Tidings for Tuesday

The fire shall ever be burning upon the altar; it shall never go out. Leviticus 6:13

One year, when the Canada Games were to be held in Newfoundland, part of the preparation for those games included the carrying of the Canada Games torch by runners through each of the other provinces. The idea was that the torch was lit from the Canada Games perpetual flame in Ottawa, and the torch was to carry that fire to the the site of the new Canada Games flame in Newfoundland where it would burn during the duration of the games. I was on hand on the front steps of the main government building in Fredericton when the torch arrived for a brief ceremony there. One runner, a fine young athlete, had carried the torch up the steps to the spot where the ceremony was to be held. Another athlete waited to take the torch from him and carry it on its next stage. As we waited for the officials to gather for the ceremony, I noticed the fire in the torch go out. Surprised, I exclaimed, ‘The torch went out!’ One of the cabinet ministers fumbled in his pocket, brought forth a cigarette lighter, and relit the torch. ‘Happens all the time,’ one of the organizers said, ‘we have to keep relighting it’. So much, I thought, for a perpetual flame! How unlike that is the flame on the altar of God’s sacrifice.

There was a great significance to the perpetual flame on the altar. The burning sacrifice that never went out tells us that the sacrifice of the Lord Jesus is always in effect, and always will be in effect. You and I are never left for a moment without the protection of that sacrifice, which satisfies a holy God in the matter of our sins. Throughout eternity, the value of that sacrifice protects us and assures us of our place in God’s presence. But there is another aspect of the fire never going out that is more solemn and sad.

There is a place where the worm never dies and the fire never goes out (Mark 9:48), and it is called hell fire. This place once struck terror to our souls when we realized it was the place where we as guilty sinners deserved to go. It should strike terror to us today to realize that such a place is where the unsaved all around us are bound. Our loved ones, our neighbours, our work or school companions, the passerby we encounter on the street, are all on their way to an eternal flame of judgment. What is there of our lives and our actions that warns sinners of the coming doom? The furtherance of the Gospel is desperately needed by so many.

Great comfort is found in the reminder of the eternal flame of Christ’s sacrifice. Great responsibility is found in the reminder of the eternal flame of God’s judgment. – Jim MacIntosh

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