your Holy Spirit.  Be to me, Holy Spirit, like the “pillar of fire” in the Book of Exodus, and show me the way.  Please lead me, Lord, and direct me in the way I should go.  In Jesus Name.  Amen.

Ron Beckham, Pastor
Friday Study Ministries
Tel: (562) 688-5559
PO Box 92131
Long Beach, CA 90809-2131
"While we were yet sinners, Christ died for us" (Romans 5:8)


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