Fire from Heaven
The text you will find in 1 Chronicles 21:26, “And the Lord answered him from heaven by fire upon the altar of the burnt-offering.”
The Lord answered David from heaven by fire upon the altar of the burnt-offering! That is the answer of God to the cry of every heart. It is the uttermost that God in heaven can do for ransomed souls on Earth—fire from heaven. This is the immediate and dynamic response of God for the uttermost yielding of our hearts and lives—fire from heaven.
Let me ask you to observe, in this particular incident in the Old Testament, first, the pressure to which David yielded.
Verse 16 tells us that David lifted up his eyes and saw the angel of the Lord stand between Earth and heaven, having a drawn sword in his hand. Then David and the elders of Israel, who were clothed in sackcloth, fell upon their faces. The sword of the Lord was drawn against David in judgment. The angel of the Lord held it in His hand, as He stood by the threshing floor of Ornan the Jebusite, and the sword pointed in judgment toward Jerusalem.
There in the city of Jerusalem, where God had planned a Bethlehem, a Calvary, a Pentecost, the man after God’s own heart had sinned. Pride had got the better of him, and at this particular moment, between God and David there was a battle raging, a controversy between the will of God and the heart of this man of God. It had gone on until David could stand it no longer, and then, in sackcloth, he fell upon his face, broken, repentant, beaten.
Have you known something in your experience of the sword of the angel of the Lord pointing in the direction of your life until you yield to Him? Have you known in your own soul the bitterness of controversy between you and God? In the territory of your personality God has purposed for you a Bethlehem, into which the Holy spirit might come and Jesus live; a Calvary, where you might die to yourself that Christ might live alone in you; a Pentecost where you might know all the fullness and blessing of God, and the power of the Trinity be operative in and through your life to the world. There, in that personal kingdom of your soul, the sword of God has been directed in judgment.
There is no more miserable creature in all the world than a Christian who is fighting against God. A man of the world can fight against his God and be quite happy, but the child of God never can. The Christian upon whom the sword of Jesus Christ is directed is the man who has refused to give in on some point or issue in his life, is fighting with God. The result is that he has not been able to pray, his Bible has been dead. His preaching has gone to pieces, his testimony has broken up, because of the battle raging in his soul.
But I am glad to think that for some of us the pressure has been so strong that we have collapsed. God has humbled us, God has broken us, and from our hearts goes up to the Throne of God one great big “Hallelujah!” The controversy is ended. Jesus has got His way in your heart at last, praise the Lord!
I want you to notice not only the pressure to which David yielded, but I want you to notice the price which David paid.
The moments of collapse have to be followed by a life of worship. Don’t imagine that you have had a blessing that is going to keep you going through all the rest of your life. It won’t, you know. The crisis has to lead to the attitude, and the moment of brokenness has to lead to the life of worship. An altar was to be raised in the threshing floor of Ornan.
You will recollect that it was offered free to David by Ornan. Ornan had seen the angel of the Lord, and he had got scared out of his life. He thought he might earn himself some credit in heaven if he offered to David the wheat, the threshing instrument, the beasts, the wood, everything to make his offering easy. “Take it, my friend,” he said. “Take it and get on with the job. Offer it to your Lord, the whole place is yours for the asking.”
But David said, in verse 24, “No, I will buy it for the full price. I will not take what is thine for the Lord, nor offer a burnt-offering without cost.”
Where was that threshing floor situated, do you know? You may look up 2 Chronicles 3:1 to confirm what I am saying if you wish. This threshing floor was situated on Mount Moriah. And whenever Mount Moriah comes into the Word of God, I always find it to be the place of infinite worship, infinite sacrifice, and the paying of the full price.
It was there that God spoke to Abraham about Isaac, and demanded that Abraham should be tested to prove whether he loved God more than he loved his son. It was there that God said to Abraham, “Now I know that you love me. You obeyed me, and because of that, because you have not withheld your only son, in blessing I will bless thee.” It was there that Abraham paid the price.
It was there that Solomon built his temple in all the beauty and the wonder of it, erected it to the glory of God. There Solomon himself prayed that God might fill it with His glory, and hear the cry of His people and forgive if they have sinned against Him. Solomon paid the price to build the temple of God.
And it was to that Mount that Satan took Jesus, and tempted Him to worship him. It was there that Satan offered to Christ the easy way back to heaven without the redemption of mankind for whom He had come to die. There, in this very place, David offered his burnt-offering.
My beloved friend, if the Lord has got His way, you are not offering to the Lord that which has cost you nothing. To face the issue has cost you more than you ever dreamed Christian experience would cost.
How often Satan has said to you, “Now you go this far with the preacher but no further. You give up this, you deal with this other little thing in your life and finish with it, but don’t let God have His way in that!”
There is one man in the New Testament who, whenever I think of him, makes me tremble. He is the only man in all the Book to whom Jesus never had a word to say. You know who it was? When this man—Herod was his name—met Jesus for the first time face to face and questioned Him, and asked Him three things. “And Jesus answered him not so much as a word.”
Why? Three years previously the greatest preacher ever known, John the Baptist, had dared to break into that man’s personal life and tell him that he had no business to be living with the woman who was his mistress. And for that rebuke he was shut up in prison and beheaded. Herod, to salve his conscience, silenced the voice of the preacher. We are told that he did many things. I’m sure he did. He probably smoked a bit less. He probably drank a few less, and he turned over a new leaf. But he refused to give up the woman, and when he met the Lord Jesus for the first time, Christ had not a word to say to him. How dreadful!
If there has been some vital issue of spiritual experience, and God has spoken to you about it, and you have paid the price, thank God! And I am telling you that the first time in your spiritual experience there is panic in hell over that. Satan has deluded you to deal with secondary issues but of this vital thing he said, “What’s the harm in it, anyway?” But God the Holy Ghost has broken you, and the thing by the mercy of God is gone.
But I ask you to notice, thirdly, the power which David received. “And the Lord answered him from heaven by fire upon the altar of the burnt-offering.” Here was heaven’s uttermost response to earth’s uttermost surrender. Beloved child of God, let me tell you, with all the authority of the Book behind me: it still is!
“God has given the Holy Ghost in fullness to them that obey Him.” “There cometh one after me,” said John the Baptist,” and He shall baptize you with the Holy Ghost and with fire.”
Come, Jesus Lord, with holy fire,
Come, and my quickened heart inspire,
Cleanse in Thy precious blood.
Now to my soul Thyself reveal
Thy mighty working let me feel.
Since I am born of God.
The Lord answered him with fire from heaven! Precious is the flame of God within our souls, burning out sin, burning in holiness; burning out the passion for evil, burning in the passion for souls, a flame which constantly burns on the burnt-offering of our lives.
This is not something that God might do; it is something that God must do, for He has promised through the blood of the everlasting covenant to give without measure to all who give themselves to Jesus. My dear Christian, if you have paid the price, I plead with you in the Master’s Name, claim your inheritance. I believe with all my heart in the love of God coming into me and filling me, transforming the appetites and the affections and the desires, touching this self in me and slaying it that the love of Jesus might burn like a flame upon the altar of the burnt-offering.
What peace! Your uttermost yielding to the Holy Ghost is answered by His uttermost infilling of you. That is fire from heaven!
I have spoken to you today about the pressure to which David yielded, the price which David paid, and the power which David received. But, best of all, I want to speak to you about the peace which David enjoyed. Notice verse 27: “The Lord commanded the angel, and he put up his sword again into the sheath thereof.” Do you see the picture? You see the sword of the Lord against you, and feel the pressure of the Spirit of God upon you, God is dealing with you not in grace but in judgment, and controversy is raging. But you yielded to the pressure, you have paid the price, you have received the heritage, and the sword is in its sheath.
Deep down in your heart is a peace that you have never known before; judgment is ended, grace is your portion. The experience of your Christian life was losing in one battle after another. Why? Because the battle with God was raging. But if that battle is over, the sword of judgment is no longer drawn; it is in its sheath. There is peace between you and your precious Lord. You are not going to lose more battles now, my friend. You have lost all the rest because you were battling with God. You have given in to God; the fire of God is in your heart, and you are going out to blaze for Him and to win!
The sword has been withdrawn. But I wonder if I am counting on too much from my audience. I wonder if I am speaking to some people within whose hearts controversy with heaven still rages, and some lives in which there is still no flame. My beloved brother, sister, in Christ, at least I trust that you understand to what a new era of Christian grace and power and experience you can move if only you give in. Only you know what is the real issue of your life. If you have not already, would you now for Jesus’ sake give in?