Fire came out from the presence of the Lord and consumed the burnt offering and the fat portions on the altar. And when all the people saw it, they shouted for joy and fell facedown. Leviticus 9:24
Wenham in Constable’s Commentary writes: “This chapter brings out very clearly the purpose and character of Old Testament worship. All the pomp and ceremony served one end: the appearance of the glory of God.” It’s also interesting to note that this is the first time in the Bible a word for joy is used.
The purpose of worship is to draw near to God. Then he will draw near to us (James 4:8) and we will experience his presence. Sometimes this will be almost tangible but most times we will simply know we’re in his presence because of his promise (Matthew 18:20).
We might view worship as a duty or a sacrifice and while there is sacrifice involved, God’s intention is to bless. David writes in Psalm 16:11 “you will fill me with joy in your presence.” God wants us to draw near to him so we can receive his joy.
The sacrificial system in Old Testament times was quite elaborate and costly as they sacrificed animals that could otherwise have been eaten. Yet they remind us of God’s costly sacrifice—his own Son. As we focus on God surrendering his Son for us, anything we forego is minor in comparison. Any sense of duty we feel dissolves, as our response becomes one of gratitude.
Perhaps we’re reluctant to draw near to God? Maybe we are challenged by his holiness and our lack of it. God’s presence can be like a refining fire to us (Malachi 3:3). Yet his intention is to purify us so we can experience his joy.