20230401 Parashat Tzav – Keep the Fire Burning
Torah Portion Leviticus 6:1-7
Haftarah Malachi 3:4-12
Brit Chadashah Matthew 3:10-17
The twenty-fifth reading from the Torah and second reading from the book of Leviticus is called Tzav, which means “Command.” The name comes from the first word of Leviticus 6:9, where the LORD says to Moses, “Command Aaron and his sons …” Tzav reiterates the five types of sacrifices introduced in the previous portion but this time discusses the priestly regulations pertaining to them. The last chapter of the reading describes the seven-day ordination of Aaron and his sons as they prepared to enter the holy priesthood.
The title for today’s drash is “Keep the Fire Burning.” Many times you hear someone say, “That church is really on fire.” Or, maybe they say, “That person is really on fire for the Lord.”
We want to consider words from the Bible that should encourage us to keep the fires burning in our life for always. We can keep that fire burning with God’s help. And not just in our individual lives but in the life of this congregation, also.
Let’s look at our primary text now.
Leviticus 6:2 “Command Aaron and his sons, saying: This is the Torah of the burnt offering. The burnt offering should remain on the hearth atop the altar all night until the morning, while the fire of the altar is kept burning on it.
Leviticus 6:5-6 The fire on the altar is to be kept burning on it—it must not go out. Each morning the kohen is to burn wood on it, laying the burnt offering in order upon it, and burning up as smoke the fat of the fellowship offerings. (
6) Fire is to be kept burning on the altar continually—it must not go out.
It should be our prayer that Tree of Life, St. Peter’s UMC, other churches in our area, and all congregations around this world that stand for Yeshua HaMashiach be on fire for God. May it be that we are on fire more than we have ever been before. May it be that when a lost person comes by, they might say, “I don’t know why I’m here. I just felt that something was persuading me to come in here and see what’s going on.” May it be that this congregation is so on fire that people in this community say, “There are wonderful things happening at Tree of Life. Things that can’t be explained. Things that only God can do.”
We should be praying for the fire of the Holy Spirit to consume this place. And that it happen in such a way people will be drawn to this place.
Now, there are some questions we need to ask and try to answer as we consider this fire that is spoken of in Leviticus.
First of all: What is this Holy Fire?
Secondly, Whose Responsibility is this Holy Fire?
And, thirdly, How Do We Maintain this Holy Fire?
- What Is This Holy Fire?
The Scripture tells us what this fire is. Over and over in the Old Testament we’re reminded of the symbol of fire.
The fire first appears as Moses sees a bush burning in the desert but its not being consumed. Moses had often seen bushes burning in the desert, but he had never seen one that wasn’t being consumed. So, Moses went over to see that bush and he heard a voice. That voice said, “Take off your shoes, Moses, for the ground on which you’re standing is holy ground.” Moses removed his shoes and began a meeting with the Lord God.
Later, after leaving Egypt, Israel was led by a cloud by day and a column of fire by night.
At Mount Sinai, the top of the mountain was covered by fire because of the presence of God. You can still see the blackened mountain top even today, 3500 years later.
Later, in the book of 1 Kings we read about a challenge between Elijah and the prophets of Baal. The pagan priests could not call down fire from Baal. After drenching his own altar and sacrifice with water, Elijah called down fire from heaven that consumed the sacrifice, the altar and the priests of Baal.
And then on the Emmaus Road, the two disciples who were walking and had an encounter with the incognito risen Messiah said, “Were not our hearts burning within us while he talked with us on the road and opened the Scriptures to us?”
Do you see what the fire represents? The fire represented the presence of Almighty God.
It wasn’t the burning bush that made the meeting with Moses holy. It was the presence of Almighty God. God Himself led the children of Israel. Elijah didn’t defeat the prophets of Ba’al. It was God Who defeated them. It wasn’t the emotional moment of the day which created the fire for the disciples. It was the very presence of Yeshua HaMashiach.
And there were others who experienced this fire.
Jeremiah said there is a fire in my bones and I have to speak the Word of God.
Yochanan, John the Baptist said that Yeshua would baptize with the Holy Spirit and with fire.
At Pentecost, in the Book of Acts, we see the Holy Spirit coming down with tongues as of fire.
In the Book of Revelation, John had a vision of the risen Lord Yeshua. He spoke of His eyes being as that were fiery. Those fiery eyes that can see into our soul and discern everything that is within. The fire represents the judging presence of Almighty God.
The fire represents God’s presence among us. When you give your life to Yeshua, He places a fire within you to grow and become more and more like Him. Sadly, though, that fire begins to die out. It becomes a flickering flame where once it was an inferno for Him. What’s happened?
Well, let’s consider our next question,
Whose responsibility is this Holy Fire?
Here in Leviticus it’s clear that it’s the priest’s responsibility. So, by extension, it is the rabbi’s responsibility. It’s the responsibility of the leadership. You might say it’s the responsibility of those who teach our children.
But, as New Testament Christians, we must remember what Peter said in 1 Peter 2:9,
1 Peter 2:9 But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for God’s own possession, so that you may proclaim the praises of the One who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light.
Every Believer should be a priest of Adonai. It was the responsibility of the priests to carry men to God and to carry God back to men. Take men to God through prayer and take God to men through His Word. And it is our responsibility then to be God’s priests. We are to pray for our neighbors and our coworkers and our family. And we are to take God to our neighbors and coworkers and family by sharing His Word.
Whose responsibility is it to carry the fire? It’s mine, it’s yours and it’s the responsibility of us all to carry this fire and to keep it burning. Because we are all priests.
Have you ever heard anyone say, “Oh, our congregation is just so cold. I just don’t feel anything there anymore.” Listen folks, if you feel your synagogue is cold, then you go in on fire and heat up that place. It doesn’t have to be cold if you’ll set it on fire. It only takes a spark to get a fire going. You warm up somebody else and let them warm up somebody else and soon your whole congregation will be on fire for Yeshua.
Whose responsibility is it? It’s all our responsibility.
There is a need for people of all ages to carry the fire. You are never too old or too young to share the Good News of Yeshua.
Senior Adults we need you to help carry the fire because you look at life as no other age can – from the other end of spectrum. We need you to be involved because of your wisdom and experience.
Young people we need you to be involved because of your energy and enthusiasm. And don’t ever use youth as an excuse not to join God in some great work.
Jeremiah tried that and God said to him,
“Do not say, ‘I am only a youth.’ You must go to everyone I send you to and say whatever I command you. Do not be afraid of them, for I am with you and will rescue you.”
To those of you in between, we need you because you are out there in the real world. You know the needs and how best to meet those needs. We rely on you to lead this church in taking the light of His fire into a sin-darkened world.
What does fire represent? It represents God’s presence. Who is to keep the fire burning? We are all called to help keep the fire burning.
Now, how do we keep the Holy Fire burning?
Those of us who have been married a while can probably agree that one of the keys to a successful marriage is communication.
Do you and your spouse talk to each other?
“How was your day?
What have you done today?
What are your plans for later this week?
Can I do something to help you?”
Any time I am out running errands I will call home and tell Pat where I’m at, does she need anything from HEB, how the doctor’s visit went.
These kinds of conversations keep us in touch with how one another is feeling and what our needs are and what our expectations are.
But, what would happen if we didn’t communicate with one another? What if we just saw each other briefly in the morning and said a quick ‘hello’ and ‘have a good day’? What if when I come in from the garden or workshop and plop down at my computer and wait for Pat to finish cooking my supper? You know what would happen? I might lose the chance to do a little grilling if didn’t communicate to her that we should have steak for supper. She might cook Brussel sprouts just so I would protest.
Without good communications we would begin to lose touch with one another. I wouldn’t know what her needs are. We wouldn’t know each other’s expectations. How would that make us feel toward one another? I think both of us would be really disappointed if we didn’t spend time talking to each other.
How do we keep the fire burning? We pray. We talk with God throughout the day.
“Lord, I feel a difficult day coming on. Help me out.”
“Lord, show me where You’re working. Empower me to join You in the work You have already started.”
“Lord, we need to feel your power in our home, in our community, in our congregation. Help us out, Lord”
“Lord, here’s a lonely person. Show me how to be your servant and help him out.”
As we talk with Him through the day we grow closer to Him. That’s one way to keep the fire burning – prayer.
A second way to keep the fire burning is by hearing the Word. Prayer is primarily us talking to God. I know He talks with us in prayer but it’s mostly us talking to God. So, we turn to His Word to hear from Him. That’s God talking to us. That’s part of the communication process.
The Word of God will keep you from sin. Conversely, sin will keep you from the Word of God.
If you are burning with His fire you will stay in His Word. But when you move away from the fire of the Lord you get cold.
Spend time in the Word every day. To help you do that, I highly recommend a plan that will keep you engaged. One such plan is The Bible Recap which takes you through God’s Word chronologically in one year. It is available as a podcast and also on YouTube, so you can listen on the way to work, or watch it from your device or TV at home. There are journals and study guides available, but you can do it for free with your own Bible, and the YouTube channel. Every day, you read about 2 chapters, and then follow up with the podcast or YouTube portion to summarize and give context to what you’ve just read. That kind of program helps you to build consistency and accountability to stay in God’s Word, and deliberately hear from Him every day.
A third way to keep the fire burning is what James called “works”.
James 2:14-18 What good is it, my brothers and sisters, if someone says he has faith, but does not have works? Can such faith save him?
(15) If a brother or sister is naked and lacks daily food, (16) and one of you says to them, “Go in shalom, keep warm and well fed, ” but you do not give them what the body needs, what good is that? (
17) So also faith, if it does not have works, is dead by itself. (18) But someone will say, “You have faith and I have works.” Show me your faith without works and I will show you faith by my works.
Doing things for others will keep you warm as well as the one you are helping. One gentleman in this congregation took a generator over to the home of a friend during that ice storm a couple of years ago so that he would have electricity to operate his medical equipment.
Other members devote time to people in need.
How do we keep the fire burning? Through prayer, through Bible Study, and through our works. Ask God what you can do. There’s something all of us can do. And all of us don’t have to do the same thing. What God has for you to do might be something no one else is doing in this congregation.
There are needs all around us. Ask God to open your eyes and empower you to do the work that He has already begun.
So, we have seen that fire represents God’s presence. We are all responsible for keeping the fire burning. We keep the fire burning through prayer, studying His Word, and by our works.
It was a commandment to keep the fire burning. Yeshua said that if we loved Him, we would keep His commandments. Let’s show our love for the Messiah. Keep that fire burning within us.