The Main Event

1 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. 10 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. 11 The flesh and the skin he burned up with fire outside the camp.

12 Then he killed the burnt offering, and Aaron’s sons handed him the blood, and he threw it against the sides of the altar. 13 And they handed the burnt offering to him, piece by piece, and the head, and he burned them on the altar. 14 And he washed the entrails and the legs and burned them with the burnt offering on the altar.

15 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. 16 And he presented the burnt offering and offered it according to the rule. 17 And he presented the grain offering, took a handful of it, and burned it on the altar, besides the burnt offering of the morning.

18 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. 19 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— 20 they put the fat pieces on the breasts, and he burned the fat pieces on the altar, 21 but the breasts and the right thigh Aaron waved for a wave offering before the Lord, as Moses commanded.

22 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. 23 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. 24 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 9:1-24 ESV

The Israelites had just constructed the elaborately designed Tabernacle and its surrounding compound. Skilled craftsmen had painstakingly fabricated all the furniture that filled its courtyard and inner recesses, all according to God’s detailed plans. The people had donated their gold, silver, and bronze jewelry and it was repurposed to decorate God’s house and to create the various sacrificial components that filled the courtyard, Holy Place, and the Holy of Holies. Then Moses had led Aaron and his sons in a seven-day-long ordination ritual that involved their purification and atonement.

But why had Moses gone to such elaborate measures to carry out God’s plans for building the Tabernacle and preparing the priests for their service within it? What was the ultimate goal that Moses hoped to achieve by carrying out this massive project?

The answer is found in Exodus 29, where God told Moses His intentions behind the construction of the Tabernacle.

“I will meet the people of Israel there, in the place made holy by my glorious presence. Yes, I will consecrate the Tabernacle and the altar, and I will consecrate Aaron and his sons to serve me as priests. Then I will live among the people of Israel and be their God, and they will know that I am the Lord their God. I am the one who brought them out of the land of Egypt so that I could live among them. I am the Lord their God.” – Exodus 2:43-46 ESV

The Tabernacle was intended to be His earthly dwelling place. It would serve as His “mobile home” among the people of Israel as they journeyed from Sinai to the promised land. Whenever they set up camp, the Tabernacle was to be the first dwelling they erected and as long as they remained in that place, God’s presence would reside in the Holy of Holies above the Mercy Seat. It was to be a constant reminder of His presence and a visual symbol of His holiness.

So, on the eighth day, after having completed the entire dedication ceremony, Moses called Aaron, his sons, and the elders of Israel and commanded that they prepare the people of Israel for the arrival of God’s presence. This was going to be Yahweh’s move-in day. The Tabernacle was complete and fully consecrated. The priests had been purified and their sins had been atoned for. Everything was ready.

But one thing was missing. At this point, the Tabernacle was nothing more than a fancy tent filled with gold and bronze furniture, beautifully crafted tapestries, and a handful of priests dressed in their sacred robes. Smoke still rose from the bronze altar from the assortment of sacrifices Moses had offered on behalf of Aaron and his sons. But the Holy of Holies remained empty. God’s glory had yet to take up residence in His house.

There was one more thing that had to be done before God’s glory showed up, and Moses let Aaron know that the responsibility was his.

“This is the thing that the Lord commanded you to do, that the glory of the Lord may appear to you.” – Leviticus 9:6 ESV

As the newly ordained high priest, Aaron must now atone for the sins of the people so that the holy and sinless God might dwell among His people. This would be Aaron’s first act as God’s chosen mediator. So, Moses gave him concise instructions as to what to do.

“Come to the altar and sacrifice your sin offering and your burnt offering to purify yourself and the people. Then present the offerings of the people to purify them, making them right with the Lord, just as he has commanded.” – Leviticus 9:7 NLT

Aaron and his sons had already offered a series of sacrifices to the Lord. They had been cleansed, consecrated, and ordained for their role as priests. But now the real work began. As priests, they had a job to do and it was their responsibility to prepare the hearts of the people to welcome and worship their God.

In keeping with God’s commands, Aaron and his sons offered the various offerings in their proper sequence. They began with “the calf of the sin offering, which was for himself” (Leviticus 9:8 ESV). Even though Aaron had already been consecrated, in his inaugural role as high priest, he was expected to carry out every phase of the preparatory ritual that would ensure the arrival of God’s presence. There was a non-negotiable order that had to be followed down to the last detail. Nothing could be left out. No corners could be cut. To play fast and loose with God’s plan would be to risk the arrival of His divine presence.

A series of elaborate sacrifices were carried out by Aaron and his sons. There was the sin offering, the burnt offering. grain offering, and peace offering. Each was done in proper order and according to God’s instructions. And once Aaron had completed every phase of the ritual, he pronounced a blessing on the people, then entered the Tabernacle alongside his sons. When they came back out again, he blessed the people one more time and then “the glory of the Lord appeared to the whole community” (Leviticus 9:23 NLT). God showed up.

This had been the purpose behind the whole affair. From the moment the first piece of jewelry had been donated and the final curtain had been hung to when the last word of Aaron’s second blessing had been pronounced, every effort the people had expended had been aimed at this moment. This is what they had been waiting and hoping for. And God’s arrival did not disappoint.

Fire blazed forth from the Lord’s presence and consumed the burnt offering and the fat on the altar. – Leviticus 9:24 NLT

Yahweh put on a show. But this was more than just a divine display of pyrotechnics. He was giving His Good Housekeeping Seal of Approval on the Tabernacle and His people. He was pleased and gave an emphatic and powerful display to prove it. For eight days, the various sacrifices had been slow-burning on the altar but now, in a dramatic demonstration of power, God consumed everything on the altar with fire from above. In a bolt from on high, the final remnants of the sacrifices were consumed by God, and the people responded with appropriate awe and reverential worship.

When the people saw this, they shouted with joy and fell face down on the ground. – Leviticus 9:24 NLT

They could not help but worship the greatness of their God. They were filled with a mix of joy, relief, fear, awe, reverence, excitement, and wonder. The God of the universe had just approved the work of their hands. In His holiness, He had deemed to place His presence among His far-from-perfect people.

But His presence didn’t come without cost. Sacrifices had been made. Lives were lost. Blood was spilled. Confession was made. Atone was required. For the people of Israel to enjoy the abiding presence of God Almighty, they had to be purified, atoned for, forgiven, and provided with a righteousness that was not of their own making. The entire dedicatory process of the Tabernacle was designed to prepare the people for their close encounter with God. And every aspect of the Tabernacle, the sacrificial system, and the priesthood was designed to provide atonement so that the Israelites might enjoy a relationship with their holy God. And it became a foreshadowing of the ultimate sacrifice that God provided in the form of His Son – the sinless Lamb of God.

God made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, so that in Him we might become the righteousness of God. – 2 Corinthians 5:21 BSB

Paul, who referred to himself as “a Hebrew of Hebrews (Philippians 3:5), also recognized that any righteousness he possessed had been provided for him by Christ and was completely unearned and undeserved.

I no longer count on my own righteousness through obeying the law; rather, I become righteous through faith in Christ. For God’s way of making us right with himself depends on faith. – Philippians 3:9 NLT

The sacrificial system was a God-given means of making the people of Israel worthy of enjoying His abiding presence. Without it, His glory would have departed. Because of it, they were able to stand before Him fully forgiven and righteous in His eyes.

English Standard Version (ESV) The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. ESV® Permanent Text Edition® (2016). Copyright © 2001

New Living Translation (NLT) Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

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