Today’s reading includes Leviticus 11:1-12:8, Mark 5:21-43, Psalm 38:1-22, Proverbs 10:8-9.
Today, I am still thinking of the holy fire from heaven. I am savoring the fact that God initiated a relationship with the Israelites through the Levitical law and that He initiates eternal relationship with us through the completed work of Jesus. We need to remember that the fire of the Tabernacle could not go out because it was initiated and started by God’s holy presence. The people did not want to put out the Presence of God, as represented by the fire. The fire on the altar was a constant reminder of God’s presence and His power.
In Leviticus 10:1 we are introduced to two sons of Aaron who served as an example of “don’t play with fire.” They did not take the holy fire seriously. They tried to put a counterfeit fire in their incense burners.
Aaron’s sons Nadab and Abihu put coals of fire in their incense burners and sprinkled incense over them. In this way, they disobeyed the Lord by burning before him the wrong kind of fire, different than he had commanded. 2 So fire blazed forth from the Lord’s presence and burned them up, and they died there before the Lord.
This account reminds us to stay close to the warmth of the Holy Fire, the presence of God. We cannot forget that Satan continually tempts us with counterfeit fire straight from the flames of hell. God will not be mocked. He will not accept a counterfeit. We must stay close to the perpetual Holy fire, the presence of God.
In the New Testament, John the Baptist predicted that the Messiah would baptize with the Holy Spirit and fire.
11 “I baptize you with water for repentance. But after me comes one who is more powerful than I, whose sandals I am not worthy to carry. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire.”
Fire is associated with judgement and refining, but it is also associated with the presence of God and the Holy Spirit when at Pentecost, the Spirit descended as “tongues of fire” (Acts 2:3)
So, as stated in yesterday’s reading, there is good fire and bad fire. There is fire that refines and reveals the beauty and value, and there is fire that destroys.
I remember a particular season of longing in my life. During that season my brother, Ken, had shared with me about the freedom of relinquishing our desires to the Father. He told me that he pictured his desires, whatever that may be, as a small box, like a gift. And in his prayers, he would offer the box, symbolizing his wants and desires, to the Lord. He would imagine leaving the box at the altar, and praying, “Not my will, but Yours, O God”. So, through prayer, I brought my desires to God’s altar time and time again. Yet I kept picking it back up, analyzing and trying to control it once again. And then one day, I read about burnt offerings. It was February 14th, Valentines Day, and once again I was tempted with discontentment and sadness. I had begun reading the One Year Bible, as a New Year’s Resolution, but was tempted to skip the Old Testament reading because it seemed so irrelevant to me. However, I wanted to hold true to my resolution, so I trudged through the assigned reading. The reading that day was about the preparation of the altar. I began to pray, saying, “Lord, I’ve tried that. I have tried again and again to lay down my desires and my unfulfilled dreams and hopes and wishes. I have tried to lay down my sadness and heartache, but I keep picking it back up.”
And then I read further about the burnt offerings. And I began to think about the burnt offering and the holy fire surrounding it. I realized if I offered my desires as a burnt offering, one of two things could happen. Either it would be something made beautiful, as silver refined in the fire, or it would be a black charred mess that I would not want to pick back up anyway. So, I prayed that my desires would be as a burnt offering. And I finally found that place of surrender. The things God had been trying to teach me during this difficult season suddenly began to form as truth in my heart. He was enough! His presence was what my heart longed for more than anything else. Isaiah 43:1-3 reminds us that the Holy Fire, God’s presence is with us, even if life’s circumstances take us through a season of fiery trials.
1But now, this is what the Lord says—
he who created you, Jacob,
he who formed you, Israel:
“Do not fear, for I have redeemed you;
I have summoned you by name; you are mine.
2When you pass through the waters,
I will be with you;
and when you pass through the rivers,
they will not sweep over you.
When you walk through the fire,
you will not be burned;
the flames will not set you ablaze.
3For I am the Lord your God,
the Holy One of Israel, your Savior;
When we walk through fiery trials, we don’t have to be burned. The pain, though refining, will not set us ablaze, for the Lamb of God suffered the flames of burnt offering on our behalf. And as we walk through the fiery trials with the Holy Fire, the Light of the World, and the Tongues of Fire–the Trinity– as our companions, we will not be burned.