And when the people complained, it displeased the LORD: and the LORD heard it; and his anger was kindled…
Nothing but mercies had come upon the back of their complainings before. They had had water, and they had had bread; but now the Lord would send them fire. It should be the fire of the Lord, holy fire; yet not as that, which, descending from heaven upon the altar, burnt continually before the Lord in His temple, acceptable in sacrifice; but a consuming fire; the burning of His wrath. It is bad to "be saved so as by fire," to have all consumed, but ourselves, to be burnt out of house and home; yet far worse is it to be burnt out of the world. Still this might be the way to heaven for some, carried thither as in a chariot of fire. We know it was the way, the common way that martyrs went. The fire was kindled by their enemies; but it was not as the burning of Taberah; there was no ingredient of the wrath of the Almighty in the flame: but "one like unto the Son of Man" was there, to make it as the purest vestment of the soul, the involving element of love. Oh, there is a fire worse than all others, the burning of the Lord, a fire that descends to the bottomless pit, and the smoke of which has been seen. Behold it kindling in the camp of Israel. It had indignation in it; it was a consuming fire, lighted up in the righteous displeasure of heaven, its fuel the bodies of transgressors themselves. "Tile people complained." What then? "It displeased the Lord; and His anger was kindled; and the fire of the Lord burnt among them, and consumed them in the uttermost parts of the camp." There was no flying from it, it was a city in flames from its utmost extremities. Who can run from the presence of the Lord? How affecting this? It may be conceived, kindled by lightning from the cloud that had guided them, darting in angry form, and with the voice of the Almighty, in thunders impatient to be gone. Who can stand before the indignation of the Lord? who can abide His anger when the gathering storm of His displeasure breaks forth? His favour, what man that regards his life would not entreat? His wrath, what man that fears His power would not deprecate? He is to us, as what we are to Him — sinners or saints. This judgment had in it everything awful — cut off from all share in the promises, slain by the power that had kept them alive, and left heaps of wrath in the very way to life.
Parallel VersesKJV: And when the people complained, it displeased the LORD: and the LORD heard it; and his anger was kindled; and the fire of the LORD burnt among them, and consumed them that were in the uttermost parts of the camp.