Well. It’s been a long 12 days. In that period, the reading guide has moved on and is now midway between Leviticus. Leviticus is somewhat repetitive, but there are pretty eye opening bits in there. Today’s is one such bit, and can be found in Leviticus 9.
Not facedown in fear. But facedown in joy.
There’s a need to visualise this scene somewhat. There’s a need to comprehend the very nature of God’s glory. The nature of it that brings joy. And the nature of it that causes us to fall facedown.
It’s not hard to do that, being in the UK. There are times when it’s freezing. Like yesterday morning. I think the temperature was -5 or something. It’s actually been a very warm February, apparently the warmest ever, but yesterday was a bit freakish. And so everything was frosted. Including me. And when you’re cold, it’s horrible. If I had to decide between being cold, or being hot in Malaysia, I’ll pick the latter any day.
But then the sun came out. And when you’re standing in the sun, it’s suddenly a lot warmer. The air around you might be rather cold, but you can feel the warmth of the sun. And it’s a pretty joyful moment. The feeling of warmth.
That’s an imperfect metaphor of God’s glory. It’s like the sun shining on you in the cold. Or in an equatorial sense, you could probably compare it to freezing in an air-conditioned room, before walking out into the hot outdoors. There’s an inherent joyfulness to be found in it. In this biblical context, I believe it’s a display of God’s power that’s the source of joy. It is also a display of God’s approval for the sacrifice that is a source of joy.
Before I draw some parallels with today, there’s one more aspect to look at. Why fall facedown? Matt Redman has a good phrase to encapture this: “When you face up to God’s glory, you find yourself facedown in worship.” It’s a natural response. We become so captivated with the Almighty that to fall before him in total surrender seems the only appropriate response. And the Israelites saw the power of God and could only respond in facedown worship. It’s like a sun so bright, you can’t look at it, yet it doesn’t matter, because you can feel it.
It’s a powerful image, this display of joyful facedown worship. It means three things for us. First, God is so great that to face up to His glory causes us to fall facedown before Him. Second, experiencing the glory of God brings us joy. Third, if God is so great, then surely the joy we find in Him must be the greatest of all joys.
And if this is the greatest of all joys, then why do we not seek it wholeheartedly? There are many reasons for this, but they mainly result from the fact that we are never fully convinced of this reality. But I believe that while we can never remain fully convince of this reality in this life, being in Jesus, we are in a position today to experience such joy, in increasing measure.
Where do we start? Just as God revealed Himself through the sacrifices of the Israelites, we can do likewise today. Not slaughter a ram or goat, but as Paul advises us in Romans, to offer our bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God – because this is our spiritual act of worship.