Guard the fire

1 03 2011

DAY SIXTY : Leviticus 5 v. 14 – 7 v. 10; Mark 10 v. 32 – 52; Proverbs 6 v. 12 – 19

The Guilt Offering – the first half of today’s readings (5v. 14 – 6 v. 7) contains a message to the whole community about particular sins and the right response. Here, the concern is about sins which cause another to suffer loss – firstly, God (violating any of God’s Holy things, or breaks a command), and secondly others (deceiving, stealing, cheating, lying etc). And the right response is restitution – to put right what has gone wrong, to return what was taken, with a fifth extra in value given. Restitution needs to happen before presenting the guilt offering to God.
There is an order here which matches Jesus’ teaching about being reconciled with a brother – “Therefore if you bring your gift to the altar, and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there before the altar, and go your way. First be reconciled to your brother and then come and offer your gift.”

Instructions for the Priests
– the second half of today’s reading is addressed through Moses to Aaron and his sons>
The Burnt Offering : ‘the fire must be kept burning on the altar…..continuously; it must not go out.” (Three times in six verses the instruction is to keep the fire burning). Instructions, too, for disposing of the ashes, taking them to the ceremonially clean place outside the camp.
The Grain Offering : the instruction to offer some on the altar, and for the priests to eat the rest (unleavened bread) within the holy courtyard. On ordination day, a priest is to make a grain offering as specified, but this time it is all to be burned.
The Sin Offering :  instructions that only the holy priest may eat the allowed parts of the animal sacrificed, within the holy courtyard, for these offerings are to be handled with care, having been offered in worship to the Holy One.

The Guilt Offering : similar repeated instructions for the sacrificed animals in such offerings – only the holy priest may eat the animal, within the holy courtyard, having first sprinkled the blood and made atonement.

The main point in all of these instructions to Aaron and his sons is around the holiness of what is offered to the Holy One. Holy clothes worn within the holy courtyard, by the holy priests who make atonement. Key, also, is keeping the fire on the altar burning. If fire represents God’s presence, and our zeal / devotion, then I am reminded of St. Paul urging the Galatian church, “Do not quench the Spirit’s fire” (1 Thess. 5 v. 19)
and Charles Wesley’s words :
“still let me guard the holy fire, and still stir up thy gift in me…”

Jesus predicts His death –
heading to Jerusalem, now, the heat is turned up on Jesus’ mission, and He is reminding His disciples about all He sees and knows will happen there.

James’ and John’s request – seeming oblivious to all Jesus has just been talking about, James and John pick a most inappropriate time to ask Jesus to give them a place of honour in ‘glory’. Firstly, Jesus invites them to consider if they really know what they’re asking (He is referring to His own baptism of suffering, which of course they will taste and experience to some extent), and secondly, Jesus says it’s not for Him to decide who sits where – it’s already been decided and prepared!

True discipleship is servanthood
– the indignant rivalry of the other ten disciples is as displeasing to Jesus as James and John’s request, so Jesus teaches them all (again), the value of serving (not lording), putting self last (not first).
“For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life as a ransom for many.”

Blind Bartimaeus – now in Jericho (the oldest and ‘lowest’ city, and the first stop en route to Jerusalem from the Jordan), though the disciples are portrayed as being slow to understand, Bartimaeus is literally ‘in the gutter’, begging, yet is filled with faith and humble acceptance of Jesus as Son of David / Rabbi; though others try to silence him, seeing him as a nuisance, Jesus has time for him.
Bartimaeus throws his cloak aside – the garment which represents his begging, downtrodden status – he will exchange it for the cloak of Christ’s healing, renewing power.
Bartimaeus receives his sight, and follows Jesus, whilst Jesus is still desiring spiritual sight for His disciples, that they might follow the way of the cross. 

The Lord hates
(i) haughty eyes (pride),
(ii) lying tongue (deceit),
(iii) hands that shed innocent blood (murder),
(iv) wicked heart (evil intent),
(v) feet that rush into evil
(vi) a false witness
(vii) a stirrer of dissension

My recreated thoughts, today :
Lord, rather than a heart that plans, and feet which rush towards evil and wickedness, give me clean hands and a pure heart today.
May I recognise that I stand before a Holy God, and may I seek Your cleansing, Your holiness, Your Spirit all the more.
May I keep the fire of Your presence burning within and without me constantly.




3 responses

1 03 2011

Wow – happy St. David’s Day – start of spring etc. etc.
Also, congratulations making it to Month 3 of the Bible In A Year (one sixth of the way through the year (in terms of months !).
Keep it up.
God is teaching us much !!

1 03 2011
Jenny Berrill

Well done and thanks to you too Phil for keeping us going with your insightful words. Todays readings remind me that Jesus was the atonement for me. He was the guilt and sin offerings – he tells us that he paid the ransom price for many. Once again I wonder how I can possibly hope to repay him.

11 03 2011

I like the last paragraph the best, everyday I’m really having to make a decision I’m finding these days………….go my dork path, or go way god wants me to go. Sometimes days will go by and I won’t even pray……….off in my good times la la la land – YIKES! God does want fire and zeal from his people he going to spew out the lukewarm………..I believe he wants us to choose him everyday………work to have him first I want to do that more : )

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