Monday, May 16, 2016

Keep the fire of the Lord burning

Leviticus 9:22-24 "Then Aaron lifted up his hands toward the people and blessed them, and he stepped down after making the sin offering and the burnt offering and the peace offerings. 23 Moses and Aaron went into the tent of meeting. When they came out and blessed the people, the glory of the Lord appeared to all the people. 24 Then fire came out from before the Lord and consumed the burnt offering and the portions of fat on the altar; and when all the people saw it, they shouted and fell on their faces."

I was thinking upon this particular passage of scripture a few days ago. Aaron, Moses' brother, was chosen by God to be the first high priest of Israel. His family and clan and tribe were the chosen portion of Israel that were set aside by God to represent His interests to the people. The Book of Leviticus represents the Israelite's first month or two of life following their Exodus from Egypt. We see the beginnings of their journeys and the start of a ministry. As God was finalizing all of the instructions to Aaron and his sons through Moses, the one feature of their calling and office as priests had to do with keeping the fire burning upon the altar (see Leviticus 6:13).

Undoubtedly the preparation for the moment recorded for us in Leviticus 9 was momentous. The priesthood of Israel was a special office commissioned by God. Aaron and his sons had experienced the prescribed rituals of anointing and donning of garments. However, one thing was needed - the fire of God. Lest the Spirit of God would come and kindle the altar, the priesthood would remain a ritual - and not a relationship with the covenant keeping God of Israel. 

The scene must had been truly an emotional one as the Jewish Levitical priesthood was getting underway. The people were present. Moses was there. Aaron and his sons were arrayed in their white garments. Then the fire came. The corporate spiritual life of a nation could now officially begin. They had experienced the deliverance by God from Egypt and were at the place God had called them. But until the fire of His presence kindled that altar, the ministry, the life of following God - could not commence nor continue. 

Matthew Henry, the great commentator of old wrote these words: "This fire did, as it were, take possession of the altar. The fire was thus kindled in God’s house, which was to continue as long as the house stood, as we read before, Lev. 6:13. This also was a figure of good things to come. The Spirit descended upon the apostles in fire (Acts 2:3), so ratifying their commission, as this spoken of here did the priests’. And the descent of this holy fire into our souls to kindle in them pious and devout affections towards God, and such a holy zeal as burns up the flesh and the lusts of it, is a certain token of God’s gracious acceptance of our persons and performances. That redounds to God’s glory which is the work of his own grace in us." 

Henry continues: "Hereby we know that we dwell in God, and God in us, because he hath thus given us of his Spirit, 1 John 4:13. Now henceforward, (1.) All their sacrifices and incense must be offered with this fire. Note, Nothing goes to God but what comes from him. We must have grace, that holy fire, from the God of grace, else we cannot serve him acceptably,Heb. 12:28. (2.) The priests must keep it burning with a constant supply of fuel, and the fuel must be wood, the cleanest of fuel. Thus those to whom God has given grace must take heed of quenching the Spirit."

Israel of the Old Testament was characterized by the heavenly fire of Yahweh. Such fire represented the Person of the Spirit of God attending with His people. God was the One that met Moses in the fiery bush and revealed His name as Yahweh (Exodus 3:14). Moses' calling could not commence without that confirmation of God's glorious presence. The beginnings of Aaron's ministry, the ministry of the tabernacle and the much later ministry of the temple built by Solomon had with them the coming of the heavenly fire. 

In the New Testament we see yet again the Holy Spirit descending upon His church. The church worldwide and on the local level is composed of all born-again people who are classified as a spiritual priesthood (1 Peter 2:9-10). Jesus had told his disciples to wait and tarry in Jerusalem until the Power from on High came down (see Acts 1:8). The one crucial difference between the Spirit's ministry in the Old Testament and today is that whilst He dwelt with and among the people in O.T Israel; He now permanently dwells in and through the church. Lest the Spirit comes, indwells at salvation and continues to lead and guide in sanctification - no spiritual life and service to God will commence or continue. The Spirit did come. 

When He comes into our hearts at salvation, simultaneously faith issues forth. True, genuine trust is issued froth by the sinner and they freely embrace Jesus Christ - resulting in their conversion. The Baptist Faith and Message 2000 notes: "Regeneration, or the new birth, is a work of God's grace whereby believers become new creatures in Christ Jesus. It is a change of heart wrought by the Holy Spirit through conviction of sin, to which the sinner responds in repentance toward God and faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. Repentance and faith are inseparable experiences of grace. Repentance is a genuine turning from sin toward God. Faith is the acceptance of Jesus Christ and commitment of the entire personality to Him as Lord and Saviour." Scripture describes this miracle as regeneration or the new birth (John 3:1-5; Titus 3:5; James 1:18; 1 Peter 1:3,23). 

When a man preaches a sermon or a anyone serves God in any capacity, they can only do so by the Spirit's continuing work of gifting and empowerment in their post-conversion Christian walk (Ephesians 4:11-12). Today, I simply close with the thought that as Christians, we need to tend to the fire of God kindled in our human spirit by the Holy Spirit. Let's keep the fire burning and thus serve God with joy and gladness!

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