In this week’s taste of Torah, we see that the appropriate human response to a miraculous and dramatic demonstration of Divine Glory is to plotz; because to plotz is to literally collapse! Verses 22 through 24 in Leviticus chapter 9 read: Aaron lifted up his hands toward the people and blessed them. He came down after sacrificing the sin offering, the burnt offering, and the fellowship offering. 23 Moses and Aaron then entered the tent of meeting. When they came out, they blessed the people, and the glory of the Lord appeared to all the people. 24 Fire came from the Lord and consumed the burnt offering and the fat portions on the altar. And when all the people saw it, they shouted and fell facedown on the ground.
Here’s what’s happening, here’s what’s going on: God commissioned Aaron and his sons to officially begin their new responsibilities as Israel’s priests. And in conjunction with that, ceremonies were performed to consecrate the altar. Now instead of Moses functioning as the High Priest, Aaron brought various offerings, including sin offerings and whole burnt offerings both for himself and for the elders of Israel. Aaron and his sons then offered additional sacrifices on behalf of the people as well.
After completing the sequence of offerings, Aaron blessed the people with the Birkat Kohanim (the priestly blessing). However, the Glory of the LORD did not appear, which meant that there was no Divine Shekhinah; no visible manifestation of God’s presence that consumed the sacrifices. Not a good thing, why; because that caused people to be anxious because no Shekinah meant it was unclear whether or not the LORD had accepted Aaron’s offerings and had forgiven Israel for their sin of idolatry symbolized and facilitated by their construction and use of the Golden Calf.
So, Moses and Aaron then went into the Holy Place of the Mishkan, the portable dwelling place for the Divine presence, interceded on behalf of the people, and after they came out to bless the people again; it was glory – gaze – plotz! There was a sudden flash of light, which proceeded from the cloud that covered the Mishkan and fire in the form of lightening, and consumed the sacrifices on the altar (cf. Judg. 6:20-24; 13:15-23; 1 Kings 18:38-39; 1 Chron. 21:26; 2 Chron. 7:1-3).
Now here’s the thing; the miracle that caused the strong reaction of the people (v. 24) was not that fire fell on the sacrifices and ignited them. Those sacrifices were already burning. But rather there was a shout of joy (Heb. ranan) in response to the fire that fell and consumed the sacrifices suddenly. In this way, God manifested His satisfaction with this first sacrifice that the newly consecrated priests offered. In fact, this is the first of five times that the Hebrew Scriptures record God sending fire from heaven as a sign that He accepted a sacrifice (cf. Judg. 6:21; 1 Kings 18:38; 1 Chron. 21:26; 2 Chron. 7:1). And so all the ceremony that preceded this was intended to culminate in the appearance of the glory of God because essentially worship is communion with God.
When the Mosaic Law, in the Mosaic covenant, was operative as the believer’s rule of life; the high priest’s sacrificial atonement offering and effectual intercession temporarily assured the worshiper of receiving the blessing of forgiveness in God’s presence. Today, believers receive permanent assurance of forgiveness by trust in the complete and finished atonement sacrifice of Messiah Jesus. And in light of that, no doubt when we see Him for the first time in the unimaginable forever of eternity; it will again be a case of glory – gaze – plotz!