THE GOAL OF WORSHIP FROM ITS INCEPTION IN THE LEVITICAL OT SYSTEM MUST BE THE APPEARANCE OF THE GLORY OF THE LORD TO HIS REDEEMED AND CLEANSED PEOPLE
Kenneth Mathews: Up to this place in Leviticus, all that has gone before was preparatory for this central event—the appearance of God among his people. The sacrifices delineated, the priests ordained, and the cleansing of the sanctuary and of the people made it possible for the Lord to accept the worship of his people. The presence of God was often described as the appearance of the glory of the Lord. The purpose of this inaugural worship was “… that the glory of the Lord may appear to you [the people]” (v. 6), and the outcome was just that: “the glory of the Lord appeared to all the people” (v. 23). These two passages are the only two places in the book of Leviticus that include the word “glory.” By this sign of the fiery glory of the Lord, the people could know that the Lord was present and that he had received their worship.
Allen Ross: The beginning of a new ministry is such a marvelous experience. Years of preparation and planning all come together in an appointed hour when everything finds its fulfillment in the realization of the presence of God. How wonderful it must have been for the ancient Israelites to see the inauguration of their worship. They had been redeemed from bondage in Egypt and formed into the people of God at Sinai by covenant. And now they had a new sanctuary, a new set of rituals for their sacrifices, and a new priesthood. Leviticus 9 records the beginning of Israel’s worship under the Levitical system. . .
After Aaron obediently offered purification and burnt offerings to make atonement for himself and then purification, burnt, meal, and peace offerings for all the people, and after he blessed the people upon entering and leaving the tent, the glory of the LORD dramatically appeared to all the people, consuming instantly the smoldering sacrifices on the altar and prompting all the people to shout and fall down in worship.
Constable: Ironically, the first sacrifice Aaron was commanded to offer was “a calf,” as if to atone for his making of “the golden calf” (cf. Exod. 32). The sinfulness of man is self-evident, in that Aaron had to offer so many different offerings, in order to cover both his sins and the sins of the people.
Wiersbe: The pagan nations around them had priests and sacrifices, but they didn’t have the glory of God. . .
The glory that dwelt in the tabernacle eventually left the camp because of the sins of the people (1 Sam. 4:21). It returned at the dedication of the temple, but then the Prophet Ezekiel watched it depart because the nation had become so sinful (Ezek. 8:4; 9:3; 10:4, 18; 11:22-23). The glory came to earth when Jesus was born (Luke 2:8-9) and tabernacle in Him (John 1:14), but sinful people nailed that glory to a cross. Today, God’s glory dwells in the bodies of His people (1 Cor. 6:19-20), in each local assembly of His people (3:16-17), and in His church collectively (Eph. 2:19-22). One day, we shall see that glory lighting the perfect heavenly city that God is preparing for His people (Rev. 21:22-23).
I. (:1-6) COLLECTING THE OFFERINGS IN PREPARATION FOR THE APPEARANCE OF THE LORD
A. (:1-4a) Preparation Sacrifices Staged
1. (:1-2) For the Priesthood
“Now it came about on the eighth day that Moses called Aaron and his sons and the elders of Israel; 2 and he said to Aaron, ‘Take for yourself a calf, a bull, for a sin offering and a ram for a burnt offering, both without defect, and offer them before the LORD.’”
Jacob Milgrom: The eighth day marks the inauguration of the regular public cult. During the previous week, the tabernacle was consecrated and the priests were invested, all in preparation for this day. The eighth day is thus the climax of the foregoing seven, as in so many other rituals and events. The eighth day is not like the previous seven. The first seven serve as the investiture of the priesthood (chap. 8), and the consecration of the sanctuary (8:10–12*), whereas the eighth day serves an entirely different purpose—the inauguration of the public cult conducted by its newly invested priesthood. The technical name for this inauguration is hanukkah, “initiation,” or, more precisely, “the initiation of the altar”.
R. K. Harrison: Aaron’s mediatorial ministry commences when Moses instructs him to take an unblemished two-year-old male calf for a sin offering and a ram for a burnt offering (2), and sacrifice them before the Lord. These two animals were to be offered on behalf of Aaron and the priesthood, and it is significant that they were sin offerings. Even the most dedicated and consecrated person still sins and falls far short of God’s glory (Rom. 3:23; 5:12). The closer one lives to the Lord’s will, the more one is aware of this corollary of sheer human existence.
2. (:3-4a) For the Community
“Then to the sons of Israel you shall speak, saying, ‘Take a male goat for a sin offering, and a calf and a lamb, both one year old, without defect, for a burnt offering, 4 and an ox and a ram for peace offerings, to sacrifice before the LORD, and a grain offering mixed with oil;”
B. (:4b) Promise of the Lord’s Appearance
“for today the LORD shall appear to you.’”
Mark Rooker: The manifestation of the presence of God had specific relevance to this important day in Israel’s history when the sacrificial system officially began; the manifestation of God’s presence at the commencement of sacrificial offerings is a reminder that the goal of worship is to encounter God (see 9:22–24).
C. (:5) Preparation Staging Completed in Obedience
“So they took what Moses had commanded to the front of the tent of meeting, and the whole congregation came near and stood before the LORD.”
D. (:6) Promise of the Lord’s Appearance
“And Moses said, ‘This is the thing which the LORD has commanded you to do, that the glory of the LORD may appear to you.’”
Kenneth Mathews: Worship begins with God’s instructions, not with the ideas of men and women. When we come before the Lord in the proper way, we will have acceptance. When we come according to human devices, we put at risk the assurance of acceptance. . .
The purpose of the sacrifices was to prepare for the coming of “the glory of the Lord,” which occurred in dramatic fashion at the end of the ritual offerings (vv. 6, 23, 24). The fire of the Lord broke forth from the Tent of Meeting and consumed the smoldering animal portions that had remained upon the altar. Levitical law required the priests to maintain the fires on the altar perpetually (Leviticus 6:12, 13). Our passage shows that the altar’s fires came initially from God himself (Leviticus 9:24). The expression “the glory of the Lord” was a technical expression for the “manifest presence” of God among his covenant people, Israel. In essence the glory of the Lord was equivalent to the person and name of the Lord. Where his glory appears, he is present. The glory was something that could be seen by the human eye and inhabited a visible cloud (Exodus 16:10). God’s “glory” was associated with a fiery display of blazing majesty. At Sinai the Lord appeared before the people and spoke from the flaming mountain (Exodus 24:17; Deuteronomy 5:24). Also, the Lord’s “glory” was manifested in a cloud that filled the Tent of Meeting at the completion of its construction (Exodus 40:34, 35). When the Lord spoke through his prophet Moses at the Tent of Meeting, the Lord made visible his glory to the congregation (Numbers 14:10). By the visible coming of the glory, the people knew that the Lord had taken up residence in the Tent of Meeting.
The Lord’s disclosure of himself to his people, however, had its fullest expression in the person of Jesus Christ. By his human incarnation, the glory of God became known to those who believed (John 1:14; Hebrews 1:3), and especially through Jesus’ death and resurrection the glory of the Lord became manifest (Romans 6:4; Hebrews 2:9). But whereas the majesty of God’s glory in Old Testament times often instilled fear in those who witnessed his awesome power and heard his thunderous voice, the Lord Jesus came in humble trappings and preached the grace and truth of the kingdom. Our sure hope in the glory to come sustains us in our present sufferings (2 Corinthians 4:17; 1 Peter 5:10). The presence of the Spirit among us as we worship assures us of both present and future acceptance with God (cf. 2 Corinthians 6:16 with Leviticus 26:12).
R. K. Harrison: The reason why the people have to be cleansed as well as the priests is now apparent. The glory of the Lord is to be revealed to the community, and his presence will add a visible seal of approval to the ceremonies of consecration that have just been concluded.
II. (:7-21) CLEANSING OF THE PRIESTS AND THE COMMUNITY TO PREPARE FOR THE APPEARANCE OF THE LORD
A. (:7-14) Cleansing of the Priests
1. (:7) Summary Instruction
“Moses then said to Aaron, ‘Come near to the altar and offer your sin offering and your burnt offering, that you may make atonement for yourself and for the people; then make the offering for the people, that you may make atonement for them, just as the LORD has commanded.’”
2. (:8-11) Sin Offering
“So Aaron came near to the altar and slaughtered the calf of the sin offering which was for himself. 9 And Aaron’s sons presented the blood to him; and he dipped his finger in the blood, and put some on the horns of the altar, and poured out the rest of the blood at the base of the altar. 10 The fat and the kidneys and the lobe of the liver of the sin offering, he then offered up in smoke on the altar just as the LORD had commanded Moses. 11 The flesh and the skin, however, he burned with fire outside the camp.”
R. K. Harrison: This section presents what appears to have been the normal pattern of Israelite sacrificial worship, in which the ritual of the sin offering quite naturally precedes the burnt offering, and indicates the way in which God desires the worshippers to approach him. First and foremost was the need for cleansing from sin, so that the offender could stand spotless before God. The burnt offering symbolized the obedience and submission of the person who had already identified himself manually with his sacrifice as a means of gaining divine favour, while the peace or well-being offering was intended to promote the welfare of the donor as he continued in fellowship with his Lord.
3. (:12-14) Burnt Offering
“Then he slaughtered the burnt offering; and Aaron’s sons handed the blood to him and he sprinkled it around on the altar. 13 And they handed the burnt offering to him in pieces with the head, and he offered them up in smoke on the altar. 14 He also washed the entrails and the legs, and offered them up in smoke with the burnt offering on the altar.”
Peter Pett: Then his sons handed him ‘piece by piece’ the parts of the sacrifice, including the head. It is clear that the task of skinning it and cutting it up had been left to them due to the necessities of the situation (Aaron could not do two things at once). Thus as each cut off a part they handed it to Aaron. This accurate and unusual description again confirms that we are reading the evidence of an eye-witness. And as he received each piece he laid it on the flames of the altar.
Oswald T. Allis: Thus the three basic ideas are emphasized: first, atonement for sin, then dedication and consecration of life, and finally communion with God in the Eucharistic meal.
B. (:15-21) Cleansing of the Community
1. (:15) Purification (Sin) Offering for the Community
“Then he presented the people’s offering, and took the goat of the sin offering which was for the people, and slaughtered it and offered it for sin, like the first.”
2. (:16) Burnt Offering for the Community
“He also presented the burnt offering,
and offered it according to the ordinance.”
3. (:17) Grain Offering for the Community
“Next he presented the grain offering, and filled his hand with some of it and offered it up in smoke on the altar, besides the burnt offering of the morning.”
Kenneth Mathews: Additional offerings of grain and peace sacrifices followed, both of which were part of the regular sacrifice system (Leviticus 2, 3). Both of these offerings were voluntary gifts as signs of commitment and thanksgiving to God.
4. (:18-21) Well-being Offering for the Community
“Then he slaughtered the ox and the ram, the sacrifice of peace offerings which was for the people; and Aaron’s sons handed the blood to him and he sprinkled it around on the altar. 19 As for the portions of fat from the ox and from the ram, the fat tail, and the fat covering, and the kidneys and the lobe of the liver, 20 they now placed the portions of fat on the breasts; and he offered them up in smoke on the altar. 21 But the breasts and the right thigh Aaron presented as a wave offering before the LORD, just as Moses had commanded.”
Richard Hess: The addition in this text is the elevated offering of both the breasts and the thigh. These are presented before the Lord in a manner similar to the ordination offering in Leviticus 8. But there is a difference, though the reason for it is not clear. The fat is placed on the breasts rather than on the thigh.
III. (:22-24) CELEBRATION OF THE APPEARANCE OF THE LORD
A. (:22-23b) Aaron’s Actions After Completing the Sacrifices
1. (:22a) Aaron Blesses the People
“Then Aaron lifted up his hands toward the people and blessed them,”
2 (:22b) Aaron Steps Down from the Altar
“and he stepped down after making the sin offering
and the burnt offering and the peace offerings.”
3. (:23a) Aaron Enters the Tent of Meeting with Moses
“And Moses and Aaron went into the tent of meeting.”
4. (:23b) Aaron and Moses Exit and Bless the People
“When they came out and blessed the people,”
B. (:23c) Appearance of the Lord to All the People
“the glory of the LORD appeared to all the people.”
R. K. Harrison: Aaron now exercises his priestly prerogative by invoking God’s blessing upon the people. Later Jewish tradition maintained that he used the magnificent phraseology of the priestly benediction in Numbers 6:24–26, in which God’s power, presence and peace for those being blessed constitute the intent of the pronouncement. After this, both Moses and Aaron entered the holy place of the tent of meeting. Perhaps at this time Moses formally transferred the responsibilities of the sanctuary to Aaron, and instructed him in the performance of those tasks which he himself had undertaken previously. When they came out into the tabernacle court, both of them prayed for God’s blessing upon the nation of Israel.
Kenneth Mathews: After the blessing was proclaimed by Aaron and Moses, the Lord responded to the people’s worship, dramatically showing his power and majesty. The glory of God “appeared” (v. 23b) to the people as a blazing fire that originated from the tent, presumably from the Most Holy Place where God resided. The fire consumed the smoldering offering and fat on the altar in a fiery blast (cf. Leviticus 6:9). The purpose of the inaugural worship (v. 6) was fulfilled by the appearance of God, proving to the people that the Lord indeed resided among them. This remarkable sight recalled the theophany of God at Mount Sinai where the glory of the Lord “was like a devouring fire” (Exodus 24:17; cf. 2 Chronicles 7:3; Ezekiel 1:27, 28). The God of the mountain had become the God of the tent in their very midst. A similar occurrence at the inaugural service in Solomon’s temple reflects the same purpose (2 Chronicles 7:1). God’s residence was in the newly built temple. But there the fire that consumed the offerings came down from Heaven itself!
Allen Ross: In order for the ritual to be appropriately presented to God, there had to be a mediator. And so the next step in the working out of the pattern of worship, before the glory appeared, was the intercessory work of the high priest. In the sequence of events recorded for this inaugural service, Aaron blessed the people when he came down from the altar of the sacrifices, and then Moses and Aaron went together into the tent (the place where the LORD usually communicated with Moses) to apply the blood and to pray for God to fulfill his promise to bless the people by appearing to them. They then came out of the tent and blessed the people. This was instructional not only for Aaron in his high-priestly duties but also for the congregation. Along with the ritual of the sacrifices made for purification and atonement, a mediating high priest was required to take the blood into the innermost shrine and complete the process of its intercessory work. There was no other way for the people to gain access into the presence of God except by this representative. . .
So too in the New Testament the greatest blessing that we have from God is salvation through Christ Jesus. He is the true mediator, the eternal high priest, who has entered the presence of God the Father in heaven to make intercession on our behalf. And because he is our high priest, the Apostle Paul draws on the main points of this high-priestly blessing to begin his epistles: “Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ” (Gal. 1:3).
Mark Rooker: The Hebrew word for glory is from the root kbd, which denotes “heaviness” or “weightiness” and hence the extended meaning of “significance, superior value, distinction, splendor.” Westermann argues that the reference to the glory of the Lord should be understood here in connection with the occurrence of the phrase in Exod 24:15b–18; 40:35. In Exodus 24 the glory of the Lord rests on the mountain at Sinai. In Exodus 40 the glory of the Lord fills the tabernacle, indicating that the tabernacle has become a portable Sinai. The next appearance of the glory of the Lord in Leviticus 9 in the context of the inauguration of the priesthood indicates that God has established and approved the sacrificial system.
C. (:24) Awesome Confirmation of God’s Presence
1. Acceptance by the Lord of the Offerings
“Then fire came out from before the LORD
and consumed the burnt offering and the portions of fat on the altar;”
Constable: The miracle, that caused the strong reaction of the people (“shouted and fell facedown”; v. 24), was not so much that fire fell on the sacrifices and “ignited” them. They were already burning. It was that the fire that fell “consumed” the sacrifices suddenly (the strong force of the Hebrew verb meaning “burned up completely,” “ate up,” “devoured”).
2. Response of the Congregation
“and when all the people saw it, they shouted and fell on their faces.”
Kenneth Mathews: Such gracious actions resulted in the spontaneous praises of the people at the spectacular confirmation of God’s presence in their midst. Their response was both vocal and visible. At the sight of God’s glory, they shouted, and they humbly bent down (to their knees?) upon their faces. A similar response occurred at the temple inauguration service, at which the people declared, “For he is good, for his steadfast love endures forever” (2 Chronicles 7:3). There may be a series of sound plays in the Hebrew language that accentuates the theology of the passage. When the Lord “appeared” (wayye’ra’) and the people “saw” (wayyar’) the blazing fire, the congregation “shouted” (wayyaronnu). The worship of God resulted in both praise and humility. There was joyful acclamation but also hushed silence. This is the appropriate reaction of those who have witnessed the glory of the Lord. Whether we are in public worship or private devotions, our response to God must be characterized by prudent praise. We must worship enthusiastically and wholeheartedly, but informed by our knowledge of the awe-inspiring God we serve (Psalm 33:1; Habakkuk 2:20). Casual dress in public worship is the trend in our times, but we must not mistakenly think that we are free to treat casually God’s demands for authentic worship.
Peter Pett: “And when all the people saw it, they shouted, and fell on their faces.” The appearance of the glory of Yahweh, and the flame coming to consume the whole burnt offering, produced an immediate reaction in the crowd. They yelled out in wonder, awe and fear, and fell on their faces. This was the full prostration offered to a powerful overlord, but it was also the reaction of those who could not bear the sight of what had appeared to them. Like the seraphim in the presence of the glory of God (Isaiah 6:2) they had to hide their faces. Once again they had beheld something that they would never forget (or at least for short time). In the face of this how could there be opposition to the appointment of Aaron and his sons? We will soon see.