The old priest poked the glowing embers. Deep reds and fiery blues flared from the coals. He scrutinized every flash of flame looking for that one special piece -- for that fire within the fire. No common coal would do. This one had to be awesome. After all, that's what the last ten days had just been.
On day one he had blown the shofar and the Feast of Trumpets had begun. It was a special day, a Sabbath day, the beginning of the Ten Days of Awe. On each and every one of these days he had done as every true Hebrew should do; he had examined every square cubit of his heart, searching for anything that came between him and his God.
Day one had been easy. His thoughts started to mull over the process just as his eyes were still inspecting each flame within the altar. I felt smug on that first day, Lord. And for the next three. But you sure got my attention on day five.
His eyes suddenly focused closer on a coal he had just turned over. A red strip of flame leaped upwards, almost like a dancing deer. Was this the one he would pick? He sighed and moved on with the poker as his thoughts also moved back into their reminiscence.
I'm amazed at how subtly my soul was deceived. I hadn't realized the depth of my pride -- or the source. But You sure revealed that on day six.
Furrows formed on his brow as he leaned closer into the flames. His eyes narrowed in concentration and the poker pushed at a brilliantly red coal. The burning lump responded to the push. Flashing blue, intense and alive, jumped to join the red. The colors twirled and danced, leaped and even seemed to sing in joy as they wrapped arms around each other in the excitement of life.
Ahh. You are just what I am looking for, my friend. A special fire to give light to a special sacrifice.
With gentle movements the old priest slowly pushed and prodded until the selected flame was securely moved into his sensor. His back ached, his legs groaned and a small cry escaped his lips as he rose from the altar. He knew his years were falling short.
All those years I have served you. I was born a priest. Abba was a priest. His Abba was a priest. I was always going to serve you; and yet, for all of those years I served only myself. Father, help me to end this race better than I have run so far.
As his old, frail form limped past the Brazen Laver squinty eyes looked back to the Altar of Sacrifice. Lord, to think that all I ever really wanted was to be admired by others. The reason I served You was to be the envy of everyone else. I'm a foolish old man, Father, who sought glory and fame for its own sake. Please, let me live long enough to make this right.
Slipping between the veils, sensor and old priest approached the Altar of Incense.
I bring you this coal from the Altar of Sacrifice, Father. And with it comes the burning of my own heart. Forgive a foolish old man who focused on temporal things. With all of my heart I now light a fire of praise and worship, just as this coal lights the incense that will rise in worship to you.
The burning coal from the Altar of Sacrifice was tipped out of the sensor and onto the waiting kindling of the Altar of Incense. The response was instant and amazing. Flames literally jumped from nowhere and danced into ecstatic joy. Every color of flame joined in the celebration. And the flames didn't seem to notice the old man who now lay slumped at the altar's base.
Deep, slow breaths gasped between cracked lips. Small, frail hands twitched and became still. Tired old legs no longer ached. A troubled mind had found peace.
Come home, My son. Your work on earth is done. Your honesty is rewarded with forgiveness. Sacrifice will always move My heart, and your worship will now continue at a whole new level and in a whole new realm.
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