Today is Day 32 of the bible reading plan, and for those of us making this journey together, we find ourselves ten chapters deep into the book of Leviticus.
It is safe to say that Leviticus is not on anyone's list of favorite books of the bible. I had someone text me this morning to state quite plainly and honestly, "It's okay to say Leviticus is boring right?" And while the majority of the book does seem tedious and out of touch with our new covenant relationship with God, there are some heavy principles found within the book that shed some much needed perspective on our view of God and our relationship with him.
There is a scene at the end of chapter nine where Aaron prepares the required animal sacrifice upon the altar as an offering to the Lord to atone for the sins of the people. After the altar is prepared and ready, Moses and Aaron come out of the tent to bless the people with the good news of this offering on their behalf. In the midst of them addressing the crowd, all of a sudden we are told that fire came out from before the Lord and consumed the offering in front of all the people.
What an impressive and extremely intimidating experience to witness the holy fire of God appearing almost out of nowhere to consume the sacrifice offered to him on the altar. Imagine feeling the weight of that moment? Imagine the horrible sight and smell of the burning and bloody animal carcasses that had to be offered on the altar on account of your own sinfulness?
Then imagine feeling the rush of heat that overtook the entire camp as the Lord Himself literally appeared in a wave of fire that consumed all that was offered on the altar? To say the people “shouted and fell on their faces” is probably an understatement.
The holy horror of this moment is the very apparent truth that this holy fire could just as easily at any moment in time overwhelmed the people and consumed them for their own sinfulness. In consuming the offering instead, God was signifying his acceptance of the blood soaked animal as an atonement for their sin. This was a moment for rejoicing but also a moment of fear and trembling before the majesty of God that had just been manifested to His people in holy fire.
Rejoicing combined with reverence is always the proper response to God’s revelations of himself.
This very thing reminds me of a scene from C.S. Lewis’ Chronicles of Narnia in which Mr. Beaver is describing the majestic lion Aslan. The scene goes as follows:
“Safe?” said Mr. Beaver; “don’t you hear what Mrs. Beaver tells you? Who said anything about safe? ‘Course he isn’t safe. But he’s good. He’s the King, I tell you.”
There is nothing safe about our God and King, but we can rest assured that he is good. Consider that moment many years later when the Holy Fire of God did eventually come down and consume his people?
Our God is not safe; but He is always good.
The final sacrifice had been made upon a cross-shaped altar of wood. It was an offering to God prepared and carried out by God Himself. Christ had willingly offered himself over to a blood soaked death and then resurrected in glory to signify God’s acceptance of his own offering. Sin had been atoned for in finality. And then forty days later, that Holy Fire comes down and consumes the people of God. But this Holy Fire did not come to destroy but to purify.
The Holy Spirit descended upon the apostles in fire. And this soul consuming work of the Holy Spirit kindles our devotion and affection for God leading us into becoming a people for his own possession who are zealous for what is right and good.
May we never be shaken by that sinful fear that leads us to avoid and drive away from our God and King, but may we embrace the gracious fear of our majestic and almighty God that leads us to bow before him with burning hearts of worship. Our God is not safe; but he is always good.