by Peggy Harris W.A.S.H. Board Chair
What does it mean to pour coals of fire on our enemy's head? How do we do it? What are the effects of following this biblical instruction? How are God and we benefited? What are the coals of fire? One has a right to be angry at the harm done by the evil others do. Channeling that anger into something positive is the challenge. We all must find a way to direct that anger into good. I truly believe that is what the Bible means by heaping coals of fire on your enemy's head.
The head is where the brain is. This is the thinking process that directs the actions. If the bad actions can be burned up somehow, that certainly would bring satisfaction. Coals of fire would indicate something that would burn the bad thoughts and actions away. Heaping means not just a small effort but a mighty endeavor. We are to do it. When prayed about, I'm convinced that God will help us find a way to do this. We probably have grown up from childhood thinking this verse means heaping kindness upon our enemy but now I'm thinking it means more than that. There are some people who have no conscience and no qualms about doing evil. Doing them kindness would have no effect. No! There must be another way.
These are some of the questions and thoughts that have crossed my mind from time to time as I have studied Biblical Hospitality. It is hoped that the following will inspire you to search the scriptures and determine for yourself the meanings of the following texts. It's an exciting thing to search and study the Biblical truth for meaning in today's world. The reader is encouraged to read all around these texts. It's quite possible that your mind will be enlightened further!
"Therefore if your enemy hungers, feed him; if he thirsts, give him a drink; For in so doing you will heap coals of fire on his head."
Romans 12:20, New King James Version.
"Dear friends, never avenge yourselves. Leave that to God. For it is written, 'I will take vengeance; I will repay those who deserve it,' says the Lord. Instead, do what the Scriptures say: 'If your enemies are hungry, feed them. If they are thirsty, give them something to drink, And they will be ashamed of what they have done to you.' Don't let evil get the best of you, but conquer evil by doing good."
Romans 12:19-21, The Rock, New Living Translation.
"If your enemy is hungry, give him bread to eat; And if he is thirsty, give him water to drink; For so you will heap coals of fire on his head, And the Lord will reward you."
Proverbs 25: 21-22, NKJV.
"From the brightness before Him Coals of fire were kindled." 2 Samuel 22:13, NKJV David's psalm of thanksgiving for his delivery from the hand of Saul. "A great brightness shone before him, and bolts of lightning blazed forth."
2 Samuel 22:13, The Rock.
"Smoke poured from his nostrils; fierce flames leaped from his mouth; glowing coals flamed forth from
him." Psalm 18:8, The Rock.
"The brilliance of his presence broke through the clouds, raining down hail and burning coals. The Lord thundered from heaven; the Most High gave a mighty shout"
Psalm 18:12 & 13, The Rock.
"I took my troubles to the Lord; I cried out to him, and he answered my prayer. Rescue me, O Lord, from liars and from all deceitful people. O deceptive tongue, what will God do to you? How will he increase your punishment? You will be pierced with sharp arrows and burned with glowing coals. How I suffer among these scoundrels of Meshech! It pains me to live with these people from Kedar! I am tired of living here among people who hate peace. As for me, I am for peace; but when I speak, they are for war!"
Psalm 120, The Rock.
"Let burning coals fall down on their heads, or throw them into the fire, or into deep pits from which they can't escape.
Psalm 140:10, The Rock.
"A quarrelsome person starts fights as easily as hot embers light charcoal or fire lights wood." Proverbs 26:21, The Rock.
Makers of idols: "The blacksmith stands at his forge to make a sharp tool, pounding and shaping it with all his might. His work makes him hungry and thirsty, weak and faint."
Proverbs 44:12, The Rock.
"I have created the blacksmith who fans the coals beneath the forge and makes the weapons of destruction. And I have created the armies that destroy."
Proverbs 54:16. The Rock.
A Vision of Living Beings from Ezekiel: "The living beings looked like bright coals of fire or brilliant torches, and it looked as though lightning was flashing back and forth among them."
Ezekiel 1: 13, The Rock.
"Then the Lord spoke to the man in linen clothing and said, 'Go in between the whirling wheels beneath the cherubim, and take a handful of glowing coals and scatter them over the city."
Ezekiel 10:2 The Rock.
The pot that could not be cleaned: "This is what the Sovereign Lord says: Destruction is certain for Jerusalem, the city of murderers! I myself will pile up the fuel beneath her. Yes, heap on the wood! Let the fire roar to make the pot boil. Cook the meat well with many spices. Then empty the pot and burn the bones. Now set the empty pot on the coals to scorch away the filth and corruption. But it's hopeless; the corruption remains. So throw it into the fire! It is the filth and corruption of your lewdness and idolatry. And now, because I tried to cleanse you but you refused, you will remain filthy until my fury against you has been satisfied. "I, the Lord, have spoken! The time has come and I won't hold back; I will not change my mind. You will be judged on the basis of all your wicked actions, says the Sovereign Lord."
Ezekiel 24:9-14, The Rock.
"I see God, the Holy One, moving across the deserts from Edom and Mount Parah. His brilliant splendor fills the heavens, and the earth is filled with his praise! What a wonderful God he is! Rays of brilliant light flash from his hands. He rejoices in his awesome power. Pestilence marches before him; plague follows close behind. When he stops, the earth shakes. When he looks, the nations tremble. He shatters the everlasting mountains and levels the eternal hills. But his power is not diminished in the least! I see the peoples of Cushan and Midian trembling in terror."
Habakkuk 3:3-7, The Rock.
Coals are used to light fires that destroy. When we have enemies we want their destruction! The Bible explains in Romans 12 and Proverbs 25 that the ultimate weapon with which to destroy our enemies is KINDNESS!
While this kind of coal burning may not always have the desired effect on the enemy it still will give immense satisfaction to the heaper! Perhaps this is what God is trying to tell us in this message of what to do to our enemies.
Then there is the description of the brilliance of God in 2 Samuel and Psalms. This God of all the heavens and the earth is no pansy. He is gentle as a dove and mighty as a sword. When we stand before Him there is nothing that we can hide from His searching eyes. We stand just as we are and He is the only one who can bring change into our life. If we allow this Master Housekeeper, He will burn away all the filth and scum in our life. If we are not willing then this "pot" cannot be cleaned.
God created us and sometimes we, like the blacksmith who make idols, choose to dishonor our Creator by making idols in our life. Idols are anything that separate us from God. God will hold all those who persist in doing evil accountable for their evil. He will also show us how to see clearly and impress us in ways to deal with those who wreak havoc and destruction to innocents.
By holding purveyors of sexual abuse and domestic violence accountable for their actions we may save others from harm. This is part of the heaping of coals as indicated. It is kindness to prevent further losses by harmful people. These are powerful coals of fire and not always easily put on someone's head! How heartbreaking it is for a parent who brings a child into the world, devote time and energy to train that child, and then see the child forsake all that they have been taught that is good and take up evil perhaps even to become a murderer. So it is with God who created us, who weeps at our sin and willfulness. He aches for our companionship but instead we bring dishonor and evil in our destructive relationships with others.
Instead of reflecting His glory in our life, by doing evil we choose to bring destruction not only to ourselves but also to others.
There is coming a day when all evil will be ended. Those who have chosen to follow God will be honored and will continue to live in His light and glory forever. How sad that those He created, who chose to follow evil, will be cut off from His life giving glory and destroyed. They cannot live in the light. They will not be allowed to continue living in darkness. There will be an end to their destruction.
How heartbreaking to see God's tears flowing down at the final destruction of those who did not accept His salvation. Perhaps this is also why it will take us a thousand years to come to an understanding of how God feels about the lost souls. Then on that day of final destruction, we too will stand with God looking out from the glorious city of New Jerusalem and weep that those we knew and loved will not be there for eternity. Their evil doing will be ended forever. Finally we, who may have suffered much harm in life on this earth by evil doers, will have come to understand the terrible loss of what those evil doers might have been had they allowed God to bring change into their life. All sin is destroyed, burned with the living coals of the glory from God, the same glory that gives the saints life!
All is silent and peace reigns again on the small blue planet called earth. Finally there is a new beginning as God makes all things new.
As little children we are taught that God is love. If God is love and His love burns away all sin, then might His love be also His glory? In His glory we either have life or death. It is this attribute that burns away all dross and evil from our life once we open ourselves to Him. Sin cannot exist in heaven ever again. And so in the final end of sin and sinners, they cannot stand in His glory (love) and remain alive. It burns them out of existence until there is nothing left. This earth is purified and made new again.
It is because of this cherished love exemplified in the life of Jesus when He was here on earth and the saints who commit themselves to God and take up His gift of salvation and righteousness, that sin will never enter the universe again. All will be safe because of the experience of all who lived on this small blue planet called Earth and the Creator who recreated them into His image.
There is a powerful segment in the movie, "Babe, Pig In The City," that shows how just as the ferocious pit bull is about to get his just due when the kind hearted pig comes to his aid and saves him. The pit bull then becomes the pig's champion. All the animals that have been mistreated, abandoned, left to wander and hunger, see this happen and turn to the pig and ask for help. This is just a wee pig with a stout kind heart that makes a difference in his world.
We are but a few Christians in the world but with the kindness that only comes from God we can make a difference in the lives of those we touch. The mixture of divine Spirit and Jesus' life changing blood is designed to flow through Christians to bring healing from sin and draw all people to God. This is God's will for us. Will you accept this high calling as a part of the family of God? Let God burn the dross away from your soul and through you then bring others to Him. This is the gospel commission.