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 the above passage of scripture regarding the beginnings of the priesthood in Old Testament Israel. 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).
I can recall in my younger days as a beginning preacher gathering with older pastors at a retreat. One of the men began to sing an old hymn that went something like the following:
"Oh Lord, in my heart, keep the fire burning, burning, burning".
The rest of the words I cannot recall, but I do remember the depth of walk that older pastor had, and the impression it left on my life. In my beginnings, I knew that if I was going to make it in ministry and daily Christian living, I needed to tend the flame of God burning in my soul by way of the Spirit-filled life.
We need not so much the "forms of Godliness" as we need the fire of God burning in those forms
Henry later writes:
"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."
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.
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.