Our God is a Consuming Fire
“Our God comes; he is not deaf! Fire devours that which is before him. All around him there is a mighty whirlwind.”
What you read here are words of power and might — words that are designed to instill awe in us and to inspire us to worship. How often worship is self-centered and based on what God has done for the individual; here, while the individual is in sight, it primarily revolves around the person of our God. And no, this mighty God is not deaf. He hears our prayers and he hears our praises.
Some translations will render this second phrase, “He is not silent,” presumably connecting this with the second clause and not so much with the first. Yet, this psalm is centered around the fact that God hears our prayers and praises and responds accordingly. How much more appropriate then, it is that we have translated it as we find here — no, our God is not deaf, and thus our prayers and praises are important to Him. Indeed, the prayer of a righteous man has great power (James 5:16). Why does it have such power? It is because God hears those prayers.
What follows is a statement about the might of God that would be demonstrated in person years later with the prophet Elijah. There, upon the Mountain, Elijah had the privilege of an encounter with God — yet God was not in the fire or the wind, but in the “still small voice.” Nevertheless, God surrounds himself with works of power as was witnessed by Elijah — fire is before him and the whirlwind is around him. Did not God appear in the whirlwind to Job (Job 38:1)? Is he not also an all-consuming fire (Deuteronomy 4:24; Hebrews 12:29)? Indeed, the psalmist is celebrating the great truth that our God is mighty and not timid and there is none who can stand in his way. He is a great God, worthy of our praise. Who can stand before a consuming fire (Deuteronomy 9:3; Isaiah 33:14)? No, not one.