After years and years of wandering, rebellion, correction and instruction from the Lord, the Israelites finally see how a holy God could dwell among an unrighteous people. Remember, we’ve been reading about the instructions for the tabernacle and the sacrifices for weeks, but not until today’s reading in chapter nine do the Israelites see the culmination of all we’ve been reading. The tabernacle is finally ready, the priests are finally ordained, and the first sacrifices are made.
And it is in this setting that a few amazing things happen:
1. The glory of the Lord appeared to all the people. This was not exactly new, they had seen this same glory previously on the tops of mountains as Moses met with God. But before, the Israelites always responded in fear at the glory of the Lord, pushing Moses to the frontline to be their mediator. But not this time…
2. Fire came out from the presence of the Lord and consumed the offerings. This was a clear sign from God that the sacrifices were accepted. And this approval of the sacrifice brought a new response out of the whole Israelite community…
3. They shouted for joy and fell facedown. Joy and worship. Gone is the fear that characterized this people whenever the glory of the Lord appeared.
The acceptance of the substitutionary sacrifice elicited joy and worship where before there had been only fear of judgment. And the writer of Hebrews says this of Jesus:
But when this priest had offered for all time one sacrifice for sins, he sat down at the right hand of God. Since that time he waits for his enemies to be made his footstool, because by one sacrifice he has made perfect forever those who are being made holy. — Hebrews 10:12-14
So what about you? Do you grasp the immensity of the substitutionary sacrifice made for you? Does it cause you to shout for joy? To fall on your face? Has it transformed your fear of judgment? Or is your response still like the Jews in the desert: fearful, flighty, fickle and cold hearted?
1. Read 1 Kings 18:16-40 (don’t worry, it’s a great story!). What similarities do you see between the two accounts you read today? What differences?
2. Now read this from Hebrews 12:28,29: “Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, let us be thankful, and so worship God acceptably with reverence and awe, for our ‘God is a consuming fire.’” How do the two accounts (the Jews and Elijah) give you a sense of thankfulness? Reverence and awe?
3. What is the difference between having a fear of God and his judgment versus a fear for God characterized by reverence and awe?