The Consuming Fire Without, The Indwelling Presence Within

Today’s selected reading transitions from the Old Testament book of First Chronicles and the events surrounding the life and reign of David king of Israel to the book of Second Chronicles which describes the days, the times and the reign of the kings of Israel and Judah. More specifically, today’s passage is found in the first six chapters of this Old Testament book. SO SOLOMON, AND ALL THE CONGREGATION WITH HIM, WENT TO THE HIGH PLACE THAT WAS AT GIBEON! THERE WAS THE TABERNACLE OF THE CONGREGATION OF GOD, WHICH MOSES THE SERVANT OF THE LORD HAD MADE IN THE WILDERNESS! THE ARK OF GOD HAD DAVID BROUGHT UP FROM KIRJATH-JEARIM TO THE PLACE WHICH DAVID HAD PREPARED FOR IT! THE BRASEN ALTAR, THAT BEZALEEL THE SON OF URI, THE SON OF HUR, AHD MADE, HE PUT BEFORE THE TABERNACLE OF THE LORD! SOLOMON AND THE CONGREGATION SOUGHT UNTO IT! [SEEKING UNTO THE BRASEN ALTAR! SEEKING UNTO THE ALTAR! SEEKING UNTO THE PLACE OF SACRIFICE] SOLOMON WENT UP THITHER TO THE BRASEN ALTAR BEFORE THE LORD, WHICH WAS AT THE TABERNACLE OF THE CONGREGATION! IN THAT NIGHT DID GOD APPEAR UNTO SOLOMON! ASK WHAT I SHALL GIVE THEE! GIVE ME NOW WISDOM AND KNOWLEDGE, THAT I MAY GO OUT AND COME IN BEFORE THIS PEOPLE! BECAUSE THIS WAS IN THINE HEART, AND THOU HAST NOT ASKED RICHES, WEALTH, OR HONOUR, NOR THE LIFE OF THINE ENEMIES, NEITHER YET HAST ASKED LONG LIFE; BUT HAST ASKED WISDOM AND KNOWLEDGE FOR THYSELF! THEN SOLOMON CAME FROM HIS JOURNEY TO THE HIGH PLACE THAT WAS AT GIBEON TO JERUSALEM! FROM BEFORE THE TABERNACLE OF THE CONGREGATION! SOLOMON DETERMINED TO BUILD AN HOUSE FOR THE NAME OF THE LORD, AND AN HOUSE FOR HIS KINGDOM! BEHOLD, I BUILD AN HOUSE TO THE NAME OF THE LORD MY GOD, TO DEDICATE IT TO HIM, AND TO BURN BEFORE HIM SWEET INCENSE, AND FOR THE CONTINUAL SHEWBREAD, AND FOR THE BURNT OFFERINGS MORNING AND EVENING, ON THE SABBATHS, AND ON THE NEW MOONS, AND ON THE SOLEMN FEASTS OF THE LORD OUR GOD! THE HOUSE WHICH I BUILD IS GREAT: FOR GREAT IS OUR GOD ABOVE ALL GODS! BUT WHO IS ABLE TO BUILD HIM AN HOUSE, SEEING THE HEAVEN AND HEAVEN OF HEAVENS CANNOT CONTAIN HIM? WHO AM I THEN, THAT I SHOULD BUILD HIM AN HOUSE, SAVE ONLY TO BURN SACRIFICE BEFORE HIM? THEN SOLOMON BEGAN TO BUILD THE HOUSE OF THE LORD AT JERUSALEM IN MOUNT MORIAH! WHERE THE LORD APPEARED UNTO DAVID HIS FATHER, IN THE PALCE THAT DAVID HAD PREPARED IN THE THRESHINGFLOOR OF ORNAN THE JEBUSITE! HE BEGAN TO BUILD IN THE SECOND DAY OF THE SECOND MONTH, IN THE FOURTH YEAR OF HIS REIGN! NOW THESE ARE THE THINGS WHEREIN SOLOMON WAS INSTRUCTED FOR THE BUILDING OF THE HOUSE OF GOD! THUS ALL THE WORK THAT SOLOMON MADE FOR THE HOUSE OF THE LORD WAS FINISHED! AND SOLOMON BROUGHT IN ALL THE THINGS THAT DAVID HIS FATHER HAD DEDICATED! TO BRING UP THE ARK OF THE COVENANT OF THE LORD OUT OF THE CITY OF DAVID, WHICH IS ZION! AND THE LEVITES TOOK UP THE ARK! AND THEY BROUGHT UP THE ARK, AND THE TABERNACLE OF THE CONGREGATION, AND ALL THE HOLY VESSELS THAT WERE IN THE TABERNACLE, THESE DID THE PRIESTS AND THE LEVITES BRING UP! THE PRIESTS BROUGHT IN THE ARK OF THE COVENANT OF THE LORD UNTO HIS PLACE, TO THE ORACLE OF THE HOUSE, INTO THE MOST HOLY PLACE, EVEN UNDER THE WINGS OF THE CHERUBIMS! AND IT CAME TO PASS, WHEN THE PRIESTS WERE COME OUT OF THE HOLY PLACE! AS THE TRUMPETERS AND SINGERS WERE AS ONE, TO MAKE ONE SOUND TO BE HEARD IN PRAISING AND THANKING THE LORD! WHEN THEY LIFTED UP THEIR VOICE WITH THE TRUMPETS AND CYMBALS AND INSTRUMENTS OF MUSICK, AND PRAISED THE LORD! THE HOUSE WAS FILLED WITH A CLOUD, EVEN THE HOUSE OF THE LORD! THE PRIESTS COULD NOT STAND TO MINISTER BY REASON OF THE CLOUD! THE GLORY OF THE LORD HAD FILLED THE HOUSE!

When you come to this particular portion of Scripture you will be brought face to face with the transition of power from David the king of Israel who reigned in the city of Jerusalem to his son Solomon who would sit upon his throne. Before you delve any further into this reality it is absolutely necessary that you recognize that what began with David was not meant to die with David, but was meant to continue throughout the generations that would come after him—beginning with his son Solomon. It is absolutely necessary that we recognize and understand that during the days of Solomon the son of David we find that next generation that would not only sit upon the throne of David, but that next generation which would be responsible for building the house and sanctuary which David originally intended on building unto the LORD his God, and for the Ark of the Covenant. It would be after the Ark of the Covenant was brought from the place it was at in Kirjath-Jearim unto its place in the city of Jerusalem that David would purpose and determine to build a sanctuary and house for the LORD his God, and for the Ark of the His holy covenant. Scripture, however, reveals that the word of the LORD would come unto Nathan the prophet that same night and would declare unto David that he would not be the one to build a house for the glory and presence of the living God, and that his son who would sit upon his throne would build the house. In fact, we learn that David was prevented and prohibited from building the house and sanctuary before and unto the living God because he was a man of much bloodshed, and because he was a man of warfare and battle. Although it would be true that the many battles, conquests and conflicts David engaged in would result in a period of peace and rest for the people of God from all their enemies and adversaries within and without, and although David himself would lead the armies of Israel in battle against these enemies and adversaries, David would not be able to build for and unto the living God the sanctuary and house that was to be for and unto His name and for His glory. David would be instrumental in bringing about the peace and rest that would be needed in the midst of the land in order that the sanctuary and house of the living God might in fact be built in the midst of the city of the Great King. It’s worth noting that not only would David help facilitate through warfare, battle and conflict the peace and rest that would be needed within the land in order for the house and sanctuary of the living God to be built in the land. How absolutely incredible it is to think about and consider the tremendous reality that David would engage in the bloodshed that would bring about the peace and rest in the midst of the land, as well as bringing the Ark of the Covenant into the midst of the city of Jerusalem. What’s more, is David would even make all the necessary preparations that would be needed for the sanctuary and house of the living God to be built in the midst of the city of Jerusalem.

As we come to the first few chapters of the Old Testament book of Second Chronicles—while it is true that we do in fact encounter the tremendous reality of Solomon beginning to reign as king over the nation and kingdom of Israel, what we are truly and ultimately seeing is the beginning of the building of the sanctuary and house of the LORD. It’s worth noting, however, that before Solomon would indeed begin the process of building the house and sanctuary of the living God in the midst of the city of Jerusalem, he would first go up unto the place of the Tabernacle of Moses which was built in the wilderness in the high place in Gibeon. The first chapter of this Old Testament book begins and opens with the author writing how Solomon was strengthened in his kingdom, and how the LORD his God was with him, and magnified him exceedingly. What you find immediately after this is Solomon speaking unto all Israel, to the captains of thousands and of hundreds, and to the judges, and to every governor in all of Israel, the chief of the fathers. Solomon—together with all the congregation with him—would go to the high place that was at Gibeon where the tabernacle of the congregation of God, which Moses the servant of the LORD had made in the wilderness. Scripture reveals how the Ark of God David had brought up from Kirjath-Jeanie to the place which he had prepared for it in the midst of the tent he had set up. What’s even more intriguing when you take the time to think about it is when you read how the brasen altar which Bezaleel the son of Uri, the son of Hur, had made, David put before the tabernacle of the LORD. Please don’t miss and lose sight of this absolutely astonishing reality, for not only do we find David as being a man of the Ark of the Covenant of the God of Israel, but we also find David as being a man of the altar of sacrifice, and the altar of burnt offering which was found in the midst of the Tabernacle which Moses had built and set up in the midst of the people of God. When and as you read the words that are found in this passage, it becomes quite clear that not only was a David who inquired of the Ark of the Covenant of the living God during the days of his reign, but he was also a man who inquired of the altar of the LORD God of Israel. Within this passage—not only do we encounter the reality of the Ark of the Covenant of the LORD God of Israel, but we also encounter the tremendous reality of the brasen altar of the living God, which was made in the wilderness.

THE ALTAR AND THE ARK! If we are going to truly understand the sanctuary and Temple of the living God—not only must we recognize and understand that it was a place of the Ark of the Covenant, but it was also a place of the altar of burnt offering and sacrifice. Centuries later during the life and times of the Messiah, it would be declared that the Temple which stood on mount Moriah would not only be the house of God [My Father’s house], but it was also to be a place of prayer. It is truly incredible to think about the fact that Solomon’s endeavor to build the sanctuary and Temple of the living God did not immediately begin with his conscripting thousands of workers and servants who would engage themselves in the labor, nor would Solomon immediately begin the process of building the sanctuary of the living God. Before Solomon would ever build the sanctuary of the living God he would first go to the high place which was at Gibeon, for it would be there where the tabernacle of the congregation of God, which Moses the servant of the LORD had made in the wilderness. It would be in that place where we would see the altar which would be used for sacrifice and offering, however, the Ark of the Covenant would be missing. Pause for a moment and think about this, for what we find and what we read here is a distinct separation between the Ark of the Covenant and the brasen altar of burnt offering and sacrifice. Consider the fact that for more than a half a century the Ark of the Covenant of the living God and the brasen altar of burnt offering and sacrifice would be separated from each other. If you truly take the time to read the narrative you will quickly discover that the Ark of the Covenant would be taken from its place in Shiloh and would make make its way into the territory of the Philistines where it would remain for a period of seven months before it would go up from that place to Beth-shemesh. The Ark of the Covenant of the living God would then move from the place of Beth-shemesh after the LORD plagued the men of that city after they dared look inside the Ark of the Covenant. The Ark would then make its way from Beth-shemesh to Kirjath-Jearim where it abide and remain throughout the days of the reign of Saul king of Israel. It wouldn’t be until David would become king over all Israel that he would inquire of the Ark of the Covenant of the living God, and would bring it up to himself. Of course we know that the LORD would break out in the midst of the worship service and celebration David and those with him had when they dared move the Ark on a new cart carried by oxen and beasts of the field. Being displeased and even afraid of the living God because of the death of Uzza, David would leave the Ark of the Covenant in the house of Obed-edom where it would remain for a period of three months.

Upon continuing to read the narrative of the Ark of the Covenant you will find that David would learn and hear how the LORD God of Israel would and had indeed blessed the house of Obed-edom, and it would be the thought of the blessing of the living God upon the house of Obed-Edom that would prompt David to seek what he might be able to do to bring the Ark of the Covenant unto himself in Jerusalem. I am convinced that it would be during that time when David would inquire of the book of the Law of Moses and would learn and discover that only the priests of the LORD were to transport the Ark of the Covenant, and that they were supposed to transport it using staves as they carried it upon their shoulders. Ultimately, the living God would help David, the priests and the Levites in their endeavor to bring the Ark of the Covenant to the place David had prepared for it in the midst of Jerusalem, and the Ark of the Covenant would be there in the midst of Jerusalem all the rest of the days of David. I have to admit that I would absolutely love to know at what point during the days of the reign of David did he bring the Ark of the Covenant into the midst of the city of Jerusalem, and how long did the Ark of the Covenant abide in the midst of the city of Jerusalem before he would eventually die and go all the way of the earth, and the way of his fathers. Scripture isn’t clear how much time elapsed between the time David brought the Ark of the Covenant from its place in Kirjath-Jearim to the place he had prepared for it in Jerusalem, but what we do know is that during the days of Saul, as well as during the days of David there would be a distinct and unique separation between the brasen altar and the Ark of the Covenant. THE DISPARITY BETWEEN THE ARK AND THE ALTAR! THE DISCONNECT BETWEEN THE ALTAR AND THE ARK! THE DISCONNECT BETWEEN THE THE OFFERING AND THE GLORY! In all reality, it’s quite remarkable to think about and consider the fact that during the days of Samuel the prophet, during the days of Saul king of Israel, and even during the days of David king of Israel there was a disconnect between the Ark of the Covenant and the brasen altar of burnt offering and sacrifice. For more than a half a century the Ark of the Covenant would move from place to place until it would finally arrive at the place which David had prepared for it in the city of Jerusalem. With that being said, we must recognize and understand that the brasen altar which was used for burnt offering and sacrifice would be at the high place at Gibeon.

As I sit here today I can’t help but come face to face with this disconnect between the place of the glory and the presence of the living God, and the place of sacrifice and offering. Within the Tabernacle of Moses which was built and reared up in the midst of the wilderness we find one central and single place where both the altar and the Ark of the Covenant would be in perfect unity and harmony with each other. The Ark of the Covenant would be in the midst of the Holy of Holies there in the Tabernacle, and the altar of burnt offering and sacrificed would be in the outer court where the priests would offer the sacrifices and offering before the LORD. Consider the fact that in the Tabernacle which Moses the servant of the LORD had built and reared up in the midst of the wilderness we find the Ark of the Covenant and the altar of burnt offering and sacrifice being in joyful harmony and unity with each other. Within the Tabernacle of Moses in the wilderness—not only do we see the place of the glory and presence of the living God in the midst of the people, but so also do we see the place of the offering and sacrifice in the presence and sight of the living God. During the days of Moses in the wilderness, as well as during the days of Joshua the son of Nun in the promised land, and during the days of the judges in Israel we find the Ark of the Covenant and the altar still being joined and connected together in the Tabernacle which Moses the servant of the LORD had reared up and built in the wilderness. It wouldn’t be until the days of Eli the high priest that the Ark of the Covenant would be removed from the sanctuary in order that it might be brought forth into battle. In all reality, I am convinced that it was this presumption, and it was this separation of the Ark of the Covenant—not only from the Tabernacle as a whole, but also from the altar of the LORD that would cause and allow the Ark of the Covenant to be captured by the Philistines and carried away by them and into their territory. Although the presence of the Ark of the Covenant would wreak and unleash havoc in the midst of the land of the Philistines over a period of seven months, it would eventually be brought back into the land of Israel. Even though the Ark of the Covenant would be brought back into the land of Israel it would find itself in Beth-shemesh, it would be found in Kirjath-jearim, it would be found in the house of Obed-edom, and it would finally be found in the city of Jerusalem and in the place which David the son of Jesse had prepared for it. We dare not miss this, for with the Ark of the Covenant in one place, and the altar of burnt offering and sacrifice in another place, we find this separation of the altar and the ark, this separation of the glory and the sacrifice, this separation of the presence of God and the offerings of His people.

Pause and stop for a moment and consider the fact that during the days of Samuel the prophet, during the days of Saul the king of Israel, and during the days of David the king of Israel the Ark of the Covenant and the altar of burnt offering and sacrifice would be separated from each other. Consider the fact that the place of sacrifice and offering was and would be separated from the place of the presence and the glory of God. What’s more, is I am convinced that it’s necessary for us to recognize and understand this, for during the days of Solomon king of Israel, and during the days of the Temple and sanctuary of the living God we find the Ark of the Covenant and the altar of burnt offering and sacrifice being joined together once more. What would begin in and with the Tabernacle of Moses would continue with the Temple which Solomon the son of of David would build in the midst of the city of Jerusalem. It’s absolutely necessary and important that we recognize and understand this, for the building of the Temple in the midst of the city of Jerusalem would not only be the building of a house of worship in the very place where Abraham agreed to sacrifice his son Isaac as a living sacrifice upon the altar. Stop and consider that the Temple which Solomon had built for and unto the living God would be built on the very mountain—perhaps even on the very spot where Abraham had marked centuries earlier with the altar he built as he would offer his son Isaac as a living sacrifice before and unto the living God. What’s more, is that not only would Abraham offer his son Isaac as a living sacrifice upon the mountain of Moriah, but David would also build a second altar there during a time of plague and would offer a burnt offering and sacrifice unto the LORD. In the first place the LORD would answer and respond from heaven by calling out to Abraham, and by showing him a ram caught in a thicket, and in the second place the LORD would not only answer with fire coming down from heaven, but the living God would also answer and hear from heaven by commanding and instructing the angel whose sword was out of its sheath to be put back in. It would be in direct response to David seeing that the LORD answered his prayer from heaven that he would proclaim and exclaim how that place was the house of the living God, and that that place was the place of sacrifice of and offering. What I can’t help but wonder is whether or not the place where Abraham built his altar, the place where David built his altar, and the place where the brasen altar would stand in the Temple of the LORD would be the very same place. It would be just like the living God to cause and allow that particular place to be marked by three distinct and three different altars—altars which would begin with Abraham, would continue with David, and would continue and ultimately find its culmination and fulfillment in the altar of burnt offering and sacrifice there on mount Moriah.

Before I move on further into this particular reality, I find it absolutely necessary to speak to this reality of the separation of the altar and the Ark of the Covenant of the living God. I am convinced that there are countless churches among us within this generation that have this particular reality among them in their midst. These churches might very well have an altar, or a form of an altar among them in their midst, and yet the Ark of the Covenant is nowhere near the altar that is among them in their midst. There are churches that are content with presenting offerings and sacrifices before the living God among them in their midst, and yet they do so without and apart from the glory and presence of the living God. What’s more, is they are content with presenting their gifts, their offerings and their sacrifices without and apart from the fire of God. If you read the narrative of Moses in the wilderness you will find that the LORD God answered by fire which came down from heaven upon the sacrifice and upon the altar of burnt offering in the midst and in the sight of all the people. What’s more, is that when David would offer his burnt offering and sacrifice before the LORD his God on mount Moriah at the threshingfloor of Ornan the Jebusite, we find the living God once more answering by fire from heaven. There is not a doubt in my mind that the fire came down from heaven upon the altar and the sacrifice as a sign that that place was to be the place of the altar of burnt offering, for fire always begets, and fire always points to fire. Moses and the children of Israel would witness and behold fire coming down from heaven upon the altar of burnt offering in the midst of the wilderness, while David—and perhaps Ornan and his sons— would witness and behold the fire of God coming down from heaven there at mount Moriah in the midst of the city of Jerusalem. What’s more, is that during the days of Solomon when the Temple and sanctuary of the living God was built, the LORD would once more send fire down from heaven in the sight of Solomon and all the people, as the fire would come upon the altar and would consume the sacrifice that was upon the altar. What’s more, is that the fire of God would be in direct connection to the glory and presence of the living God which would take place inside. THE GLORY WITHIN AND THE FIRE WITHOUT! I can’t help but sit here today and think about the tremendous fact that when you study both the Tabernacle, as well as the Temple—not only will you see the glory of the living God within the sanctuary, but you will see the fire outside the sanctuary and upon the altar.

I am absolutely and completely convinced that there is something truly incredible and truly spectacular about the glory within and the fire without, for the glory within would consecrate the house, while the fire without would consume the sacrifice. THE GLORY WHICH CONSECRATES, THE FIRE WHICH CONSUMES! In all reality, I am convinced that within ourselves who are the Temple of the Holy Spirit, and within the sanctuaries and houses of worship—not only does there need to be a glory within which consecrates, but there also needs to be a fire without which consumes. There is a great and tremendous need for a glory within which consecrates the house, which sanctifies, and which makes it holy, and there is a great need for the fire to be present without, which consume the sacrifice. If you read and study the narrative of Moses in the wilderness you will find that at the completion of the building of the Tabernacle the cloud not only rested upon, but also filled the Tabernacle in the sight of all the people—so much so that not even Moses could stand to enter into and minister in the sanctuary. What’s more, is that in the book of Leviticus you will find and read of the fire of God coming down from heaven upon the altar of burnt offering and consuming the sacrifice. With that being said, you will come to the book of Second Chronicles, and not only will you see the same cloud which rested upon and filled the Tabernacle filling the Temple, but you will also see the consuming fire of the living God coming down from heaven upon the altar of burnt offering. Consider if you will—first the narrative of the cloud and the glory filling the Tabernacle in the wilderness, as well as the fire of the living God coming down from heaven upon the altar in the outer court; but also the narrative of the cloud and glory of the living God filling the Temple and sanctuary of the living God which Solomon the son of David built, and the fire of God coming down from heaven and consuming the sacrifices and offering which were upon the altar in the midst of the Temple:

“Then a cloud covered the tent of congregation, and the glory of the LORD filled the tabernacle. And Moses was not able to enter into the tent of congregation, because the cloud abode therein, and the glory of the LORD filled the tabernacle. And when the cloud was taken up from over the tabernacle, the children of Israel went onward in all their journeys: but if the cloud were not taken up, then they journeyed not till the day that it was taken up. For the cloud of the LORd was upon the tabernacle by day, and fire was on it by night, in the sight of all the house of Israel, throughout all their journeys” (Exodus 40:34-38).

“And Aaron lifted up his hand toward the people, and blessed them, and came down from offering of the sin offering, and the burnt offering, and peace offerings. And Moses and Aaron went into the tabernacle of the congregation, and came out, and blessed the people: and the glory of the LORd appeared unto all the people. And there came a fire out from before the LORD, and consumed upon the altar the burnt offering and the fat: which went all the people saw, they shouted, and fell on their faces” (Leviticus 9:22-24).

“It came even to pass, as the trumpeters and singers were as one, to make one sound to be heard in praising and thanking the LORD; and when they lifted up their voice with the trumpets and cymbals and instruments of musick, and praised the LORD, saying, For He is good; for his mercy endureth for ever: that then the house was filled with a cloud, even the house of the LORD; so that the priests could not stand to minister by reason of the cloud: for the glory of the LORD had filled the house of God” (2 Chronicles 5:13-14).

“Now when Solomon had made an end of praying, the fire came down from heaven, and consumed the burnt offering and the sacrifices; and the glory of the LORD filled the house. And the priests could not enter into the house of the LORD, because the glory of the LORD had filled the LORD’s house. And when all the children of Israel saw how the fire came down, and the glory of the LORD upon the house, they bowed themselves with their faces to the ground upon the pavement, and worshipped, and praised the LORD, saying, For he is good; for his mercy endureth for ever” (2 Chronicles 7:1-3).

THE GLORY WITHIN, THE FIRE WITHOUT! The more I think about and consider the narrative of the Tabernacle and the Temple, the more I can’t help but come face to face with the absolutely incredible reality that in both cases—not only do we see the glory of the LORD completely filling the sanctuary, but so also do we see the fire of God coming down from heaven. In all reality, this is something that is seen in the place of the altar and the place of the Ark, and when both the Holy of Holies and the outer court work in conjunction and perfect harmony with each other. We dare not and must not miss and lose sight of this absolutely tremendous truth, for there is something truly powerful about the idea of God’s glory filling the sanctuary and Temple in the place where the Ark of the Covenant abides, and the fire of God falling upon the altar in the place where offerings and sacrifices are made. How absolutely wonderful and beautiful it is that the glory and the fire would be direct linked and connected to the Tabernacle when the altar and the Ark were present together in the same place, and they wouldn’t be seen together again until the Temple was built, the Ark of the Covenant was brought into the Holy of Holies, and when the brasen altar would be placed before the sanctuary in the outer court. IN all reality, we might very well state that the fire and the glory were direct confirmations of the beautiful harmony and unity that exists between the place of the presence and the place of the offering. There is something truly magnificent and wonderful when we enter into the place of the offering and the place of the presence, for it positions us to experience the glory within that consecrates and sanctifies us, and the fire of God which not only cleanses, but also consumes. THE GLORY WITHIN THAT CONSECRATES, THE FIRE WITHOUT THAT CONSUMES! We must not be too quick to rush past this particular reality, for within David we see a man who was not only passionate in his pursuit of the Ark of the covenant, but also one who was passionate about the altar of burnt offering and sacrifice before the LORD. What we find in the opening verses of the first chapter of Second Chronicles reveals a terrible tragedy that faces many churches and many sanctuaries—namely, the apparent disconnect between the altar which represents sacrifice, offering and the fire of God, and between the Ark which represents the glory and presence of the living God. Within the seventh chapter of the book of Second Chronicles we encounter the absolutely beautiful reality that the glory of the LORD that fills the Temple and sanctuary, and the fire of God which comes down from heaven and consumes the sacrifice . There is a tremendous and powerful beauty that surrounds the Tabernacle and the Temple, for in both places of worship we find the beautiful harmony between the altar and the Ark, and in all reality, we cannot separate the two from each other.

As I sit here today I can’t help but think about the fact that there are countless churches, ministries and organizations that think and believe they can function with a separation between the Ark and the altar, and the truth of the matter is that to separate the altar from the Ark removes the consuming fire of the living God from the place of offering and sacrifice, and to remove the Ark from the altar removes the glory and presence of the living God. In all reality, I would dare say that in order for the sanctuary of the living God to truly be a place of prayer as Jesus declared when He overturned the tables in the court of the temple there needs to the altar where the fire of God is present, as well as the Ark where the glory and presence of the living God is present. I continue to find it absolutely incredible to think about the fact that from the days of Eli the high priest in Israel until the days of Solomon the king of Israel there was this distinct separation that existed between the Ark of the Covenant and the altar of burnt offering and sacrifice. In the first and opening chapter of the book of Second Chronicles we find the Ark of the covenant of the living God in the place David prepared for it in the midst of the city of Jerusalem, while the altar of burnt offering and sacrifice was in the high place in Gibeon before the Tabernacle of the congregation of God which Moses had set up and built in the midst of the wilderness. Pause for a moment and think about the fact that for more than half a century there was this separation between the altar of burnt offering and sacrifice and the Ark of the Covenant, and the place of sacrifice was completely separated from the place of the presence and glory. I am absolutely and throughly convinced that there is a great danger that surrounds the altar of sacrifice and offering being separated from the Ark of glory and presence of the living God, for there needs to be this glorious harmony of the glory and presence of the living God and the fire which comes down from heaven. I fear that one of the great dangers facing countless churches, ministries and organizations is that they have separated the place of the altar from the place of the Ark, and as a result have found themselves in a place without the glory and without the fire. Isn’t it interesting to think about the fact that there you will never find the glory of the LORD filling the sanctuary and Tabernacle at Gibeon during the days of Joshua, during the days of the judges, and even during the days of Samuel, Saul and David. What’s more, is during this same time period you don’t see the fire of the living God coming down from heaven and consuming the offering and sacrifice which was upon the altar. You can search from the time of Moses until the time of Solomon, and during that time you will not find the fire of God coming down from heaven upon the altar of burnt offering that was still in the high place, nor will you find the glory of the living God filling the Tabernacle which was there in the same place. It wouldn’t be until the altar and the Ark were reunited that you will find the fire and the glory manifesting themselves together within the sanctuary and within the court of the sanctuary.

THE REUNITING OF THE ALTAR AND THE ARK! Perhaps one of the single greatest realities I can’t help but allow myself to be absolutely and utterly captivated with when I read the words found in the opening verses of the first chapter is the apparent separation between the altar of burnt offering which was still at the high place in Gibeon, and the Ark of the Covenant. I do believe that the Ark of the Covenant was allowed to be brought forth from the house which was at Shiloh as a sign of God’s judgment upon that house, as well as upon the house of Eli the high priest, and yet even though the Ark of the Covenant served as a sign concerning the house which was at Shiloh, it would mark the beginning of a separation of the altar and the Ark. What’s more, is the people of Israel thought they could separate the altar and the Ark, and through they could bring the Ark forth from the place in the house of the LORD, and that it would somehow give them victory over their enemy in battle. In their quest and pursuit for victory over their enemy and adversary they would actually not only open the door for defeat before their enemy, but they would also begin this long path of separation between the altar and the Ark of the Covenant. We dare not, we cannot and must not miss and lose sight of this truly astonishing reality, for to do so would be to miss something truly challenging among us during our days and during our time. It is absolutely necessary and imperative that we recognize that there is something truly dangerous about seeking to separate the Ark of the Covenant from the altar of burnt offering—even in the name of our pursuit and quest for victory over the enemy and adversary. The children of Israel thought and believed they could somehow gain the victory over their enemies and adversaries by removing the Ark from the sanctuary, and yet what they ended up doing was opening themselves up to defeat before their enemies, as well as separating the place of the glory from the place of the fire. The people of Israel would seek to pursue victory over their enemy and adversary, and would do so by removing the Ark of the Covenant from its place in the sanctuary of the living God, and in the process of doing so they would set the nation and kingdom on a long journey of separation between the altar and the Ark—between the place of the glory and the place of the fire. I can’t help but think about how many churches and ministries in their attempt to gain victory over their enemies and adversaries have somehow moved and operated the same way, and have removed the Ark from its place within the sanctuary, and as a direct result they have opened themselves up to defeat, and have opened themselves up to this tragic separation of the altar and the Ark—this tragic separation between the place of the fire and the place of the glory.

Perhaps one of the most striking realities that surrounds the Temple of the living God which Solomon the son of David would build is that it would once more bring the altar of burnt offering and sacrifice together with the Ark of the Covenant. It would be in and within the Temple that we would not only see the unity of the altar of the living God and the Ark of the Covenant, but we would also see the reuniting of the glory of the living God and the fire of the living God. I continue to be absolutely and utterly fascinated with and by this reality of the glory within and the fire within, and how the glory within has always and is always meant to consecrate that which it fills, while the fire of the living God has always been released in order that it might consume that which is offered before the living God upon His sacred and holy altar. I am absolutely and completely convinced that if we want to truly function as the Temple of the Holy Spirit there needs to be this unity and partnership between the altar of burnt offering and the Ark of the Covenant, for you could not get to the Ark without and apart from the altar. Please note that I am fully aware that with the death of Jesus Christ there is no longer a need for the sacrifice and offerings of bulls and goats, and it is no longer about the high priest who could enter into the Holy of Holies once a year on the Day of Atonement. While I do firmly believe according to Scripture, as well as according to the faith, the trust and the confidence that is present within my heart that through the death of Jesus the Christ—not only has the Old Testament sacrificial system been done away with, but so also has access been made and granted before the throne of the living God (“let us come boldly before the throne of grace”). With that being said, however, I am still absolutely and completely convinced that we cannot experience the beauty and the glory of the Ark of the Covenant and what it represents concerning the glory and presence of the living God without and apart from the altar of burnt offering and without the place of sacrifice. There are far too many of us who think we can, and who attempt to access the Ark of the Covenant—the place of the glory, and the place of the presence of the living God—without and apart from the altar, and yet the truth of the matter is that it has never been the desire of the living God that the Ark could be accessed by and through any other means than going through the altar. It is the altar that begins the path and begins the process of coming before and unto the Ark of the Covenant of the living God. It is truly necessary and truly imperative that we understand this absolutely astonishing reality, for try and try as we may to somehow separate the altar from the Ark—separate the place of the glory from the place of the fire—we dare not, we cannot, and must not make any attempt to do so. I can’t help but be reminded of the words which the apostle Paul wrote—not only in the sixth chapter of the second epistle written unto the Corinthians, but also the twelfth chapter of the epistle which was written unto the Romans. Consider if you will the following words and their direct implication to us, as well as the words which are written and found in the New Testament epistle which was written unto the Hebrews:

“Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers: for what fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness? And what communion hath light with darkness? And what concord hath Christ with Belial? Or what part hath he that believeth with an infidel? And what agreement hath the Temple of God with idols? For ye are the temple of the living God; as God hath said, I will dwell in them, and walk in them; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people. Wherefore come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the LORD, and touch not the unclean thing; and I will receive you, and will be a Father unto you, and ye shall be my sons and daughters, saith the LORD Almighty” (2 Corinthians 6:14-18).

“I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service. And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God. For I say through the grace given unto me, to every man that is among you, not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think; but to think soberly, according as God hath dealt to every man the measure of faith. For as we have many members in one body, and all members have not the same office: so we, being many, are one body in Christ, and every one members of one another. Having then gifts differing according to the grace that is given to us, whether prophecy, let us prophesy according to the proportion of faith; or minister, let us wait on our ministering: or he that teacheth, on teaching; or he that exhorteth, on exhortation: he that giveth, let him do it with simplicity; he that ruleth, with diligence; he that sheweth mercy, with cheerfulness” (Romans 12:1-8).

“seeing then that we have a great high priest, that is passed into the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our profession. For we have not an high priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities; but was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin. Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need” (Hebrews 4:14-16).

“Having therefore, brethren, boldness to enter into the holiest by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way, which he hath consecrated for us, through the veil, that is to say, his flesh; and having an high priest over the house of God; let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience, and our bodies washed with pure water. Let us hold fast the profession of our faith without wavering; (For he is faithful that promised;) and let us consider one another to provoke unto love and to good works: not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is; but exhorting one another; and so much the more, as ye see the day approaching” (Hebrews 10:19-25).

SEEKING UNTO THE ALTAR! SEEKING UNTO THE ALTAR AND RETURNING UNTO THE ARK! THE ALTAR AND THE ARK NEED TO BE REUNITED! THE ALTAR AND THE ARK CANNOT CONTINUE TO BE SEPARATED! THE TEMPLE OF THE HOLY SPIRIT, YET IT NEEDS BOTH THE ALTAR AND THE ARK! What I so absolutely love about the words I read in this passage of Scripture is the preparation for the reuniting of the Ark of the Covenant and the altar of burnt offering, and how the two would once more be reunited after more than half a century of being separated from each other. We dare not, we must not and cannot miss this absolutely incredible and tremendous reality, for when you come to the opening chapter of the book of Second Chronicles you will find Solomon and all Israel with him going up to the high place at Gibeon, for it was there where the Tabernacle of the Congregation of God which Moses the servant of the LORD had set up in the wilderness was, as well as the brasen altar which Bezaleel the son of Hur had built in the midst of the wilderness. This is truly astonishing when you take the time to think about it, for while it was indeed true that the Temple and sanctuary of the living God was to be magnificent, grandeur and glorious, there was something that was far greater than any outward beauty that was displayed. If there is one thing we must recognize and understand concerning the Temple which Solomon the son of David had built in the midst of the city of Jerusalem it’s that regardless of how beautiful it was on the outward appearance, it would be absolutely nothing but a hallow shell of a building without the Ark of the Covenant which would be present in the midst of the Holy of Holies, as well as the brasen altar which was found in the outer court. The Temple and sanctuary of the living God—regardless of the pattern and design which David passed down to Solomon—would only rise as high as the brasen altar of burnt offering and sacrifice that was in the outer court, and the Ark of the Covenant that was present in the midst of the holy of Holies. It would be the Ark of the Covenant that would be present in the midst of the Holy of Holies that would be an open and wonderful invitation for the glory and presence of the living God to be manifested in the midst of the sanctuary, and in the sight and presence of all the people. How absolutely remarkable and wonderful it is to think about and consider the fact that in the fifth chapter of this Old Testament book we encounter the cloud filling the Temple and the priests being unable to minister before the LORD because of the glory that filled the sanctuary. What’s more, is that the same cloud and the same glory was mentioned in the seventh chapter, as well as the fire coming down from heaven upon the altar.

I sit here this morning, and as I am sitting here I can’t help but be absolutely and completely struck by the fact that despite how grandiose and magnificent the Temple itself was, it would be absolutely nothing without the presence of the altar and the presence of the Ark of the Covenant within the Holy of Holies. The more I think about and consider this reality the more I am confronted with the fact that without and apart from the Ark of the Covenant in the midst of the Holy of Holies, and without the brasen altar that essentially sets in motion the path to the glory and presence of God, the Temple itself would be nothing more than a hallow shell of a building that would look nice on the exterior, but on the interior it would be nothing more than pomp and circumstance and fanfare. I find it absolutely astonishing to think about the fact that you never saw, nor did you ever witness the glory of the LORD appearing in the place where the Ark of the Covenant was—regardless of whether it was in Beth-Shemesh, or Kirjath-jearim, or in the house of Obed-edom, or even within the tent which David had pitched and prepared for it. Similarly, you will never find the fire of God coming down from heaven upon the brasen altar independent and separate from its link and connection to the Ark of the Covenant. The last time the glory filled the sanctuary, as well as the fire of God coming down from heaven—and both happening almost simultaneously—was in the wilderness after the Tabernacle had been finished, and after Aaron had finished offering those offerings which were prescribed by the living God. It’s truly astonishing to think that it was only to the degree and measure the Tabernacle was constructed exactly according to the pattern given Moses by the LORD atop Horeb that the glory would fill the Tabernacle and sanctuary, and it was only when Aaron offered the sacrifices and offerings exactly as the LORD had commanded and instructed Moses to offer them that the fire of the living God would come out from the LORD and would consume the sacrifice and offering upon the altar. We dare not miss and lose sight of this, for there was never a single time from the time the Tabernacle and altar were first reared up in the midst of the wilderness to the time Solomon built the Temple that you will find the glory and presence of the living God filling the sanctuary and the fire of God coming down from heaven upon the altar. There were times within the wilderness journey the glory of the LORD filled the Tabernacle of congregation in response to the iniquity and transgression of the people, but there would be nothing along the lines of what took place on the day the Tabernacle was reared up for the first time, nor when Aaron offered the sacrifices and offerings as the LORD had commanded and instructed Moses atop Horeb in the midst of the wilderness.

If there is one thing I so absolutely love and appreciate when reading the words found in the opening chapters of the book of Second Chronicles, it’s how wonderful and beautiful it is to find the brasen altar and the Ark of the Covenant being united together once more. What’s more, is that not only were they united once more, but they were united within and according to the divine order which was prescribed by the living God. It is important that we recognize and understand this, for in the opening verses of the first chapter of this book we find and discover the reality that Solomon went up to the high place at Gibeon and unto the brasen altar which was present at the Tabernacle of the congregation of God which Moses had set up in the wilderness. Stop and think about the fact that the Ark of the Covenant was still in the midst of the city of David in Jerusalem, and yet Solomon would go up to the high place at Gibeon and unto the brasen altar which was there. What I find truly incredible to think about when reading this passage is the apparent link between the altar and the sacrifices which were offered upon it—both at the high place at Gibeon, as well as at the Temple in the midst of Jerusalem—is how the LORD God not only appeared to Solomon by dream during the night in Gibeon, but how the LORD appeared unto Solomon a second time by night in Jerusalem. The first time the LORD God appeared unto Solomon by dream during the night at the high place in Gibeon was to invite him to ask of Him what he would without any promise or guarantee that he would even receive what he asked for. What’s more, is the LORD would appear unto Solomon a second time in the city of Jerusalem after the Temple had been built, and after the sacrifices and offerings had been made, and after the Temple itself had been dedicated and consecrated before and unto the LORD. It’s truly remarkable how not only did the LORD cause His glory and presence to fill the sanctuary, and not only did He respond by sending fire down from heaven upon the altar and the offering upon the altar, but the LORD would also appear unto Solomon and emphatically declare that His eyes and ears would be attentive unto the prayers and cries of His people in that place. What’s more, is that it would be this second visitation and appearance of the LORD God of Israel that He would declare and proclaim unto Solomon that if His people which were called by His name would humble themselves, and pray, and seek His face, and turn from their wicked ways, then would He hear from heaven, and forgive their sins, and heal their land. I can’t help but see a strong connection—not only between the reuniting of the altar and the Ark and the presence of the glory and fire of God, but also in the visitation and presence of the living God. I can’t help but wonder if the LORD didn’t remain within the city after He had completely filled the Temple which had just been built in order that He might appear and manifest Himself unto Solomon that same night He had dedicated the Temple.

REUNIFICATION! DEDICATION! CONSECRATION! What is absolutely and utterly captivating when you think about and read the words found within these passages is that when the Ark of the Covenant was reunited and brought back together with the brasen altar, it created an atmosphere and environment whereby—not only would and could the glory and presence of the living God fill the Temple, but so also could the fire of the living God come down from heaven and consume the offering and sacrifice which was upon the altar. It is absolutely necessary that we recognize and understand this, for while Solomon would dedicate the Temple through prayer and through the sacrifices which would be offered upon the brasen altar—it would be the glory of the living God that would consecrate the Temple, and it would be the fire of God that would sanctify and purify the altar. We cannot afford to miss this reality of the glory within and the fire without, for without and apart from both of these working in beautiful harmony and unity with each other, we cannot truly say that we are in fact worshipping in the true sanctuary of the living God. The glory within and the fire without were manifested in the wilderness in the place of the Tabernacle, and this same reality would once more manifest itself in the midst of the Temple as we would witness and behold the glory within the sanctuary with the fire outside the sanctuary and upon the altar. THE GLORY UPON THE ARK, THE FIRE UPON THE ALTAR! There is not a doubt in my mind that we dare not, we must not and cannot miss or balk on this particular reality, for to do so would be to completely and utterly miss on what the living God desires for us as we enter and come to His holy sanctuary. The apostle Paul emphatically declared that we are indeed the Temple of the Holy Spirit, and yet with that being said it is absolutely necessary that we recognize that the Temple of the Holy Spirit cannot truly function the way it was intended to without and apart from the glory within and the fire without. The Temple of the Holy Spirit cannot truly function without and apart from the Ark within and the altar without. It is only when the altar and the Ark are united together in a beautiful display of worship before the throne of the living God that the glory of God can truly be manifested within the Holy of Holies of the Temple, and the fire of God can fall upon the altar in the outer court, and can consume the sacrifice. We must recognize that not only is our God a consuming fire, but our God is also an indwelling presence that completely fills. THE CONSUMING FIRE WITHOUT, THE INDWELLING PRESENCE WITHIN! THE CONSUMING FIRE WITHOUT, THE INDWELLING GLORY WITHIN! It is the glory of the living God within that consecrates, and yet it is the fire without that sanctifies and purifies. Oh that we would recognize the tremendous need—not only for the glory within the Temple that consecrates, but also the fire without that sanctifies and purifies, for both are absolutely essential and necessary for the sanctuary and Temple of the living God to function the way it was intended by the living God.

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