Fire shall be kept burning continually on the altar; it is not to go out.
In Leviticus 6, God shifts from instructing how the offerings are to happen to a short blurb about how a person should make restitution for taking what does not belong to them — they pay it back plus 20% — before shifting into the role the priests played in the people’s offerings. God gets very specific about how the offerings are to be made and how much of them and what is eaten and what not and what to do with the cookware used with the flesh not burned on the altar. In the midst of all of this is this note about the fire on the bronze altar that grabbed my attention.
It seems noteworthy that an altar that was hefted on poles and carried around was to have a fire kept burning continually inside it. And, since the tabernacle and everything in it are parallels to the throne room of God, I have to wonder what this altar is a symbol of. And two things come to mind.
The first is the less pleasant to think on. In Revelation 14:9-12, it is mentioned that those who worship the beast or his image or take his mark will be tormented with fire and brimstone in the presence of the holy angels and in the presence of the Lamb (v 10). Verse 11 goes on to say that the smoke of their torment goes up forever and ever. There seems to be an implication that the fires of judgment burn forever in the presence of God. And bronze, the overlay of this altar, is often associated with judgment in The Bible. So this altar and its ever-burning fire may very well be symbolic of the fires of judgment burning in God’s presence.
The second is pleasant to think on. God, Himself, is referred to in The Bible as a consuming fire (Deuteronomy 4:24, 9:3; Hebrews 12:29). It is possible that the always-burning fire in the altar is a symbol of God Himself.
Of the two, the more likely seems to be the symbol of judgment. The bronze altar is in the courtyard; outside the presence of God. The bronze altar is where atonement is made by sacrifice and it is Jesus Christ Who took our judgment on Himself. He is our sacrifice. I also note that the fire mentioned in Revelation 14:10 is in the presence of the holy angels and in the presence of the Lamb. Not in the presence of the Father.
It could be that further study would sway my opinion, but the quick study of this morning seems to indicate that the fire in the altar is symbolic of the fires of judgment.
This fire is a reminder to me of what my destiny was apart from Jesus Christ. Until I placed my hand on the head of the sacrifice; until I made His atonement my own, I was destined for that fiery judgment. But the sacrifice of Jesus Christ has changed everything. Yesterday, I was reminded to confess and be grateful. This morning, I am given a reminder how just how much I have to be grateful for. The fire never goes out. The judgment against me cannot be paid by anyone or anything other than Jesus Christ’s perfect life offered for me to make atonement.
Thank You, Father, for this reminder of just how much I have to be thankful for. Thank You that there was a visual reminder of judgment built into the tabernacle. Thank You that You made a way to repay the judgment against me in Your Son, Jesus Christ.