Consuming fire

It is hard to imagine the horror of the bush fires raging in parts of Australia at the moment.  Not that Australians are strangers to such things; far from it.

Here are a few examples: ‘The Empire’ newspaper of October 13 1868 carried an article entitled ‘Climate of Australia’, which gave a pithy description of the climate for every year from 1789: drought, severe drought, or floods.   No happy medium, it seemed!  Later, in 1878, the temperatures were so high that birds dropped dead from the trees.

But perhaps more pertinent is the article in ‘The Argus’ of 17 January 1857, describing the events of ‘Black Thursday’, 6 February 1851.  This, the reporter wrote, was ‘one of the most terrible days in the annals of Australia.’  The heat was intense, reaching 117˚F (47˚C) in the shade at 8am.  There was a hot, almost hurricane strength, wind, and bush fires broke out ‘across hundreds of miles of country, sweeping along with almost the rapidity of lightning, and destroying, nearly instantaneously, men, women, and children, crops and homesteads… From the whole land arose a cry of utter desolation.’  Perhaps that reporter thought future readers might find his account hard to believe, for he headed the column: I am in the place where I am demanded of conscience to speak truth, and therefore truth I speak, impugn it who list.

Not that that makes it any easier for the people who are experiencing the fires at the moment.  It’s interesting though, given that politicians, ‘experts’ and the media are, predictably, maintaining that climate change and global warming are to blame!  (Though only a few weeks ago, on December 4, Tasmania experienced Australia’s coldest ever summer temperature, -4˚C on Mount Wellington, and parts of New South Wales, Victoria and Tasmania experienced heavy snowfalls of up to 30cm on the same day.  Daytime temperatures were 15˚C below normal in some areas, which doesn’t sound all that warm!)

The Volunteer Firefighters Association of New South Wales has a different view, however.  New South Wales, they say, is now paying the price for lack of land management.  It is ‘absolutely nothing to do with climate change’ and everything to do with ‘fuel load’.  The green ideology of the past few decades has meant that dry fuel – small shrubs, fallen trees, dead branches and so on – which used to be cleared by controlled ‘cool’ burning, has instead been left to accumulate.  So much ‘green tape’ has made it virtually impossible to get permission to carry out preventative burning and manage the bush properly.  Despite representations to Government, and even some discussions and proposed legislation to ease the situation, nothing has been done.  The Prime Minister was warned in February 2019 that there was a backlog of ‘millions of tonnes of fuel ready to explode.’  And now it has.

Warnings have been ignored in Victoria too, where it is known that many bush fires over the years have been started by sparks from unsafe, poorly insulated, overhead electricity cables.  Requests for regulation to enforce proper earthing and insulation, and ideally burying of cables in fire-prone areas, have fallen on deaf ears.

Doubtless there will be recriminations and investigations.  Perhaps the conclusion will be, as it was after the fires in Victoria of 1939 and the Canberra fires of 2003, that fuel load and the inadequate amount of ‘cool burning’ was the major factor.  But will anyone listen this time 

I am reminded of those words in Psalm 95: Today, if you will hear His voice, do not harden your hearts…  Those same words are quoted three times by the writer to the Hebrews.  Clearly the Holy Spirit wants to hammer home the message, aware as He is of our tendency to think our own thoughts, believe our own version of the truth, and follow our own ways!  Not just where bush fires are concerned; our eternal destiny is determined by whether we believe God’s view of our position before Him or whether we cling to our own ideas!

See that you do not refuse Him who speaks.  For if they did not escape who refused Him who spoke on earth, much more shall we not escape if we turn away from Him who speaks from heaven...  For our God is a consuming fire.  Hebrews 12:25,29

Therefore we must give the more earnest heed to the things we have heard, lest we drift away.  For if the word spoken through angels proved steadfast, and every transgression and disobedience received a just reward, how shall we escape if we neglect so great a salvation, which at the first began to be spoken by the Lord, and was confirmed to us by those who heard Him, God also bearing witness both with signs and wonders, with various miracles, and gifts of the Holy Spirit, according to His own will.  Hebrews 2:1-4