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Ever-burning Fire upon the Altar
ŇThe fire shall ever be burning upon the altar; it shall never go out.Ó — The fire burning upon the altar is an instructive picture of the holy justice of God which must be satisfied. Here the Holy One of Israel speaks again from the holy place, revealing the horror of his wrath against sin and the perfection of his infinite justice which demands its punishment. GodŐs infinite justice, burning against sin is displayed in the fire burning upon the altar of the tabernacle.
God requires that the fire never be extinguished because Ňevery one of his righteous judgments endure foreverÓ (Psalm 119:160). The fire burned all through the night as an emblem of the sleeplessness of hell and the burning wrath of God against all iniquity and of the ever-watchful eye of divine righteousness that watches over the earth.
In the pit of the damned they have no rest, no respite, no relief from the wrath of God. And the holy eyes of the holy Lord God ever behold the sons of men upon the earth. He whose eyes are a flaming fire constantly watches over his creation, beholding the sons of men.
In the Book of God, we read of the damned that the smoke of their torments ascends forever. The fire and brimstone of hell produces a smoke ever rising to God, the holy angels, the redeemed in Glory, and the Lamb upon his throne (Revelation 14:10-11, 18).
All through the night the fire burned upon the altar. It could be seen by all the camp of Israel. The wise, believing father might well have taken his children to their tentŐs door before going to bed and, pointing to the fire, he may well have said, ŇChildren, do you see that fire? Do you smell that smoke? Except you find refuge in the Lamb of God, so shall the fire of GodŐs wrath consume you forever.Ó
Blessed be God, that fire represented something far greater than GodŐs holy and just wrath. It represented the way of escape. Can you see the victim burned upon the altar, the lamb consumed by the fire, whose life feeds the flames? That is Christ dying under the horrid wrath of God in the place of sinners who deserve to die. His suffering and death, upon which the triune God had his holy eye from eternity, was held forth in the camp of Israel perpetually in the fire burning upon the altar.
There the love and justice of God met together in perfect unison. Righteousness and peace perpetually kissed each other. Mercy and truth embraced each other. Beholding the fire on the altar, the believing Israelite could sleep peacefully through the night knowing that God in Christ is both a just God and a Savior! The Lamb of God is the Sacrifice which, when consumed by the fire of GodŐs holy wrath, consumed the fire! Now, the Lord God says to every sinner who trusts his Son, ŇFury is not in meÓ (Isaiah 27:4; Romans 8:1-4).