Robert Wurtz II
It came even to pass, as the trumpeters and singers were as one, to make one sound to be heard in praising and thanking the LORD; and when they lifted up their voice with the trumpets and cymbals and instruments of musick, and praised the LORD, saying, For he is good; for his mercy endureth for ever: that then the house was filled with a cloud, even the house of the LORD; So that the priests could not stand to minister by reason of the cloud: for the glory of the LORD had filled the house of God (2 Chronicles 5:13).
Here Solomon is dedicating the Temple after it had been newly built and the Ark had been recovered and placed in the Holy of Holies. You will notice that their first response to God was to give thanks for His mercy in returning to the people with His authority and presence. They didn’t deserve God- they deserved abandonment. Eli the High Priest had failed to keep his sons in order and between his apathy and their whoredoms and wickedness they led the children of Israel into a path of destruction. The sons took the Ark into battle and lost it. This is the backdrop of these events. At Pentecost Jesus Christ became our Great High and it will be His objective to ‘keep His sons in order’ so that the authority of God is never lost from the churches.
In another place it is stated that they spoke as one as the Ark of the Covenant came in. They sang and shouted with lifted up voices in such a way that God saw fit to fill the house with His glory. This was the initial step. The people utterly recognized God’s mercy and desire for reconciliation and they responded to Him in tremendous excitement and thanksgiving. The LORD, then being well pleased, FILLED the house with His glory. So great was the glory of God that the priests were not able to stand to minister. God believed the people as they praised and offered thanksgiving and He responded by filling the house with His glory. This is a foretaste of Pentecost as we read about in Acts chapter 2.
Holy and Acceptable
…present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God,
Romans 12:1ff is a turning point in Paul’s explaination of salvation. We are brought fase to face with another priestly aspect of our experience. We are to present our bodies unto our Great High Priest. Here we have ‘holy, acceptable…’ This again, is the language of priesthood. Understand that we cannot offer our bodies as an offering for sin. God the Father in offering His Son Jesus Christ has already paid that price. Our holy offering is an act of worship and service. You will know that we are called to be temples of the Holy Spirit. The Spirit is holy and we must be holy. We have in Paul’s theology a figure of our bodies being both the temple of the Holy Spirit and a living sacrifice.
Under the Old Covenant sacrificial system, it was the responsibility of the High Priest to examine the sacrifice for blemishes, etc. God is perfect and is looking for perfection. This is what Jesus Christ, our Great High Priest does under the New Covenant. He examines our individual lives for things that offend God. This is what the old-timers called, ‘controversies’ with God. These controversies are made known to us by the Holy Spirit as He puts His hand on areas of our lives that need repentance. You will recall the rich young ruler coming to Jesus and how Jesus told him that he lacked one thing, to go and sell all that he had. God put His hand on the controversy between Him and the rich young ruler. It was his possessions. They were his god. Jesus continues in this same role in our lives from the moment we come to Him for salvation until we leave this earth. We are continually subject to His priestly inspection for blemishes or spots that need addressing in order that we might be holy and without blame before Him in love. He prepares us to offer ourselves unto God holy and acceptable.
Details in the Service of God
A cursory read of the Old Covenant reveals tremendous numbers of laws and directives that govern the service of God. There was no room for man’s innovations and novel ideas. God is utterly holy and utterly sovereign. Everything associated with the service of God has to be dealt with on God’s terms. This is a very important thing to grasp, as the concept is foreign to us in the 21st century. Today there is an almost ‘make it up on the fly and offer it to God’ type of attitude. People want to mix all kinds of worldly things into the service of God not knowing that God spent the entire Old Testament warning Israel not to do such things. Many do not read their Bible or even consider it authoritative. In many ways we have lost the sense of holy and sacred. Yet, the Old Testament is replete with examples of how not to treat the holy temple of God and the artifacts within it. The service of God was serious business. If a person were to touch the Ark of the Covenant they could be smitten dead, for example. Offering strange fire could result in being burned to death by the Fire of God. Has God changed His mind about these things? We should ask, were these things written for Israel’s sake alone or where they not all together a figurative lesson for us that would experience the habitation of God by the Spirit? All those things were merely a figure of the truth. We that are baptized in the Holy Spirit have the reality of what they longed for. We are holy and are serving a holy God. The world has never appreciated this nor has the mixed-multitude type that always had one foot in Israel and the other in Egypt or Babylon. Yet, what can we learn about Belshazzar’s treatment of the holy vessels that we read about in Daniel’s writings? How did God react to the way he defiled the artifacts of the Temple? He told him that he was weighed in the balance and found wanting. The whole story is exemplary. It reveals God’s estimation of abusing our bodies in sordid sin. Is there any wonder Paul spoke so strongly about fornication? From the Nadab and Abihu types to the profaners like unto Babylon, this generation needs a crash course in the holiness of God. He will not dwell with people that don’t reverence Him and are not willing to serve Him in ways He has prescribed.
Solomon built and dedicated the Temple to God. It had one primary purpose in Israel; to be a place where the people could encounter God and offer up sacrifices to Him (temple cultus). Here the Old Covenant was serviced to keep the agreement in play when it had been broken. When Solomon originally dedicated it there were over 120,000 burnt sacrifices inspected for purity and acceptability and then offered. Solomon understood that until the altar was full with a holy and acceptable sacrifice, the Fire of God would not fall and the dedication would be incomplete. When the Fire finally fell the people knew that God had come. When the glory filled the Temple they knew he had manifest Himself. Was this important? It was to the ones that truly loved God. Moses already told of how empty it would be to exist as God’s people without God being present. To some it may have seemed very reckless for Solomon to order the people and the priests to bring a river of blood upon such a beautiful place; but to Solomon it was only reasonable to make such an offering to God in light of the mercy He had shown the people. This is a picture of how we should bring ourselves to God. When your friends and family complain that your sacrifice is too great, keep bringing yourself to Christ, holy and acceptable. It is your reasonable service.
Full = Fire!
When the altar was full and Solomon prayed- the Fire of God fell. This dedication was a ‘picture’ of New Testament life. Jesus came to send Fire on the earth and He would do so by baptizing His people with the Holy Ghost and with Fire. This is what John the Baptist told the people. For the first disciples at Ephesus, as today, it is the often neglected aspect of John the Baptist’s message. God’s will all along since before the foundation of the world was that men and women’s bodies would be temples of the Holy Spirit. He didn’t just want to dwell with man He wanted to dwell in man and He spent over 1000 years teaching man about Himself that we would be prepared for His ultimate will.
A Living Burnt Offering
Men and women that are on Fire for God are the ones most qualified to be sent into the world to win the lost. The prophet Jeremiah, that also prophesied the New Covenant, had a foretaste of this when he wrote, Then I said, I will not mention Him, nor speak in His name any more. But His Word was in my heart like a burning fire shut up in my bones, and I was weary with holding in, and I could not stop. (Jeremiah 20:9 MKJV) Therefore, Romans 12:1 is the beginning of all evangelistic efforts. Paul having explained the reality of what God has done in bringing salvation and reconciliation to man, says, “I beseech you therefore by the mercies of God…” Thinking of all that God has done; ‘therefore’ present your bodies as a living sacrifice holy and acceptable unto God which is your logical (the consequence of his well reasoned arguments) worship. This presenting of ourselves to our Great High Priest for inspection and acceptance that He might baptize us in the Fire of the Spirit is our reasonable worship. It’s the only response that makes sense in light of all that God has done. It is what God wants first and foremost. Without this process little else matters. It all begins here with a recognition of what God has done in Christ, and our responding reasonably to what we realize. Our lives are to be a perpetual living burnt offering for Him. It is the only thing that makes sense.
The Fire of God
I indeed baptize you with water unto repentance: but he that cometh after me is mightier than I, whose shoes I am not worthy to bear: he shall baptize you with the Holy Ghost, and with fire (Matthew 3:11).
It is unfortunate that so many today in the churches of God believe that we can lower the standard and get by on some lesser thing than the Fire of God. In fact, this is no new situation; for Jesus said, “I came to cast fire on the earth, and would that it were already kindled!” (Luke 12:49) The context reveals that this Fire was going to cause great division in the earth; between those that want the Fire and those that do not (Luke 12:50-52). This is of the greatest importance. To speak of Christianity without speaking of Fire is like speaking of swimming without water. Nevertheless, the Fire of God continues to be a most unpopular subject. Speak on grace and a multitude will amen. Speak on hell and peradventure some in the crowd will amen. Speak on the Fire of God and the voices fall almost silent. Why? Because when the Fire comes, it will burn up everything in a person that is not of God and I dare say many wish to retain yet a measure of themselves even making excuses for their lack of godliness. They want to keep their options open. Many are caught up in sin and compromise, but refuse to come to God for help. As the old timers have said, the answer to our spiritual problems is almost always the Fire of God. A person on fire for God is not having trouble loving their neighbor or going to the sin dens. A person on Fire for God is not needing a phone call or an email to make sure they are assembling with the saints and walking with God. It’s because we have no Fire that we need a phone call in the first place. Folks want to offer God a spotted and lame living sacrifice of themselves and God is not accepting it. This is why there is no Fire in their life. For others there is a sort of holy pyro-phobia. They know when the true Fire comes, that the nonsense will have to go! God’s holy love burns all unholy loves for worldly things and sinful pleasures until we are utterly consumed with Him. But if there is something in us that refuses to let go of ungodly desires and controversies with Him, we will never know the Fire of God. We can’t fool God. And if we take that route we will need some plastic substitute such as emotionalism or soulishness with which to counterfeit the true Fire. The question we have to ask in these things is the question of Jesus, “Wilt thou be made whole?” If so, you will need the Fire of God.
Burning for God
We are told in Hebrews 12:29 that God is a consuming Fire. He created creatures that are burning fires such as the Seraphim. We as human beings are consuming fires as well. This is why we burn at 98.6 degrees. Where does this energy come from? It originates with the burning fire of the Sun. Plants turn sunlight, nutrients and water into carbohydrates. We eat the carbohydrates. There is a furnace characteristic in man where the carbohydrates are burned in us as a source of energy. In summary, the energy you are using to read this text originated with the Sun. But there is also a spiritual side of man that serves as the driving force behind all that he/she does. God is a Fire and Satan is a fallen Burning One (Seraphim or Cherubim). Although by comparison he is almost nothing before the Lord, He used to walk up and down in the midst of the stones of Fire. Though merely a fallen angel, Satan is still a formidable energy source. His is the spirit that is not working in the children of disobedience.
So we know that God’s intelligent creations are all burning in some sense. The questions are, what are we burning with and what are we burning for? We are all living sacrifices for something or someone. If we are living for sin and Satan we are no different than the pagans of old that offered sacrifice to false gods or caused their children to walk through the fire to Molech.
Feeding the Fire
What is the energy source of the things we feed ourselves? Do they originate in God? If there were two fields yielding fruit with one having Christ as the light source and the other with Satan as the light source (darkness), which field should we partake of? Would we want to feed ourselves and the people we minister to something that did not have its source in God? The fields of Egypt were not like unto the fields of provision in the Promised Land. God wanted to be Israel’s source of provision and He wants to be the sole source of our provision. If we as ministers of the Gospel glean in the Egyptian fields as it were, we will edify men and women in carnality. If we get our crops from Heaven we will edify ourselves and others in true spirituality. This is the key to what fire burns in our lives. Adam Clarke comments on Matthew 3:11; “This was the province of the Spirit of God, and of it alone; therefore he is represented here under the similitude of fire, because he was to illuminate and invigorate (to give strength or energy) to the soul, penetrate every part, and assimilate the whole to the image of the God of glory.”
Unto him that loved us, and washed us from our sins in his own blood, And hath made us kings and priests unto God (Revelation 1:5, 6).
The believers at Ephesus were baptized in the Holy Spirit and with Fire. This event made them into living stones in the Temple of the Living God as an assembly and as individuals (1 Corinthians 3:16). On that day the believers were made priests unto God. This is a staggering truth. It was God’s design from the beginning. The Old Testament priests used the Fire of God, not ‘strange’ or ‘common’ fire to do the service of God. We as a kingdom of priests unto God must also be burning with the Fire of God that we might rightly serve as a living link between god and this lost world. God had been working to this end all along. This is the jest of the message of Stephen in Acts 7:1ff. God does not desire to dwell in temples made with hands or church buildings; He desires to live in man. It is impossible to understand the Bible unless you realize this great truth. God wants to live in you. He wants to be who He is; a consuming Fire inside of you and me. He wants it to be said of us as it was of Christ, “For God was in Christ reconciling the world unto Himself.” God wants to be in us reconciling the world unto Himself.