On the eighth day Moses called Aaron and his sons and the elders of Israel, and he said to Aaron, “Take for yourself a bull calf for a sin offering and a ram for a burnt offering, both without blemish, and offer them before the LORD. And say to the people of Israel, ‘Take a male goat for a sin offering, and a calf and a lamb, both a year old without blemish, for a burnt offering, and an ox and a ram for peace offerings, to sacrifice before the LORD, and a grain offering mixed with oil, for today the LORD will appear to you.’” And they brought what Moses commanded in front of the tent of meeting, and all the congregation drew near and stood before the LORD. And Moses said, “This is the thing that the LORD commanded you to do, that the glory of the LORD may appear to you.” Then Moses said to Aaron, “Draw near to the altar and offer your sin offering and your burnt offering and make atonement for yourself and for the people, and bring the offering of the people and make atonement for them, as the LORD has commanded.”
So Aaron drew near to the altar and killed the calf of the sin offering, which was for himself. And the sons of Aaron presented the blood to him, and he dipped his finger in the blood and put it on the horns of the altar and poured out the blood at the base of the altar. But the fat and the kidneys and the long lobe of the liver from the sin offering he burned on the altar, as the LORD commanded Moses. The flesh and the skin he burned up with fire outside the camp.
Then he killed the burnt offering, and Aaron's sons handed him the blood, and he threw it against the sides of the altar. And they handed the burnt offering to him, piece by piece, and the head, and he burned them on the altar. And he washed the entrails and the legs and burned them with the burnt offering on the altar.
Then he presented the people's offering and took the goat of the sin offering that was for the people and killed it and offered it as a sin offering, like the first one. And he presented the burnt offering and offered it according to the rule. And he presented the grain offering, took a handful of it, and burned it on the altar, besides the burnt offering of the morning.
Then he killed the ox and the ram, the sacrifice of peace offerings for the people. And Aaron's sons handed him the blood, and he threw it against the sides of the altar. But the fat pieces of the ox and of the ram, the fat tail and that which covers the entrails and the kidneys and the long lobe of the liver—they put the fat pieces on the breasts, and he burned the fat pieces on the altar, but the breasts and the right thigh Aaron waved for a wave offering before the LORD, as Moses commanded.
Then Aaron lifted up his hands toward the people and blessed them, and he came down from offering the sin offering and the burnt offering and the peace offerings. And Moses and Aaron went into the tent of meeting, and when they came out they blessed the people, and the glory of the LORD appeared to all the people. And fire came out from before the LORD and consumed the burnt offering and the pieces of fat on the altar, and when all the people saw it, they shouted and fell on their faces.
(Leviticus 9 ESV)
Why, O LORD, do you stand far away?
Why do you hide yourself in times of trouble?
In arrogance the wicked hotly pursue the poor;
let them be caught in the schemes that they have devised.
For the wicked boasts of the desires of his soul,
and the one greedy for gain curses and renounces the LORD.
In the pride of his face the wicked does not seek him;
all his thoughts are, “There is no God.”
His ways prosper at all times;
your judgments are on high, out of his sight;
as for all his foes, he puffs at them.
He says in his heart, “I shall not be moved;
throughout all generations I shall not meet adversity.”
His mouth is filled with cursing and deceit and oppression;
under his tongue are mischief and iniquity.
He sits in ambush in the villages;
in hiding places he murders the innocent.
His eyes stealthily watch for the helpless;
he lurks in ambush like a lion in his thicket;
he lurks that he may seize the poor;
he seizes the poor when he draws him into his net.
The helpless are crushed, sink down,
and fall by his might.
He says in his heart, “God has forgotten,
he has hidden his face, he will never see it.”
Arise, O LORD; O God, lift up your hand;
forget not the afflicted.
Why does the wicked renounce God
and say in his heart, “You will not call to account”?
But you do see, for you note mischief and vexation,
that you may take it into your hands;
to you the helpless commits himself;
you have been the helper of the fatherless.
Break the arm of the wicked and evildoer;
call his wickedness to account till you find none.
The LORD is king forever and ever;
the nations perish from his land.
O LORD, you hear the desire of the afflicted;
you will strengthen their heart; you will incline your ear
to do justice to the fatherless and the oppressed,
so that man who is of the earth may strike terror no more.
(Psalm 10 ESV)
Something to Consider
Leviticus 9: 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” probably could be considered 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.
“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: The final sacrifice had been made upon an 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.