Fire on the Altar by Samuel Aliu

The Specificity of God's Instructions

In a big bowl, add three cups of sifted flour, one cup of cocoa powder, and two cups of sugar. With your measuring spoon, take one and a half tablespoons of baking powder, one tablespoon of baking soda, and half a tablespoon of salt to the mixture. Mix thoroughly to combine the dry ingredients before making a well in the middle for the wet ingredients….
 
I hurriedly wrote down all the measurements and procedures as my confectionary instructor dictated. After several failed attempts at making a perfect cake, I learned the importance of writing out recipes the hard way. 
 
Later that evening, as I shared the chocolate cake I made with my family, I remember congratulating myself on my first perfect cake. My mum would later commend me for making remarkable progress in my baking. I went to bed that night feeling like a world-class baker because I followed my instructor's recipe to the latter.
 
Just like I followed my instructor's recipe to make a perfect chocolate cake, God often gives his children specific instructions to follow. We need to reckon that God is our father, and he doesn't dish out instructions just for the fun of it. In Genesis 6:14-16, we see God give Noah specific instructions on building the ark before the flood came. God gave Noah the instructions for his good. He knew how devastating the effect of the flood would be, so he prepared him ahead by giving him instructions on how to go about it.
 
Throughout the book of Exodus, time and time again, God gave Moses specific instructions concerning the children of Israel. For example, towards the latter part of Exodus, God commands Moses to build the tabernacle. He gave the detail of every material needed, even down to the artisans who would work on the project. The writer of Hebrews later revealed to us that everything that God instructed Moses to make was a copy of that which was in heaven (Hebrews 5:8). This was why God was so big on the detail.
 
All through the bible, we can see that every instruction God gives is for the good of his people. He is like a parent guiding his infants, the master chef giving recipes to his protégés. The precept of the Lord gladdens the heart and works for the benefit of his people. David admits this in Psalms 19: 7-8.
 

So What About the Burning Altar?

Leviticus 6:12-13 (New Living Translation)
12- "Meanwhile, the fire on the altar must be kept burning; it must never go out. Each morning, the priest will add fresh wood to the fire and arrange the daily whole burnt offering on it. He must then burn the fat of the peace offering on top of this daily whole burnt offering."
13- "Remember, the fire must be kept burning on the altar at all times. It must never go out."
 
God gave Aaron and his sons instructions regarding sacrifices and burnt offerings. He also added that the fire on the altar used to burn the sacrifices and offerings must never be put out. This particular instruction was repeated three times in that same chapter. First in verse 9, then in verses 12 and 13, respectively. 
 
Why would God go through the trouble of repeating an instruction three times in one context? What importance did it have back then, and what does it mean now for the new man in Christ?
 

The Fire

God's first revelation of Himself to Moses was in the form of a flame of fire in the burning bush (Exodus 3:2). Exodus 13: 21-22 records that God journeyed with the Israelites as a pillar of fire at night. Similarly, in Exodus 19:18, when God was handing Moses the law on Mount Sinai, the presence of the Lord was upon the mount like a fire. Therefore, it is safe to say that the fire represented the presence of God with the children of Israel.
 
Before the ministry of Jesus started, In Matt 3: 11, John admits that someone greater than him comes that will baptize with the Holy Ghost and with fire. The first mention of the spirit of God in the new testament was likened to fire.   
 
Also, the first manifestation of the spirit of God on the day of Pentecost was likened to a tongue of fire (Acts 2:3). 

The Significance of the Fire on the Altar

As part of the instructions God gave Moses on the mount, he commanded him to erect an altar outside the tabernacle. The altar was explicitly used for burning offerings and sacrifices presented to God. Lev 9: 24 records that the Lord himself started the fire when he caused it to fall from the sky and consume the burnt offerings presented to him.
 
Since God started the fire, it was imperative to sustain it and keep it burning. The ever-burning fire signified once more the presence of a God who is ever-present. It was a constant reminder that God was there to accept their offerings and save them from their iniquities.  

The Believer's Altar

As a new creation no longer under the law, we are not required to present offerings or sacrifices to God. Therefore, there is no need for a physical altar burning continuously with wood and fire. Instead, on the day we believed and received the holy spirit, God lighted his fire in our hearts. This fire of God enables us to walk in the supernatural and do the works of Jesus.
 
Although God started the fire on the altar, he instructed to keep it burning. The instruction was necessary because it was possible to neglect the fire and die out. So, just like in the old days, believers can now choose to put out the fire of God's spirit or keep it burning. 

Keeping the Fire Burning.

1 Thessalonians 5: 19 - "Quench not the spirit."
 
I found it interesting to observe that the word "quench" is primarily used in the context of extinguishing a fire. Paul gave this instruction to believers because he knows we can quench the spirit. In a sense, Paul indirectly compares the Holy spirit to a fire continuously burning in the believer. 
 
The fire of the Holy Spirit in the believer is what enables us to be zealous for good works. Jesus promised that his disciples would receive power when the Holy Spirit came on them. The fire of the spirit is his power at work in us.
 
Unfortunately, many believers quench the fire of God's spirit by neglecting the simple instructions to daily walk with God. As God commanded the priests to add fresh wood to the altar daily, he expects us to commune with him (the source of our fire) daily to keep our altar burning. 

How to Keep the Fire Burning?

To keep the fire of the Holy Ghost continually burning in our hearts, we need these three essential things.
 
Prayer: Paul said we must always be found praying in 1 Thessalonians 5:17, Luke 18:1. Prayer is communicating with God directly. It is communion and fellowship with him. Believers are expected to pray in the Holy Ghost to keep the fire burning. Jude 1: 20.  

Meditating and studying the word: Continual study and meditation on the bible are vital ingredients of an altar burning continuously. God gave Joshua this instruction in Joshua 1:8
 
Walking with the holy spirit: The holy spirit is the altar of fire in the believer today. We have to add wood to the burning fire daily to walk with him consciously. The believer adds wood to the fire by listening and obeying the voice of the holy spirit. Therefore, we are instructed to despise not prophecies. 

The instructions for keeping the altar burning is so simple that it's easy to miss. But, like a culinary instructor, God has given us the perfect recipe already. So following the recipe and making a great cake is all up to us.



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