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Saturday, December 27, 2014

Does the fire burn bright on your altar tonight? Or is your altar cold?



 …The Fire on the Altar and Our Daily Sacrifice…

Leviticus 6:8-13 (NASB95)
(Verses as noted in Tanach are designated by [])
8[1]     1Then the Lord spoke to Moses, saying,
9[2]     “Command Aaron and his sons, saying, ‘This is athe law for the burnt offering: the burnt offering itself shall remain on the hearth on the altar all night until the morning, and bthe fire on the altar is to be kept burning on it.
10[3]     ‘The priest is to put on ahis linen robe, and he shall put on undergarments next to his flesh; and he shall take up the 1ashes to which the fire 2reduces the burnt offering on the altar and place them beside the altar.
11[4]     ‘Then he shall take off his garments and put on other garments, and carry the 1ashes outside the camp to a clean place.
12[5]     ‘The fire on the altar shall be kept burning on it. It shall not go out, but the priest shall burn wood on it every morning; and he shall lay out the burnt offering on it, and offer up in smoke the fat portions of the peace offerings aon it.
13[6]     ‘Fire shall be kept burning continually on the altar; it is not to go out. [1]

Let us pray:
Baruch Ata Adonai, Eloheynu Melech Haolam,
Asher Kideshanu Bemitzvotav, Vetzivanu Laahsok Bedivrey Torah…
(Blessed are you, HaShem, our God, King of the universe,
Who sanctified us with His commandments, and commanded us to be occupied with issues of Torah…)

 The verses cited here at the beginning of today’s epistle come from Vayikra (Leviticus) 6:10-13 in our English bibles, chapter 6, verses 3 through 6 in our Hebrew Scriptures (Tanach or Chumash). These verses deal with the olah offering, or the burnt offering. It might be good to briefly review the sacrifices mentioned in Vayikra, because of their importance to us, especially in light of Messiah…

English

Hebrew English

Scripture (Format English Bibles)
Burnt Offering
Olah

Lev 1:1-17; 6:8-13
Grain Offering
Minchah
Lev 2:1-16; 6:14-23

Peace Offering
Shelamim
Lev 3:1-17; 7:11-36

Sin Offering
Chatat
Lev 4:1-5:13; 6:24-7:7

Guilt Offering
Asham
Lev 5:14-6:7; 7:1-7


“…The Burnt Offering: is the only offering completely dedicated to God; it symbolizes a complete and total surrender to God. The word Olah means to rise. No one was allowed to eat from it.

The Grain offering: points toward the concept of the altar as God’s table (i.e., a shared meal with God). A small “memorial” portion was placed on the altar for the Lord and the rest was given to the priest for food. It was considered “the bread of life”.

The Peace (Shalem) Offering: Like the burnt and grain offerings they were voluntary. The burnt offering is completely consumed; the grain offering is shared between the priest and God but the peace offering is the only one shared by all three: the one offering it, the priests and God. It is meant to celebrate the covenant.

The Sin (Chatah) Offering/ Purification: This one is mandatory. Not meant to celebrate the covenant but to repair the covenant or restore fellowship. This offering was not for intentional sins!!!

Leviticus 4:2 Speak to the sons of Israel, saying: If a soul shall sin
(Chatah) through ignorance against any of the commandments of
The LORD concerning things which ought not to be done, and shall
do any one of them,…

Hebrews 10:4 For it is not possible that the blood of bulls and of
goats should take away sins.

The Guilt (Asham) Offering: Restitution of damages done to someone else that required a monetary payment to them had to be accomplished first; then the Asham offering can be made to God. Though we make it right with our fellow we can never repay God…”[2]

It is important to note the sacrifices because in order for our Messiah to be the atonement we needed, He had to fulfill all of them. While much can be said about the sacrifices and how they relate to Meshach, let us follow this train of thought as given here:

“…Genesis showed us how incapable man is.  It shows the great need for judgment – the Garden – the flood – Sodom and Gomorrah.  In Exodus we saw the redemption and salvation that was offered to all who would hear.  In Moses we saw type of the Redeemer that would lead us from the captivity of the world.
Leviticus follows with God’s estimation of sin.  It also contrasts that with the holiness of God and the futility and even danger of trying to approach Him by any other means than atonement. 

Over and over this book reminds us of sin and the payment for it through sacrifice.  Our culture today is revolted by all the animal sacrifice, but that is because they do not understand the horror of sin.  Anything less would lighten the meaning of rebellion against our Creator.  As a person truly draws near to God, two things stand out, the utter sinfulness of man, and the absolute holiness of God.  If sin was not so utterly evil, then the punishment might be something less severe.  We see how God looks at sin when we see sacrifice, and the ultimate sacrifice of the Cross. 

“Sin is the most expensive thing in the universe, pardoned or unforgiven,”  C. Finney. Dr. Guinness says, “To understand the seriousness of sin, we must fathom three oceans, the ocean of human suffering, the ocean of the sufferings of the Lord Jesus Christ, the ocean of future suffering which awaits impenitent sinners.”  We cannot get a true sense of the horror that sin really is because we are sinners.  Christ alone being sinless, understood it, and the horror of the cross was his evaluation of it.  In the history of great revivals, we almost always see great conviction of sin and repentance.  The main type presented in Leviticus was of animals’ bloodshed. The reality is Christ on the cross, the Lamb of God…” [3] 

Sin is the spot, the blemish that besets us and only sacrifice could take it away. While it is not the sacrifices that we want to focus on here today, but on the Altar and the fire kindled upon it, it behooves us to remember what the Altar was for.  I will take up the issue of the sacrifices in a later epistle, but for now, let us take a look at the Scriptures and see what we can see…

Look at verse 9 [verse 2 in the Hebrew Scriptures]:

“… the burnt offering itself shall remain on the hearth on the altar all night until the morning, and bthe fire on the altar is to be kept burning on it…”

The first underlined phrase on the hearth is translated in the Tanach and Chumash as “on the pyre”; the second phrase the fire on the altar is translated in the Hebrew as “the fire of the Altar”. In verse 12[5], there is another phrase The fire on the altar. This is hard to see in the English translation, but clear in the Hebrew, that there were three fires which burned upon the Altar mount.


Figure 1. All illustrations (except as noted) from the Temple Institutes website, http://www.templeinstitute.org/
“…There were three fires, or piles of wood for fire continually; the first was a large one, on which the daily sacrifice was burnt; the second less, and called the pile of the incense, because they took from it fire in a censer to burn the morning and evening incense; and the third was only for preserving the fire that it might not go out: and of this it is written, Leviticus 6:12 (x); and Maimonides (y) observes, that some say, the first of these is meant by the burning all night, Leviticus 6:9 and the second by the fire of the altar burning in it, Leviticus 6:12 but his own sense is, the third is meant by it; and in the sense of R. Joses, these three fires were all burning upon the altar; the first was towards the east side of the altar, the second towards the southwest, as being nearer to the rise of the altar, where the priests were, and the third was made in any part of the altar as was thought fit (z); and this is the fire not to be put out, and he that quenched it, though but one coal, was to be beaten, yea, though it be brought down from the altar (a)...” [4]

Where did the fire originally come from? In Leviticus 9 we find the answer:
23 Moses and Aaron went into the tent of meeting. When they came out and blessed the people, athe glory of the Lord appeared to all the people.
24 aThen 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. [5]

The fires on the altar represent our walk with Elyon. In our picture, the large fire at the right is the fire of the burnt offering, the place of sacrifice. In our walk with God, this is where all earthly things end. It is here that Rabbi Sha’ul (Paul) speaks of what is acceptable to the Father:
Romans 12:1-3:
 “…1  Therefore aI urge you, brethren, by the mercies of God, to bpresent your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, 1acceptable to God, which is your 2spiritual service of worship.
      2 And do not abe conformed to bthis 1world, but be transformed by the crenewing of your mind, so that you may 2dprove what the will of God is, that which is good and 3acceptable and perfect.
         3 For through athe grace given to me I say to everyone among you bnot to think more highly of himself than he ought to think; but to think so as to have sound judgment, as God has allotted to ceach a measure of faith…” [6]




Think about this for a moment: Here, on this altar, all things that we love or hate, all that we are bound to or controlled by, all that we see, want, touch, desire, all we know or don’t know are to be put to the fire on this altar. We are to put upon the altar the burnt offering, to be spent in the fire till not a thing is left, all to be consumed by the fire of God for the burnt offering is for Him and Him alone. Yeshua (Jesus) was our burnt offering, for He offered up Himself completely, holding nothing back from God the Father. If we are not willing to do so, if we are not willing to give all to God, to allow Him to burn up everything in our lives that keeps stopping us from coming to Him completely on our own, are we then that “living sacrifice, holy and acceptable” to God?
In the Hebrew language, the word for “altar” is the word מזבּח    mizbêach miz-bay'-akh, which means “place of sacrifice” or better, “the place of slaughter”.
 What keeps you my beloved from the “place of slaughter”, this “place of sacrifice? What do you hold back from God? Do we love this life more than we love Him? Can any of us really say that we are today a “living sacrifice”? 

We need to think about it…

One thing often overlooked when we study about the altar is the commandment of Lev 6:11:
Lev 6:11  And he shall put off his garments, and put on other garments, and carry forth the ashes without the camp unto a clean place. [7]
                                                     
This often overlooked verse is also a clue for our walk with God; here the priest is instructed to do what seems like an ordinary task – take out the garbage, remove the ashes. What an appropriate task. Every morning, the priests were to remove the ashes, to cleanse the altar. Shouldn’t this be a part of our daily walk also? Shouldn’t we strive every morning to cleanse the altar of our heart, to dump the “garbage”, to remove the ashes of fires we have kindled against one another, either by word or deed? When we dump this garbage, it isn’t just to be thrown out any where – no it is to be taken to a “clean place”, a place “set-apart” from where we always dump our trash, a place where God chooses. Otherwise, we are likely to just trample over the garbage, staining ourselves again and again with its uncleanness, till we drag it back into our homes, our lives and our hearts.


There are two other fires we see on the altar: one for the incense, and one for the perpetual flame. The smallest of the fires, the “fire on the altar” or the “pile of the incense” is again directly related to our walk.

What does the “pile of incense” represent?  It is from this fire that the coals were taken into the Holy place and put on the altar of incense, or the “golden altar”. Here the priest would add the special mix of spices and oils upon the coals and a sweet smell would go before God. This is our prayers. Are not our petitions and prayers to God to be as a sweet odor to Him? Do not our tears and fears combine like the sweet oil and spices to go up before God? What do you offer in the Holy place? The right mixture of incense, or do we break the commandment of


Exo 30:9 “…Ye shall offer no strange incense thereon…”




How often do we come into God’s holy presence bringing him strange incense and strange fire, fire and incense from a source apart from God’s altar…?

Leviticus 10:1-3 (NASB)
1  Now Nadab and Abihu, the sons of Aaron, took their respective firepans, and after putting fire in them, placed incense on it and offered strange fire before the LORD, which He had not commanded them.
2  And fire came out from the presence of the LORD and consumed them, and they died before the LORD.
3  Then Moses said to Aaron, "It is what the LORD spoke, saying, 'By those who come near Me I will be treated as holy, And before all the people I will be honored.'" So Aaron, therefore, kept silent.
 [8]

Do our prayers please God, or do we offer Him strange incense, asking for things we shouldn’t have or asking for them with an ungrateful and unforgiving heart? Is our fire lit from the coals burning on His altar or do we bring a strange fire, one that was set ablaze somewhere else?

The question we must ask, is our fire pure before God?

Do you ponder on how our fire is made pure? The answer is in Luke 9:23-25 and confirmed again in Luke 14:26-33:

Luke 9:23 Then He said to them all, “If anyone wants to come with c Me, he must deny himself, d take up his cross daily, e and follow Me. f
24 For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life because of Me will save it. g 25 What is a man benefited if he gains the whole world, yet loses or forfeits himself?...” [9]

Luke 14:26 “If anyone comes to Me a and does not hate b his own father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters—yes, and even his own life—he cannot be My disciple.
 27 Whoever does not bear his own cross c and come after Me cannot be My disciple.
28 “For which of you, wanting to build a tower, doesn’t first sit down and calculate the cost d to see if he has enough to complete it? 29 Otherwise, after he has laid the foundation and cannot finish it, all the onlookers will begin to make fun of him, 30 saying, ‘This man started to build and wasn’t able to finish.’
31 “Or what king, going to war against another king, will not first sit down and decide if he is able with 10,000 to oppose the one who comes against him with 20,000? 32 If not, while the other is still far off, he sends a delegation and asks for terms of peace. 33 In the same way, therefore, every one of you who does not say good-bye to e all his possessions f cannot be My disciple. [10]


It is in the fire of affliction we are made pure. It is the fire of the trials of everyday life we are turned to gold. In the fire of God’s altar we are consumed, burnt up, given completely to Him. But it has to be the right fire.
That brings us to the third fire on the altar: the fire on the altar. This fire was given by God Himself…
Lev. 9:24: “…aThen 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. [11]

Here was the fire on the altar, the fire of God Himself.

Here is where most of us go wrong. We have let our fire go out; we have let the altar go cold. We keep the fire burning with a zeal, with the continuous energy and love we have for the Father and His Son, with our efforts to serve one another, and with keeping shalom bayit (peace of the house) in our homes and families. Yet more often than not, we dampen the fire, smothering it with the cares and snares of this world. We throw water on the fire every time we gossip, every time we speak in anger toward another, to our children and our spouses.
Instead of a continuous fire on the altar, we walk away and let the flames die down and allow the fire to go out. The altar becomes cold. Then we have no place to offer ourselves as a living sacrifice and our prayers have no fire to burn the incense of desire and no sweet smell goes up before God. The waters of this world rain upon our altar, and because we do not act with the diligence needed to protect the fire, we grow cold. We get comfortable where we are at and the fire goes out. We get lazy, and bring no wood for the fire and soon, all is gone, all that is left is the ashes we won’t even take out.
In Jeremiah 6, hear the Lord:

Thus says the Lord,
Stand by the ways and see and ask for the aancient paths, Where the good way is, and walk in it; And byou will find rest for your souls.

But they said, ‘We will not walk in it.

17 “And I set awatchmen over you, saying,
‘Listen to the sound of the trumpet!’

But they said, ‘We will not listen.’ [12]

“…But they said, “We will not walk in it”…
“…But they said, “We will not listen…”

Sad words from those who have let their altar go cold.  Are our words any better? When God tells us what to do how do we answer? With a “Yes and Amen” or do we say “We will not listen”?

Jesus told us in Matthew 11:

25 aAt that 1time Jesus said, “I praise You, bFather, Lord of heaven and earth, that cYou have hidden these things from the wise and intelligent and have revealed them to infants.
26 “Yes, aFather, for this way was well-pleasing in Your sight.

27 aAll things have been handed over to Me by My Father; and no one knows the Son except the Father; nor does anyone know the Father bexcept the Son, and anyone to whom the Son wills to reveal Him.

28 aCome to Me, all 1who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest.

29 “Take My yoke upon you and alearn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart,
and byou will find rest for your souls.

30 “For aMy yoke is 1easy and My burden is light.” [13]

Yeshua was quoting directly from Jeremiah 6.

Do we think we are wise, with things hidden from us, or are we as children, full of belief and trust that He will give us rest? Are we so wise that we forget how to take out the ashes or forget how to pile the wood on the fire? Or do we do as children, gladly doing what the Father asks, taking out the garbage and keeping the fire going? 
It takes work. The priests had to labor all night, every night to keep the fire burning. In the morning they would clean out the ashes, pile on more wood and prepare themselves for another day in the service of God.
 I think it merits this thought:

“…Jesus gave us the example that we always should pray. He Himself spent much time on the
 mountain, and elsewhere, to pray to His heavenly Father. We read also of Him that: 
 
"He spake a parable unto them to this end, that men ought always to pray, and not to faint",
Luke 18:1.
 
 He wished to teach us, by this parable, that we should pray always.  Then God will hear. 
 Let the fire of prayer burn always.  Also Paul  the apostle, repeatedly says that he prayed always   
and  ever.  
 
"We give thanks  to God and the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, 
praying always for  you", Col 1:3. 
 
"We give thanks to God always for you all, making mention of you in our prayers", 1 Thess 1:2. 
 
"Wherefore also we pray always for you," 2 Thess 1:11.
 
"But we are bound to give thanks always ," 2 Thess 2:13.
 
"I thank my God, making mention of thee always in my prayers," Philemon 1:4.
 
Paul, the faithful apostle and preacher of the gospel, kept his fire always burning. 
Through God's grace he always found wood enough to keep up his fire of prayer.  
The apostle admonishes us to praise God continually. He compares this with the offerings. 
 
“Let us offer the sacrifice  of  praise  to  God continually,  that  is, 
the fruit of our lips  giving  thanks  to  his name", Heb 13:16.
 
Another apostle, namely Peter, kept up always the fire of his work in the service of God. It was his
task to teach the people, according to the command given him by Christ Himself. Go to all nations,
and teach them to keep the things I have commanded you, said Jesus. Peter, being a faithful apostle, 
obeyed this command. He was always toiling in the fire of his calling, to keep that burning. He always 
taught  the people, and took care that they would be taught, even after his death.
 
"Wherefore I will not be negligent to put you always in remembrance of these things,
 though ye know them, and be established in the present truth.  Yea, I think it meet, 
as long as I am in this tabernacle,  to stir you up by putting you in remembrance; 
Knowing that shortly I must put off this my tabernacle,
even as our Lord Jesus Christ hath shewed me. 
Moreover I will endeavour that ye may be able after my decease to have these things 
always in remembrance", 2 Pet 1:12-15…”[14]
 
We’ve now seen the fires on the altar. We know the large blaze is our place of sacrifice. The small blaze sends up our prayers to the throne of God. The third fire should never go out.  Do you have the wood for your fire ready? Is your altar hot, or cold? This is our question for today. 
May our answer be “Yes and Amen”.

May the Lord richly bless you today my beloved… Amen


1  Ch 6:1 in Heb
a  Ex 29:38–42; Num 28:3–10
b  Lev 6:12, 13
a  Ex 28:39, 42; 39:27, 28
1  Or fat ashes
2  Lit consumes
1  Or fat ashes
a  Lev 3:5
[1]  New American Standard Bible : 1995 Update. LaHabra, CA : The Lockman Foundation, 1995

[2] Adapted from Sabbath notes, El Shaddai Ministries; http://www.elshaddaiministries.us/torah5773/2013-3-16notes.txt. All rights reserved, by Pastor Mark Biltz with edits by David Robinson.
[3] http://www.bible-sermons.org/classes/Jesus%20in%20Leviticus.doc
b  Lev 6:12, 13
[4]From John Gill’s  Exposition of the Entire Bible:  (x) Maimon. Hilchot Tamidin, c. 2. sect. 4. Bartenora in Misn. Tamid, c. 2. sect. 4. & in Yoma, c. 4. sect. 6. (y) In ib. sect. 5. & in Yoma, c. 4. sect. 6. (z) Maimon. Hilchot Tamidin, c. 2. sect. 7, 8, 9. (a) Ibid. sect. 6.
a Lev 9:6; Num 16:19
a 1 Kin 18:38, 39; 2 Chr 7:1
[5] New American Standard Bible: 1995 update. 1995 (Le 9:23–24). LaHabra, CA: The Lockman Foundation.
a 1 Cor 1:10; 2 Cor 10:1–4; Eph 4:1; 1 Pet 2:11
b Rom 6:13, 16, 19; 1 Cor 6:20; Heb 13:15; 1 Pet 2:5
1 Or well-pleasing
2 Or rational
a 1 Pet 1:14
b Matt 13:22; Gal 1:4; 1 John 2:15
1 Or age
c Eph 4:23; Titus 3:5
2 Or approve
d Eph 5:10, 17; Col 1:9
3 Or well-pleasing
a Rom 1:5; 15:15; 1 Cor 3:10; 15:10; Gal 2:9; Eph 3:7f
b Rom 11:20; 12:16
c 1 Cor 7:17; 2 Cor 10:13; Eph 4:7; 1 Pet 4:11
[6] New American Standard Bible: 1995 update. 1995 (Ro 12:1–3). LaHabra, CA: The Lockman Foundation.
[7] THE HOLY SCRIPTURES ACCORDING TO THE MASORETIC TEXT; A NEW TRANSLATION WITH THE AID OF PREVIOUS VERSIONS AND WITH CONSTANT CONSULTATION OF JEWISH AUTHORITIES; PHILADELPHIA
THE JEWISH PUBLICATION SOCIETY OF AMERICA 5677-1917

[8]  New American Standard Bible : 1995 Update. LaHabra, CA : The Lockman Foundation, 1995
c 9:23 Lit come after
d 9:23 2Tm 2:12–13
e 9:23 Other mss omit daily
f 9:23 Mt 10:38–39; Lk 14:27; 1Co 15:31
The same Greek word (psyche) can be translated life or soul.
g 9:24 Lk 17:33; Jn 12:25
[9] The Holy Bible: Holman Christian standard version. 2009 (Lk 9:23–25). Nashville: Holman Bible Publishers.
a 14:26 Mt 11:28; Mk 10:14; Lk 6:47; Jn 5:40
b 14:26 Dt 21:15; 22:13; 24:3; Lk 16:13
c 14:27 Jn 19:17
d 14:28 Pr 24:27
e 14:33 Or does not renounce or leave
f 14:33 Mt 19:21; Php 3:7; Heb 11:26
[10] The Holy Bible: Holman Christian standard version. 2009 (Lk 14:26–33). Nashville: Holman Bible Publishers.
a 1 Kin 18:38, 39; 2 Chr 7:1
[11] New American Standard Bible: 1995 update. 1995 (Le 9:24). LaHabra, CA: The Lockman Foundation.
a Is 8:20; Jer 12:16; 18:15; 31:21; Mal 4:4; Luke 16:29
b Matt 11:29
a Is 21:11; 58:1; Jer 25:4; Ezek 3:17; Hab 2:1
[12] New American Standard Bible: 1995 update. 1995 (Je 6:16–17). LaHabra, CA: The Lockman Foundation.
a Matt 11:25–27: Luke 10:21, 22
1 Or occasion
b Luke 22:42; 23:34; John 11:41; 12:27, 28
c Ps 8:2; 1 Cor 1:26ff
a Luke 22:42; 23:34; John 11:41; 12:27, 28
a Matt 28:18; John 3:35; 13:3; 17:2
b John 7:29; 10:15; 17:25
a Jer 31:25; John 7:37
1 Or who work to exhaustion
a John 13:15; Eph 4:20; Phil 2:5; 1 Pet 2:21; 1 John 2:6
b Jer 6:16
a 1 John 5:3
1 Or comfortable, or pleasant
[13] New American Standard Bible: 1995 update. 1995 (Mt 11:25–30). LaHabra, CA: The Lockman Foundation.