Jeremiah 7:21-8:3; 9:22-23
The Lesson of the Ashes
The Tabernacle has now been built and the presence of HaShem is visible in the midst of the people. Just a momentary thought about the scene causes the imagination to run wild. What a sight it must have been, and what a witness to those who would see it from a distance. I wonder just how many “foreigners” came to Moses while they journeyed through the wilderness asking to become a part of this special people who worshipped a very special God?
The people have now been set free from the bondage of Egypt. They have been miraculously delivered and brought to Mount Sinai to receive the words to keep them free. They have build a tent for HaShem so that He could dwell in their midst, and they have seen the fire fall. Now it is time to settle into the daily life of the journey they have been called to. No problems from here on. Right?
Well, maybe there would be something more they would need to do. They would need to keep the fire of His presence real, not only in the Tabernacle, but also in their hearts on a daily basis.
You would think that a people who are eating the miraculous food of manna, receiving water from a rock that followed them, and seeing the visible presence of their God in their lives on a daily basis just should not have a hard time keeping their lives in order. But humans being so human can certainly cause problems in this area. There would be times along the way that the fire might still be on the altar, but it would be absent from the people’s hearts.
They would fail to see the lesson being lived out daily on the altar of the Tabernacle, the lesson of the ashes.
Each day the priest would be required to clean out the ashes of yesterday’s fire, making room for the fire of the present day. If the priest did not clean out the ashes for a few days they could even smother the fire and eventually put it out. This was a lesson the people needed to learn, but many did not. They went about their daily business content with what God had accomplished in the past, not concerned about His presence in the present.
Will Rodgers again had it right when he said, “People change, but not much.” It seems this trait of living on what God did in the past is not only a Hebrew thing, but it is a human thing. How many denominations and non-denominations have not only begun through the years, but continue to perpetuate, not because of God’s presence today, but based on a testimony of what was done in the past. Before we point fingers though, maybe it would be a good idea to not look at others, but to take a few moments of self-examination as Paul told us to do.
Let’s put this to a test in our own lives right now. Ready? It is now testimony night at your local congregation and you have been asked to give a testimony of the grace and power of God in your life. How far back would you have to go? Would it be a month, a year or maybe even five years? Are you maybe even having a hard time remembering anything of real meaning since the moment you gave your life to Him? Just how long has it been since your Tabernacle has felt the fire of His presence? How full of ashes have the altars of our hearts become? Is it time for a good cleaning in hopes that there is still a coal left to spark the flame again?
It is so easy to go through the motions of a relationship with God. In fact, we can do so long enough that we really think that what we are doing is fire, when all that is there is cold, dry ashes. What is the difference between ashes and fire in your life? Think fire. On a scale of 0 – 10, how hot is your love of HaShem, of His Truth, of your fellowman, of action? Are you excited and exciting? Are you making a difference? Do you glow? Are others attracted to HaShem because of you? Does light radiate from you?
Cold ashes can even happen to those who live by Torah. Obedience to the letter of Torah can cause some of the coldest and driest people I have ever known. Obedience can in fact become ashes when we refuse to allow Torah to grow and mold our lives and our relationship not only with our God, but also with each other. We must never allow our obedience to come from the ashes of yesterday, but rather make sure it is fueled by the fire of today.
Let us continue to learn lessons of life from our brothers and sisters who have walked the journey before us. If we make the same mistakes they did, we truly have no excuse! (Click to Source