Leviticus 9 is a chapter where a lot of stuff goes right. Things happen as they should. Much is done “as the LORD commanded Moses” or, “as Moses had commanded.” And that’s nice. We have been on a pretty good streak ever since that little hiccup in Exodus 32.
Arrayed in his newly minted priestly outfit, Aaron performs the sacrifices his role demands for the very first time. This is the official beginning of the Levitical priesthood. So exciting!
But not as exciting if you are, say, a bull or goat or ram or sheep. Your days will be numbered.
Aaron’s first duty is to make atonement for himself. He does this by performing a sin offering and a burnt offering. Next he does the same (plus a grain and fellowship offering) for the entire assembly.
Don’t you love that one sacrifice takes care of the whole community? I think that is so cool!
Finally, when he is done, he twice blesses his people.
Make atonement for yourself? Check.
Make atonement for the people? Check.
Bless everyone? Check.
Not bad for your first day on the job.
Before Aaron begins, we are told that the whole Israelite congregation “drew near.” This jumped out at me because way back in Exodus 20 the people decided that they most certainly did NOT want to draw near to God.
Maybe the safety of the Tabernacle and the looming atonement assuaged their timidity.
But, and I find this to be quite funny, no sooner had they drawn near when God burst out of the tent of meeting as a huge fireball to consume the offerings on the altar. Their response?
“They shouted and fell on their faces”
Yeah, that’s what I would have done too. And I am pretty sure I would have shouted something you wouldn’t want your kids to hear.
Early in this chapter, Moses drops hints that something big is going to happen. The LORD is going to appear. The glory of the LORD will appear as well.
As the ceremony goes on, everything looks normal. Animals are getting slaughtered and dismembered and burned. People are being atoned for. Things are looking good!
Then Moses and Aaron go into the tent and bring out a friend.
And this friend proceeds to launch a fireball at the altar, burning up the offerings. It’s a terrifying sight and you already know how the people respond to it. But there is something else at play here.
God accepts the offering. He is pleased. Things are being done right and God honors it with his presence and his acceptance. He shows all the people that in no uncertain terms he is with them and lives in the house they built for him.
Yes, it is scary, but it is really really really good news.