The fire on the altar shall be kept burning on it; it shall not go out. The priest shall burn wood on it every morning, and he shall arrange the burnt offering on it and shall burn on it the fat of the peace offerings. Fire shall be kept burning on the altar continually; it shall not go out. (Leviticus 6:12, 13 ESV)
This fire initially came from the Lord (see Lev 9:24) and was perpetuated throughout the generations. According to the Jews, this fire was continued until the time Israel was carried into Babylon. Leviticus does not expound much on the meaning of the perpetual fire, but rather leaves us to draw from it important lessons. Perhaps most striking would have been the reminder it was to the people of the fire with which God initially started it, when he received their burnt offering. It required constant attention and devotion to keep it going. These two elements do paint an important picture of God lighting something and giving man the charge of tending to it with diligence and care.
In the New Testament God sent fire again from heaven in the form of flaming tongues that rested on the apostles. It was a visible manifestation of God’s approval of these men and of his empowering for the work they were called to do in bearing witness to the world of Christ and making disciples of all nations. Just as the fire on the altar was started by God and tended to by those called to it, the gifts of God are poured out upon man and require tending to and use by those who receive them. Just as Paul instructed Timothy, “I remind you to fan into flame the gift of God, which is in you through the laying on of my hands.”
God has given you gifts that were poured out upon you by the Holy Spirit through the church that you are called to use for the sake of building up the body of Christ. You are to “fan into flame” those gifts by using them and tending to them through your regular devotion to God’s means of grace.
Lord, would you put your praises on our tongues perpetually that we might rest in your grace and your power. Forgive us for our apathy with regard to the gifts you’ve given and instead help us to fan into flame those gifts, that we might devote ourselves, night and day, to building up the body of Christ.