The Word for today:
Then he shall put his hand on the head of the burnt offering, and it will be accepted on his behalf to make atonement for him. The sons of Aaron the priest shall put fire on the altar, and lay the wood in order on the fire. (from Leviticus 1:1-7)
“I baptize you with water for repentance, but he who is coming after me is mightier than I, whose sandals I am not worthy to carry. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire.
His winnowing fork is in his hand, and he will clear his threshing floor and gather his wheat into the barn, but the chaff he will burn with unquenchable fire.” (Matthew 3:11-12)
The first chapter of Leviticus tells us about the burnt offering. Yesterday we wrote about the offerings in general. Today we will look into the fire.
When we think of Jesus, we don’t often think of him as incendiary. But we should, because in his own Word, he repetitively reveals himself in terms of fire.
Three of the key theophanies—appearances of God—in the early books of the Bible are in the guise of fire:
Smoking furnace and burning lamp (Genesis 15:7-17);
Burning bush (Exodus 3:2ff);
Pillar of cloud and fire (Exodus 13:21).
Just as fire is mysterious and immaterial, so too is God enigmatic and incorporeal. And just as fire is always flickering and changing its shape and cannot be held for examination, so is God always the indefinable who is beyond our grasp. --Dictionary of Biblical Imagery
Fire speaks of the energy of God--sometimes punishing, sometimes cleansing. The nature of fire depends upon the fire’s purpose:
1. The fire of hell (punishment)
Then the LORD rained upon Sodom and upon Gomorrah brimstone and fire from the LORD out of heaven. (Genesis 19:24)
2. Refiner’s fire
But who can endure the day of his coming, and who can stand when he appears? For he is like a refiner's fire and like fullers' soap. He will sit as a refiner and purifier of silver, and he will purify the sons of Levi and refine them like gold and silver. (Malachi 3:2-3)
The burnt offering in Leviticus is a picture and prophecy of the punishing hell fire that Jesus the Lamb of God would face when he took the sinner’s place at the cross.
The fire of God that believers face is always a refining fire. Fire can refine a substance like gold, which doesn’t burn, by consuming foreign elements in it, so that only the pure gold remains. Scripture compares this purifying action to the work of God in the lives of Christians.