Leviticus 9:23–24 (HCSB)
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.
Following the week long ordination of Aaron and his sons as priests, we see in Leviticus 9 the “inauguration” of the priesthood. Immediately, on the eighth day (Lev 9:1), Moses summons Aaron and relays God’s command for sacrifices on behalf of the priesthood, and of the entire Israelite community. And the culmination of these first sacrifices of the now ordained priesthood will be the appearance of God (Lev 9:4, 6).
Next we see an account of the performance of the sacrifices prescribed by God, with much of the ritual details recounted. At first this may seem superfluous, but on second thought, I think this is very important and purposeful. This should serve as a reminder that we should be careful to follow through with what we are charged to do by God in the way He expects them. If Aaron had performed the sacrifices in any old way, not according to the methods which had just been outlined in multiple chapters, what honor would that bring God? How would it show our reverence, worship, or respect? But scripture records the fulfillment of the sacrifice steps, and implies, I think, that, at a minimum, Aaron and his sons took very seriously the word of God and desired to honor Him by following His commands. That is a form of worship, one we should not forget.
Finally, after the sacrifices are complete, and after Moses and Aaron go in, then back out of, the tent of meeting, the Israelites are blessed by them. Then God appears, as fire, consuming the offering on the altar. We can only assume this was some sort of miraculous display of fire. First, Lev 9:23 says, “the glory of the LORD appeared to all the people,” so it would seem to me that if the entire assembly, which must have consisted of hundreds of thousands, if not over 1 million, if taken literally. Surely just a small simple fire burning up an offering on the altar would not be sufficient to appear to everyone. Second, Lev 9:24 says, “they shouted and fell facedown on the ground.” This was an event that demanded a reaction from the Israelites. This is a people who had been taken out of Israel following the ten plagues, marched through the Red Sea on dry ground, and followed a pillar of cloud and fire. Their reaction here does not suggest a common flare up from some fat drippings falling into the flame, this was surely something significant, enough to obviate God’s presence.
Lord, thank You for working among us, for helping us to see You. Maybe not physically, but we see Your hand all around us, and Your spirit within. Help us to honor You through following You and Your commands, not to suppress You by seeking our own authority. Amen.