The fire on the altar is to be kept burning; it must not go out. Every morning the priest shall put firewood on it. On this he shall lay out the holocaust and burn the fat of the peace offerings. The fire is to be kept burning continuously on the altar; it must not go out (Leviticus 6:5-6).
The smoke never stopped. Night and day, it rose toward heaven. From every corner of the camp the people could see it in the distance. It always reminded them Whose they were, and to Whom they belonged.
They couldn't escape the message, but the message was always in danger of losing its power. And after a time, that’s what happened. The special became routine. Holy awe waned into indifference. The perpetual smoke became more a token of religion than an evidence of faith. Even before they crossed the Jordan, Israel fell into spiritual lethargy and everyone did what was right in his own eyes (Deuteronomy 12:8).
Israel was not alone in her tendency to drift from awe to boredom. Throughout ancient and modern history, humanity, like sheep, has more often than not wandered from the fires of faith to the ashes of religion.
Even we are at risk.
While the Lord Jesus continually offers intercession for us (Hebrews 7:25), we can lose our passion for Him. Our worship can tend toward religious ceremony rather than inspire the flames of faithful devotion.
Israel’s fire did not need to cool. Neither does ours. The remedy available to Israel is the same for God’s people today: “Seek the Lord while He may be found. Call upon Him while He is near. Let the sinner forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts . . . ” (Isaiah 55:6-7).