In the introduction to the devotional this week we discussed the 5 different types of sacrifices that were to be brought to the tabernacle. We highlighted the fact that the burnt offering was a special offering, different than the other four, in that it was a blood offering designed to atone for the sins of the person. We discovered that Jesus is the burnt offering. Yesterday we also discussed the reason behind a burnt offering; God desires us to torch our physical desires and fixations and trust in His eternal Kingdom plan.
Today there is one more aspect of the burnt offering that will be helpful for us. God told the priests to make sure that the fire never went out on the altar. When the pillar of cloud moved and it was time to tear down the Tabernacle and migrate across the desert, the priests would take the embers of the fire and keep it burning until the new location could be established and the offerings resumed.
There is a deep truth in the fact that God required an eternal flame to burn at the door of His entrance.
- Jesus’ sacrifice for our sins is eternal. We do not have to sacrifice Jesus over and over again in order to receive redemption from sin. The sacrifice has been made and we are reconciled to God…eternally.
- The flame is a representation of the Spirit of God. The physical flames of the altar in the Tabernacle during the Old Testament have been exchanged for the spiritual flame of the Spirit of God in our hearts. Our bodies are the Tabernacle of God and His Spirit burning within us is the altar of sacrifice. The only way that we can worship God authentically and offer up our “stuff” to him as a burnt offering is if the Spirit of God is burning brightly within us.
This is the task of spiritual formation and the role of the Spiritual Disciplines in our lives. The Apostle Paul said in Galatians 6:8
The one who sows to please his sinful nature, from that nature will reap destruction; the one who sows to please the Spirit, from the Spirit will reap eternal life.
If we want to grow spiritually and be able to pass through the Tabernacle into the Holy of Holies, then it is vital that we focus on keeping the fire of the Spirit burning in our souls. I realize that it is a stretch to draw the analogy this far, but it may serve as a nice visual for us. Think of the Spiritual Disciplines as the process of keeping the fire burning. The priests had to remove the ashes from the fire, walk them out to the edge of the camp, come back and add logs to the fire, and then change into clean clothes. This ritual, tedious as it was, was an important part of the sacrificial system. In our lives the Spiritual Disciplines can seem to be tedious. That’s because sometimes they are. Yet, without the discipline of Bible Study, Prayer, Silence, Simplicity, Fasting, Worship, and Service, the fires of the altar would get choked out by the ashes of laziness and neglect.
The priests didn’t live to take out the ashes. They lived to keep the fire burning. Yet, without the ash removal there would be no flame. We do not live to be good spiritual-discipline-doers, we live to worship in the flame of the Spirit. Yet, without the disciplines in place to keep the ashes out, we will slowly kill the flame and the altar will become dull.
Let’s remember to ask God to light the fire in our hearts today and do our part to keep the flame of the Spirit burning brightly in our lives today.