“…it is a burnt sacrifice, an offering made by fire, of a sweet savour unto the Lord.”
Bundled up with coat and scarf, I cross my arms and brace myself against bitter winds that sting my face and whistle through bare tree tops. Steadying my feet as I amble across icy snow, I walk a familiar pathway.
It is Thanksgiving Day, and it feels like full-blown winter. But I’m not thinking of the cold – I’m thinking about fire.
Why is the offering made by fire?
Why is the sacrifice not crushed beneath a stone, or bathed in endless floods of water? Or why not be laid out in the sun’s rays to bake and dry brittle? Why not be left alone in the wilderness to be seen no more, or buried in a plot of heavy soil deep into the ground? Wouldn’t He rather that the offering to be placed in a carefully-wrapped package or jeweled chest to be laid down at the foot of the throne room?
But no. Instead, the offering is to be burned. And in the end, there is nothing left but a pile of ashes and smoke drifting into the sky.
There’s nothing beautiful about these ashes. Or is there…?
I stop in my tracks as thin gray clouds part and the sun to spreads a beam of light over my crusty pathway.
If my life is to be an offering unto the Lord, what if ashes are the token of my surrender?
It seems that He calls us to give up everything that makes us alive to self, that we might live to that which is pure and holy and good.
I am coming to believe that the truly beautiful life is the one that has been tried through the fire and become ashes in the hands of God.
“To give them beauty for ashes…” Isaiah 61:3
He would rather have our ashes, over our life of sin. So we die to self and lay all upon the altar as the blaze of transforming power covers our life and touches every cherished treasure, forbidden idol, and hidden selfishness. We trust that He will take the ashes of our humanity, and make our lives beautiful instead. And He does – every time.
I change my course and walk uphill now, nearing the house where warmth and family and friendship resides. And this becomes my prayer…
Let my all be placed on the altar, and my human dreams be turned to ashes, that He can take my complete nothingness and make it into His own deep strength.
Oh Father, I will be the sacrifice that You may make beauty come of these ashes.
I realize that I cannot give until I am given.
I’m willing to be ashes, that You may be my wholeness.
I choose death to self that You may live in me.
I choose the fire.