Feed the Fire!
In Neah Bay, Washington, where my wife and I live, there is an abundance of firewood and residents are allowed to cut it for free. Since we heat our house almost exclusively with a wood stove, I go out quite often to keep our supply stocked up. I enjoy doing that. There’s just something about a wood stove fire that is really nice. After being out in the cold for a while, walking inside to a warm and cozy home feels so good! However, one fact about a fire is that it needs to be maintained, or else it will go out.
We had a late winter this year in Neah Bay. Just a few months ago, on a night when the temperature was near freezing, I woke up around four in the morning and it was very cold inside the house. Very cold! Usually I get up in the middle of the night and throw a few pieces of wood in the stove, but on this particular night, I had neglected to do that. As one would expect, the fire had died down. By the time I woke up, there were just a few coals left, which were not enough to heat the house at all. So, in that freezing cold living room, I pulled out some paper and more kindling, and started to blow on the small embers that remained. It took some nurturing, but eventually I got that fire back up to where it needed to be.
The topic of fire comes up many times throughout the Bible, and often it is used to represent spiritual life. A fire burning brightly represents vitality, and an extinguished flame indicates death. This teaches us a critical lesson: like a fire, spiritual life requires maintenance. It is easy to keep it going, but also easy to let it go out. The determining factor to keeping it going is diligence. Let’s look at a few examples of this in Scripture.
Fire from Heaven
The Book of Leviticus speaks of a very important fire—that of the burnt offering. The burnt offering was the sacrifice for sins, and it was made at the Temple on the brazen altar. Leviticus 9 records what happened when the first burnt offering was made there: “And Moses and Aaron went into the tabernacle of the congregation, and came out, and blessed the people: and the glory of the LORD appeared unto all the people. And there came a fire out from before the LORD, and consumed upon the altar the burnt offering and the fat: which when all the people saw, they shouted, and fell on their faces” (Leviticus 9:23-24). The fire of the burnt offering was not started by a man; God ignited it from Heaven above. How powerful that must have been! When the people saw it, they fell on their faces.
Today we understand that the burnt offering foreshadowed Jesus. His life was sacrificed to atone for our sins, and the Old Testament offering was a prophetic illustration of what happens at salvation. When a sinner brings his heavy load of sin to God in repentance, he lays it out, as it were, on God’s altar. Both the sin and the perfect sacrifice of Jesus’ Blood are consumed, igniting a spiritual fire in the heart of the offerer. This is every bit as beautiful and powerful as the Leviticus account of God lighting the fire on the brazen altar.
In the Temple, the fire of the burnt offering was of utmost importance, and the Book of Leviticus records God’s instructions for how the Levites were to take care of it. We read, “And the LORD spake unto Moses, saying, Command Aaron and his sons, saying, This is the law of the burnt offering: It is the burnt offering, because of the burning upon the altar all night unto the morning, and the fire of the altar shall be burning in it . . . And the fire upon the altar shall be burning in it; it shall not be put out: and the priest shall burn wood on it every morning, and lay the burnt offering in order upon it; and he shall burn thereon the fat of the peace offerings. The fire shall ever be burning upon the altar; it shall never go out” (Leviticus 6:8-9, 12-13).
While God had started it, the duty of keeping it going belonged to the priests. This was not a complicated assignment; it just required someone to be diligent in adding fuel to the flames.
In these few verses, the command to keep the fire burning was given three times. God said that “it shall not be put out,” that the priests “shall burn wood on it every morning,” and then in verse 13 He stated very plainly, “The fire shall ever be burning upon the altar; it shall never go out.” God wanted it to stay burning! And while God had started it, the duty of keeping it going belonged to the priests. This was not a complicated assignment; it just required someone to be diligent in adding fuel to the flames. Special skills were not needed, but it would take commitment and ongoing effort.
This is also an illustration of our spiritual lives. After God saves us and lights a fire within our hearts, it is our duty to keep it burning. The priests’ responsibility represents our responsibility. However, our fire is not maintained with wood. Ours is fed through simple obedience to God. Disobedience will extinguish it but obedience will add fuel to the flame. Our duty is to faithfully follow the teachings of God’s Word. Like maintaining a fire, ours is not a difficult assignment. It will certainly take an effort and commitment, but it is something all of us are capable of doing.
Can you imagine if you were the priest who let the fire on the brazen altar go out? After God had performed such a miracle to ignite it, where everyone fell on their faces in awe, how disappointing would it be to let it die? Now imagine how much worse it would be to let the fire God ignited in your heart go out—the very thing that Christ gave His life for. The priests had to be committed, and we have to be just as committed to our relationship with God. He did something powerful in our lives, and we must be diligent to guard what He started.
A warning from Eden
The first man and woman, Adam and Eve, were the only people in the history of mankind who were created in a state of unity with God. In the beginning, they had no need for a sin offering because they had no sin. In the sense that a spiritual fire represents spiritual life, they started with a flame already burning in their souls. They had every advantage in life and everything seemed perfect for them. God gave them just one commandment to obey. Yet, they made a conscious decision to willfully transgress that one commandment, extinguishing their spiritual fire.
Adam and Eve came to their decision after being deceived by Satan with a lie in the form of a question. The devil did not come out openly and tell them to disobey God. He came subtly asking, “Hath God said?” He tried to put just a little doubt in their minds, and they chose to believe Satan rather than God. The result was spiritual death and separation from God—their spiritual fire was gone. They knew immediately that it was gone because in an instant, their lives were fundamentally changed. Before, they had walked and talked freely with God in the Garden of Eden. What wonderful times they must have had there! In contrast, after they sinned, they were afraid of God and hid from Him.
We are daily bombarded with temptations and distractions, but when we have been tending to the fire faithfully through prayer and reading God’s Word, Satan’s attempts will have little impact.
Today, the enemy of our souls would like to put questions in our minds. He would like to deceive us into disobedience, extinguishing what God told us to maintain. This makes it all the more critical to be diligent about our relationship with God. It will be much harder for Satan to succeed in his goal if our fire is burning brightly. We are daily bombarded with temptations and distractions, but when we have been tending to the fire faithfully through prayer and reading God’s Word, Satan’s attempts will have little impact. Most often, his lies will sound utterly ridiculous, and we won’t be interested in entertaining them for even a moment.
Satan himself, the great deceiver, experienced his own downfall. Ezekiel 28:12-19 is believed to describe his fall from grace. It speaks of an anointed angelic being who was full of wisdom and perfect in beauty from the day he was created. The prophet Isaiah also spoke of this, saying, “How art thou fallen from heaven, O Lucifer, son of the morning!” (Isaiah 14:12). Satan was created as an angel and lived in the presence of God, and he fell. Adam and Eve were created in God’s own image, and they fell. This tells us that we must carefully guard our hearts. Satan wants to kill and steal what God has given us, just as he did with Adam and Eve. But Jesus came to destroy the works of the devil. His Blood is powerful. He can save and He can keep, but we must do our part. We must be committed and take every measure available to build up our fire.
Maintain the flame
Matthew 25 records the parable of the ten virgins. These ten were waiting for a groom to come for them. They did not know when he would arrive, but they needed to be ready to go at a moment’s notice. All ten had lamps and all the lamps were lit initially. However, five of the lamps went out because they ran out of oil.
The five virgins who kept their lamps burning were counted as wise, not because they did some extraordinary feat, but because they made sure their lamps remained full of fuel. Anyone could have done that, but it was the wise who cared enough to actually do it. The foolish virgins are called foolish because of their carelessness. They wanted to go to the wedding and they could have gone, but they missed it because they did not stay prepared.
Here again, the flame in the lamps represents spiritual life, and the lesson is that salvation must be maintained. It requires an ongoing effort. Hebrews 2:3 asks, “How shall we escape, if we neglect so great salvation?” God offers us the precious gift of eternal life, and we must not neglect it. We must never let our fires go out!
How is your spiritual fire today? The cares of life tend to creep in and smother flames a little at a time, but with proper care, even embers can be nurtured back into a blaze. There is no need for anyone’s fire to go out. When we diligently tend to our relationship with God, He will keep us on fire for Him.