“A fire shall always be burning on the altar; it shall never go out.” (Leviticus 9:13)
The wood-burning fireplace is one of the many things I love about this cozy little home we moved into, sitting high atop a mountain in the Judean Hills in the Land of Israel.
Unfortunately, the first time we tried to light the fire, all we got was a house full of smoke! We tried to light the fireplace during our first winter storm in the Land –usually this just means cold, wind & rain – but still; the homes are not heated, nor do they have carpeting. So we were freezing! No matter how much paper & kindling we used and how hard we tried, nothing would light the fire. We went to bed that night cold, miserable, and suffering from smoke inhalation!
Having given it our most valiant attempt and failing; we had no other option but to call in an expert – Gioria – the guy who sold & installed the fireplace in the first place with the previous tenants. After describing the problem, Gioria said, “I’ll be there in 15 minutes!”
In walked a Yemenite Jew, skin as dark as the fireplace itself – a man of few words – but he sure knew his fireplaces. He began to bang on the tube that goes from the fireplace out through the ceiling (whatever that tube is called). Every time he banged, we could hear stuff coming down the pipe – ok I googled it and I think it’s called a ‘flue’.
After a whole lot of banging, Gioria opened the fireplace and – with his bare hand mind you – began to clear out the ashes & dirty soot that had fallen. This dirty debris he simply dumped into plastic bags. But lo and behold the logs in the fireplace still wouldn’t catch fire. It wasn’t that the logs were wet; it’s just that there still wasn’t enough ventilation.
Gioria decided he needed to climb onto the roof; but since it was already dark and he didn’t have a ladder with him, he said he would come back the next day. Yes, 7:00 A.M. there was Giora at my door, climbing onto the roof with a ladder & a rope. He had to clear out all the sooty, black gunk from the top, its source, in order to clear the passageway so that oxygen could flow.
Finally, with more ash clearing and the appropriate kindling material, we succeeded in having a roaring fire going in our fireplace. Halleluyah! Blessed warmth! I rewarded Gioria with a cup of hot coffee (and a few hundred shekels); and he rewarded me with a few words. He showed me a picture of his new grandson; and a video of his son playing with his new baby boy. J
Then, allowing me to hold his cell phone, he clicked on a photo of his beautiful wife & I could see his love for her in his eyes. I could imagine him coming home to her after clearing out people’s dirty fireplaces with his bare hands; and she being so happy to have a husband who works so hard to provide for her and their family.
Gioria told me that she has cancer; “But”, he said, “We are happy! We take walks together; we enjoy our family and new grandson; it’s ok… it’s a good life.” They were walking through the fire together but not being burned.
I love this about the people of Israel – their love & devotion to family – the way that they squeeze every drop of delight out of the simple joys of life. Knowing well the depths of sorrows (tsuris); the Israeli people truly appreciate every opportunity to celebrate the simchas (joyous times).
The Lord began to speak to me about my plugged fireplace. He said that I also need to clear all the debris that has been blocking the flow of life-giving oxygen to my own heart – causing the fire in my heart to grow dim. The past year had been a difficult one: my first-born son passed away after a long illness which was a nightmare of suffering; it was hard to understand why God didn’t answer our prayers to heal him. My faith took a serious blow!
Then I went through hip replacement surgery which was a difficult trial, requiring a blood transfusion; and leaving me weak, housebound & dependent on others for a long season.
It had been excruciatingly painful to live in exile in Canada with its long, cold, dull, grey winters, for the past three years – in ‘the land of black & white (as my daughter Liat expresses so beautifully in her film, "Life in Color'.
We had lived those past three years in a city that actually carried the nickname “Deadmonton”. So (needless to say) we were definitely looking forward to packing up and returning to the Land of Israel. And then….two weeks before our departure – I fell down the stairs, shattering my elbow, requiring yet another surgery. Oye vey!
We came back to our Land, broken & limping, but so thankful to be home again and to be reunited with our family. And yet, we felt almost numb; devoid of the joy that we should be feeling having been delivered from this place of ‘death’ and in God’s mercy, being gathered back into our land. Why? Where was the excitement? The ‘joy of my salvation’? The joy of the Lord that should be my strength? The fullness of Joy found in His presence?
I began to pray; and this is when the Lord showed me the plugged fireplace. I had allowed all the ashes of my grief, sorrow and pain to block the flow of His Spirit in me; so the fire in my heart could no longer be the roaring blaze it is meant to be. The problem was that no amount of banging and hollering could unblock enough of the debris to get the fire going again. Yelling at the devil was just not going to do it!
And without a clear, clean flow of life-giving oxygen, all we’re going to get it a whole lot of smoke that stings and irritates the eyes & respiratory passages. The truth is that when the fire of the Holy Spirit dies down in our heart, not only do we become irritable; but we irritate and annoy everyone around us! We can’t even breathe freely with all that smoke in the air. We love to sing that beautiful song, “This is the air I breathe… Your Holy Presence.. living in me.” But if the air we breathe is filled with smoke there is no room for His Holy presence.
At a Messianic congregation we often attend in Jerusalem, the worship team led us in another beautiful song, “ Great are You Lord” whose lyrics are, “It’s your breath in our lungs So we pour out our praise to you only…” My lungs were longing to breathe in the fresh, pure air of the Holy Spirit; but instead I was breathing in the ashes of mourning and grief.
Is your fireplace blocked? What has blocked the airflow, stinging your eyes and filling your lungs with smoke? There are so many things that can cause a buildup of ashes in our heart: disappointment, distractions, excessive busyness, wrong relationships, loss, the perplexity of unanswered prayer, the pain of abandonment… the list is endless.
Then there is, of course, plain old-fashioned sin: unbelief, fear, doubt, lust, greed, discontent, resentment, anger, bitterness, hatred, unforgiveness, idolatry, or disobedience - just to name a few.
Could any of these powers of darkness have blocked up your ‘fireplace’? Would you check off ‘all of the above’?? We all go through times and seasons – some more trying that others. There are times when it seems like the enemy comes in like a flood; and we are like the little Dutch boy trying to hold back the leak in the dam with our one little thumb. Doesn’t work, right? We simply need the power of the Holy Spirit to defeat these enemies that are just too crazy strong for us to overcome in the flesh.
“He rescued me from my powerful enemies, from those who hated me, for they were too strong for me.” (Psalm 18:77)
So what do we do when our connection to His Spirit becomes blocked? We may try to do it ourselves but despite our most valiant efforts, we often cannot unblock that which has been choking the life out of us. It takes ‘Someone’ to walk right into the smoky mess and clear out all the ashes. Yeshua is not afraid to get down on his knees and get his hands dirty if it means we will be set free. Halleluyah! He came to heal the broken hearted and set the captives free.
When Yeshua stood up in a synagogue in Nazareth, he read from the scroll of Isaiah. In the 61st chapter of Isaiah, we read this Messianic Prophecy: “Adonai has anointed me to…comfort all who mourn, and provide for those who grieve in Zion – to bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes; the oil of joy instead of mourning and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair.” (Isaiah 61: 1 – 3)
God wants to take the ashes of grieving and mourning over all the destruction in our lives; and exchange it for beauty and joy! In the original Hebrew passage, it actually says we will find beauty ‘under’ the ashes. It is also a play on words in the original language, since the Hebrew words for ‘beauty’ and ‘ashes’ use the exact same Hebrew letters – but simply switches the order.
If we will give to God all the ashes of our lives, He will reveal to us all the beauty that has been hidden underneath. God promises that He will switch even that which was meant for evil into something for our good. The fires that were meant to destroy us may actually be transformed into a tool in the Potter's hand to purify us and set us free.
The three Hebrews were thrown bound into the fire of Nebuchadnezer's furnace; but because there was a 4th man in the fire with them - they came out unbound and not even smelling like smoke!! Halleluyah! There is no fire that we walk through that Yeshua does not walk through it with us. This is our hope in God when we put our faith and trust in Him.
FIRES OF PURIFICATION
Here is the thing – Gioria said that he had given the previous tenant some kind of special cubes that he was supposed to throw into the fire at least once a week to keep the fireplace clean – but obviously he hadn’t used it – much to Gioria’s dismay.
God has also given us a means of keeping our hearts cleansed - the purification of confession & repentance. It is to our harm if we don’t use it out of some kind of misguided pride or even sheer neglect.
The Word of God warns us that those who try to cover up their sins will not prosper. (Proverbs 28:13) Anyways, there is no point in trying to hide them; God sees it all: “O God you know my foolishness. My sins are not hidden from you.” (Psalm 69:5)
If we will confess to Him all that we have been holding in our hearts; then He is faithful and just, not only to forgive our sins; but also to cleanse us from all our sins.
Perpetual fire in the Menorah
In the ancient Holy Temple, the Cohen Hagadol (High Priest) needed to keep the fire in the lampstand (menorah) continually lit. It was meant to be a perpetual source of light in the tabernacle.
The flame in our hearts is also to remain a bright, shining light continually – on good days and on the not so good ones –in times of peace and prosperity as well as stormy days of trials & tribulations.
In the book of Revelation, we are warned to ‘repent’ lest our lampstand be removed. 
"For our God is a consuming fire." (Hebrews 12:29)
The same fire that gives us light and warmth, however, can also destroy and even kill. We had a near catastrophe once our fireplace was working again. It was working so well, in fact, that the heat set on fire an oven mitt that had been stuffed between the chimney pipe, a brick and the wall. It was kind of a strange thing that the previous tenants had devised; but we figured it must be there for a purpose so we just left it as is… until the oven mitt began to smolder, smoke, and then burst into flames.
Not knowing quite what to do, we immediately called our landlord who decided that we needed to remove that brick also. In the back of my mind, I had a sneaking suspicion that there must be a good reason for a brick stuck between the wall and a hot chimney pipe but alas – he would not be deterred by common sense. So… out went the brick – only to reveal why the brick was actually there – to cover an electrical plug!
Israelis have a word for people who do ‘beyond stupid’ things like this – “metumtumim!” – something like ‘idiots!’ Of course the electric plug immediately began to melt into a drippy goo like substance; obviously an electrical hazard. We had to sit without power in our living room (and no wifi – horrors!) until an electrician could come and cut the wires to this melted plug. Oye vey!
It made me realize, however, that we need to use extreme caution, even when the Lord does clear out the ashes & debris from our fireplace. Freedom is not license to sin; and we need to keep the fire in our hearts within safe boundaries – lest it become a fire that consumes.
God is called a ‘Consuming Fire’. He is a jealous God; and though He wants us to be on fire for Him; we need to keep our hearts ever loyal. “For the eyes of the LORD roam to and fro over all the earth, to show Himself strong on behalf of those whose heart is fully devoted to Him.” 2 Chronicles 16:9)
God wants to ignite a new fire in our hearts for Him and His Kingdom of love, joy, peace, forgiveness and compassion. He wants this to be a perpetual flame that no force of darkness can ever put it out! We need to put the past behind us, allow God to heal our broken hearts, turn our ashes into beauty and our mourning into dancing. Haleluyah!
“Light the fire in our hearts; let the flame ever grow brighter.
Let it never fade away; until the world knows that Yeshua has come.”
“ Never let the fire in your heart go out. Keep it alive. Serve the Lord. When you hope, be joyful. When you suffer, be patient. When you pray, be faithful. Share with God's people who are in need. Welcome others into your homes.” ( Romans 12:11-13)