I AM COME TO SEND FIRE
Robert Wurtz II
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)
In our previous study entitled, THE THRONE IN THE MIDST we discussed the symbolism of the Ark of the Covenant. We stated that the Ark was a symbol of the presence of God; but more pointedly it represented the very throne of God. When the High Priest went into the Holy of Holies they were figuratively walking into the throne room of God. The Jews will sometimes say that the High Priest had a sense that he was ascending up to God as he walked forward. In other words, He was ascending up to God’s throne room where his will is carried out in an absolute sense. The Tabernacle was like a ladder reaching up into Heaven.
Israel was a theocracy wherein the priests were to communicate God’s will to the people. They were called to be a kingdom under God’s authority. YHWH (Jehovah) was the King and He ruled from the Mercy Seat in the Holiest of All. It was not until Israel had backslidden far from God that He would accept their request for a “king”, so they could live like the rest of the nations. The sobering response of God is recorded in 1 Samuel 8:7f; “And the LORD said unto Samuel, Hearken unto the voice of the people in all that they say unto thee: for they have not rejected thee, but they have rejected me, that I should not reign over them.” They wanted a king that would fight their battles and in whom they could place their trust. This is why God wanted a king after His own heart. He still wanted to rule the people, but He would have to do this through a man. You will note that from this point forward Israel will have her ups and downs; but the trajectory of the nation was downward until finally they were led into captivity. Some kings hearkened to God and others did not. The king over the people was “the Lord’s anointed”. The people were warned not to “touch this king”. Today the Lord’s Anointed is Jesus Christ. He is the King over His people the Church. Man may call themselves, “the Lord’s anointed” and expect to speak for Him and be protected as Him, but there is only one king among God’s people; that king is Christ.
Why the Fire went out
Eli’s sons made the cardinal error of thinking that the Ark of God could be used in some superstitious way to scare the enemy or bring good luck in the battle. Imagine a group of infidels trying to carry the Ark into battle. The Ark of God represents God’s authority. When that authority is being abused and the people are living in rife disobedience, God had already said that He will not drive their enemies out (Judges 2:2-3). They should have known this. They were living in compromise and sin and trying to operate in the supernatural. Keep this fact in mind. Priests are called to be wholly sanctified unto the Lord. To whom much is given, much is required. Otherwise, the enemy will have a platform to use a compromiser to influence His people. They may not even know it is happening. Eli’s sons should have recused themselves knowing they were living in sin. They did not. How could they have not viewed everything they thought they heard from God with suspicion, knowing they were living in disobedience? But, they kept on ministering in this pivotal role. This is a very dangerous situation.
Eli’s sons were trusted with being obedient to God’s precepts and order while doing service inside the Tabernacle, where none of the people could come and see. If they decided not to keep the charge, that is to say, to carry out their responsibility to change out the shewbread daily or if they only lit one instead of all seven of the lamps on the lamp stand, the only ones that would know would be them and God. These things were all symbolic of true realities that would one day exist in the churches of God. The bread was “The bread of the presence” (לחם הפנים lechem haPānīm). It symbolized the fact that priests are to labor together with God daily, to set before the Lord and the people the fresh bread of God’s word. Man cannot live by bread alone, but by every word that is proceeding from the mouth of God. It is the job of the priests to be the living link between God and man. They were to receive from the Lord directives that He had for the people. This is how He ruled. But Eli’s sons did whatever they wanted to. The people were trusting them to be obeying God in the secret place, but they refused to keep the charge. The results? The Fire of God went out, the Ark was lost and Eli and his sons were dead.
Regaining the Fire
Nothing can be done in the service of God without the Fire of God. You can’t just strike a match, that would be strange fire (common fire). The only way the Fire of God could return was for the AUTHORITY of God to return. The people, beginning with the High Priest and the Levites, had to get their houses in order. They had to repent and determine to come under God’s authority in an absolute sense) and keep His charge. To initiate this process David sent for the Ark to be brought up to the city. They brought it in on a new cart (the machinery of man’s devices). The Philistines had the Ark sent back on a new cart and the people continued with it. The Ark was as an empty throne. It belonged to God, but He had departed from it because of Israel’s sin. As the throne was returning back in Israel, God was drawing near to it again and preparing to exercise His authority. Uzzah was killed as a first sign that God was coming back to rule and things would not be as they were before.
The lesson here is that God’s presence, authority, glory and Fire cannot be mechanized by men. In Africa witch doctors use drum beats to drum up spirits. God cannot be ushered in this way. It has to come about as the result of the priests carrying the burden of God’s directive leading. When the Egyptians carried Pharaoh on their shoulders, Pharaoh was giving the commands that set the direction for the processions. Likewise, the priests (the sons of God) are to hearken to the voice of God as He leads them (and subsequently this present evil world) in the direction He wants them to go. The churches of God should be filled with a Royal Priesthood that follows God in such a way that the world can have a sense of God’s direction. Man cannot manufacture this with his equipment.
When Uzzah reached up to steady the Ark He was touching God’s throne. Think about the awesomeness of that. He put His hand to God’s prerogative. They were manufacturing the process of moving God around as if He could be drug around on a trailer any ole’ way by man’s whims. “We’ll just drag God along with us where ever we want Him to go.” God forbid! He became an accessory to what the people wanted to do. They wanted a song, dance and a shout, but were not willing to do things God’s way. This whole story is exemplary and we do well to give heed. David got very angry because Uzzah was killed (2 Samuel 6:8). In the next verse he feared the Lord. It was a serious attitude adjustment. Likewise, people today get very angry when they are told that God cannot be ushered in with man’s machinery; the same machinery used by the world to drum up demon spirits or work up a crowd in a concert. It is a new cart. God simply cannot be trailered around like that. People try it, but it always ends up in something false; sooner or later.
If you think about it, what David had done was little different than what Eli’s sons had done, though it was well intended. They were dragging God around where they wanted Him to be, not bothering to inquire as to the right way. A whole generation was in place that had no idea the way it was supposed to be done. So, they get angry when they are challenged. They believed they were right and had God not slew a man they probably would have never put the Ark back on the shoulders of the priests. They would have always transported the Ark on the new cart. Someone may have jumped in front of the procession and said, “Stop! this is all wrong! This is not the way it is supposed to be done!” And rather than listen, they would have viewed the man as an obstructionist and a bad spirit. Some may have went as far as to discern he had a demon spirit. So God had to kill a man. As sad as it is that is probably the greatest lesson of all in the story. The people were so hard headed in thinking they were right that God had to strike a man dead to sober their minds. David got hostile at first, but then he feared the Lord. Maybe it will have to happen in our times?
The Danger of the New (novel)
The Philistines provided Israel with a ‘new’ (novel) way of handling the Ark. But decades of passing time did not change God’s instructions as to how things are to be done. In modern times the ‘Philistines’ do the same thing and few people even notice it. The world offers the churches of God a means of carrying God’s authority with a worldly means. I say authority because God’s Shekinah presence and His Fire would not be manifest until the Temple was completed and Solomon had dedicated it. Keep this clear. We are talking about God’s Throne and how it is being carried. When man reaches up and touches God’s authority in a person’s life, as they wrongly attempt to lead them along with the machinery of this world, they are committing a sin that is worthy of death (please read that sentence a second time). This is God’s prerogative authority in a person’s life and people are not to be manipulated on that deep level. This is God’s domain, not man’s. The danger we have in this evil generation is that men would manufacture a sense of God’s presence and then start touching the Ark in peoples lives by purporting to be speaking to them prophetically to direct their decisions. God never works this way. He always deals with the person Himself; any other word they may be given of Him by other individuals will simply be to confirm what God has already said to them. Keep that clear.
Forcing God’s hand
A lot of messages have been preached over the years on “touching the Ark.” They are a dime a dozen. The problem is that the messages are obscure and in the abstract and have no real meaning. They never really touch upon the real issues. For example; people are told that God is calling them to the Mission field and God has not really spoken. A story is commonly told of a man that was called to one country and his wife to another country by the same prophet! It is madness. God does not call people this way. He speaks to them in the secret place of the sanctuary of their own heart where only He is in authority. To intrude into this place is to touch the throne in their life. To do so could destroy the person and bring upon the offender a remedial judgment of God like unto what Uzzah received. Over the last 20 years I have known on more than one occasion for a person to be given a so-called “word from the Lord” in an attempt to steer them out of an intimate relationship. It usually goes something like this, “thus says the Lord, that person you are dating is not for you.” Putting words in God’s mouth, for any reason, is a serious offense. Some people think they know God’s will for other peoples lives and it is the epitome of pride and arrogance. They are so sure that they will do a “thus saith the Lord…” when God is not saying anything. I have seen this type thing destroy people. God’s hand cannot be forced in this way. They who practice such things are in desperate need of repentance.
Long term consequences
About 20 years ago I had a front row seat to a terrible situation where the “Ark was touched” in a man and woman’s life. Early one year there was a move of God and a great excitement. This sometimes gives rise to a host of people wanting to “prophesy” and “give folks a word” (as if prophesying were a normal thing to do). A family had been struggling, so an individual gave the wife a word that she needed to pray for her husband. Upon hearing this the wife became distraught. It happens that she had been praying and interceding for her husband on a daily basis for some time. After the meeting the family went to the man and asked what was meant. He simply replied to the effect, “I’m sorry. I’m new at this.” It was evidence of the error of giving people directive instructions as if it is God speaking. Later in the year a popular TV evangelist came to town that this family attended. During the offering he gave a general word to the effect that God will multiply your offering if you will be obedient. This family gave a certain amount and waited. They were struggling financially and rested hope on the evangelists words. When they returned home from the meeting their car had been broken into and thieves stole several hundred dollars in merchandise. The “multiplied blessing” word never came to pass either. Not surprisingly, every person in this story suffered long term. The family viewed the evangelist as a false prophet from then on. The evangelist some years later was caught in scandal. The other person left the ministry. Solution? Thus says the Lord GOD, Woe to the foolish prophets who follow their own spirit, and have seen nothing! (Ezekiel 13:3) Our Hebrew word for “foolish” here is nabal that means “to wilt”. It’s the sons of Sceva all over again with a different twist. They had the bizarre notion that they could move in the power of God, speaking for God, not realizing that what they were doing was a solemn business. They follow their own spirit and not the Holy Spirit. That is, they rely on their own reasoning to speak for God. They have knowledge of a situation and pretty soon a concoction of words comes into their mind and they speak it with a “thus saith the Lord” in front. it is a prophet with a recklessness of the sons of Eli; they went running into battle with God’s authority. God’s authority and glory departed.
The Ark in Place
When God is ruling within man as He desires to, it is akin to the Ark being moved into the Holy of Holies. The High Priest alone was allowed in this place (Hebrews 9:7). Our Great High Priest is Jesus Christ (Hebrews 4:14). It is up to the individual to have an ear to hear what the Spirit is saying to them. Once the temple (person) is cleansed by the Blood of Christ and God’s authority is established (the Great High Priest is living within); then the person is a candidate for the Fire and Glory of God. Solomon dedicated the Temple by bringing a tremendous sacrifice. The people sang and the glory filled the house; having totally filled the altar he prayed and the Fire fell. It was this very Fire that the priests were to use, under the guidance of the High Priest to do the service of God. So far we have learned two great things: 1. We must have the Fire of God to do His service 2. God alone has the prerogative to lead a person in His perfect will. Disobedience in either area has shown to result inn God’s remedial judgment, both with Nadab and Abihu and later Uzzah.
Replacing the Fire
We cannot with our machinery drum something up; God has to send something down. This is utterly important. We cannot manufacture a move of God; He has to come in His very presence. Not in a feeling, but in a life altering presence that transports a person from the Kingdom of Darkness to the Kingdom of His dear Son. When we fill the altar God will send the Fire. This is what Romans 12:1ff is about.
Losing the Ark
Obviously by the time of Jesus this Fire had gone out and the Ark was gone again. The priests must have tossed the blood on the floor behind the veil in Herod’s Temple and performed the services with common fire. What a reckless mess. God was not there. God was in Christ. For He said, destroy this Temple (speaking of His own body) and I will raise it again in 3 days. He called the place the Father’s house and His house (Matthew 21:13, John 2:16), but at last He revealed to them that it was ‘their house’ that had been left unto them desolate. (Luke 13:35) Why? No Fire. No Ark. God’s authority was gone. No way to do the service of God and no desire to have it. When the Fire came in Christ; they didn’t want it or Him. They and no desire to burn for God or to be temples of the Living God. (See Isaiah 66:1ff) They wanted to keep God under control in the temples made with hands. They wanted to lead Him around on a cart and dictate in peoples lives. Today the Rabbi’s usurp God’s authority in the lives of the people. They reserve the right to give the people direction in the place of God. For almost 2000 years they have had their hands on the Ark.