I was burning some scrap wood this afternoon, knowing that rain was coming. After a slow start the fire eventually began to burn brightly and became quite hot. Then raindrops began to spatter. After satisfying myself that the fire was well contained, I went indoors for a time, while continuing to keep an eye on my fire. Despite the rain it continued to burn.
Eventually I went out to stir it up and add some more scrap wood. It was raining enough that I didn’t want to stay outdoors, and I was about to go indoors again when I sensed the Spirit speaking to me.
Look at that fire, son. Why is it still burning despite the rain?
I knew this was an important question and that He wanted to speak to me about a spiritual truth.
I also realized that part of the answer was that the heat generated by the fire kept it going. The rain was not torrential and was not enough to truly soak the wood , and the fire was hot enough to dry out the wood as it burned.
But what if you were camping or living outdoors, and you had to keep your fire going in the midst of ongoing wet conditions? Then you would need to find a way to partially shelter the fire while letting the smoke escape. Hence the design of the tipi traditionally used by some of Canada’s Indigenous peoples. The tipi provided shelter. At its centre was a fire, and a smoke flap at the top of the tipi could be adjusted to let the smoke escape.
So what’s the point? Why did Holy Spirit ask me to consider why my fire had continued to burn although conditions were wet? What was He trying to show me?
To understand this, we need to know a bit about the importance of fire in the worship of ancient Israel.
A central feature of the tabernacle that God commanded Moses to create was the altar of burnt offering, on which animal sacrifices were to be offered to God, both for atonement (peace offering) and for devotion and consecration (burnt offering). God strictly instructed Moses (Leviticus 6:13),
Those who have put their hope in Jesus know that it is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins. We know that the blood of Jesus is able to purify our consciences from sinful deeds and remove the need for animal sacrifices or religious striving so that we may come to God without fear.
So how do we keep this fire of love burning on the altar of our hearts?
We need wood. We need to feed the fire with the truth of Scripture. We need air. We need to speak our prayers to God and not let them be dampened by the rain. And we need something to ignite the flame. And if there is a true downpour of adversity and opposition, we may also need to seek ways to shelter our fire from the rain so that it continues to burn.
Fires can get out of control if they aren’t properly tended. But a well-tended fire is a a wonderful thing. It speaks of ongoing devotion to the Lord that is not allowed to wane despite the hardships that may come upon us.
Can we do this by ourselves? No. We need human fellowship – the companionship of like-minded people who have set their hearts on God. And we need the empowerment of the Holy Spirit. But while we can’t do what only God can do, he will not do what only we can do. Only we can say Yes to his call to keep the fire burning. If we give ourselves to this invitation, He will surely help us. Every other good thing that flows from our relationship with Jesus depends on our choice to be keepers of the flame.