At the inauguration of the service of the tabernacle of Moses, God demonstrated his acceptance of the offerings which foreshadowed Christ by consuming the sacrifices by fire from his holy presence.
And Aaron lifted up his hand toward the people, and blessed them, and came down from offering of the sin offering, and the burnt offering, and peace offerings. And Moses and Aaron went into the tabernacle of the congregation, and came out, and blessed the people: and THE GLORY OF THE LORD APPEARED unto all the people. AND THERE CAME A FIRE OUT FROM BEFORE THE LORD, and CONSUMED upon the altar the burnt offering and the fat: which when all the people saw, they shouted, and fell on their faces. (Leviticus 9:22-24)
This fire which consumed the sacrifices came from the presence of God from within the holy of holies. This demonstration of God’s glory was repeated at the dedication of the temple which Solomon built, except this time the fire came down from Heaven.
Now when Solomon had made an end of praying, THE FIRE CAME DOWN FROM HEAVEN, and CONSUMED the burnt offering and the sacrifices; and THE GLORY OF THE LORD FILLED THE HOUSE. And the priests could not enter into the house of the Lord, because THE GLORY OF THE LORD HAD FILLED THE LORD’S HOUSE. And when all the children of Israel saw how the fire came down, and the glory of the Lord upon the house, they bowed themselves with their faces to the ground upon the pavement, and worshipped, and praised the Lord, saying, For he is good; for his mercy endureth for ever. (2 Chronicles 7:1-3)
In both cases, in the tabernacle of Moses and in the temple of Solomon, God’s glory was manifested as he accepted the sacrifices which foreshadowed the sacrifice of Jesus.
Throughout the old testament, the sacrifices which were a type of Christ were offered to God as a sweet fragrance and were accepted by God. They were never rejected by God.
These sacrifices were holy and they were to be accepted on the behalf of the people (Lev 22:20, 21, 25, 27). By virtue of these offerings, the people were sanctified and made holy in the sight of the Lord.
Ephesians 1:6 tells us, “we have been accepted in the beloved,” but how? Does God accept us because he rejected Jesus when he died on the cross? NO! Absolutely not.
We are accepted in the beloved because of God’s acceptance of the sacrifice of Jesus for us.
And be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God FOR CHRIST’S SAKE HATH FORGIVEN YOU. Be ye therefore followers of God, as dear children; And walk in love, as Christ also hath loved us, and hath GIVEN HIMSELF FOR US AN OFFERING AND A SACRIFICE TO GOD FOR A SWEET SMELLING SAVOR. (Ephesians 4:32-52)
Jesus Christ died as an unblemished lamb whose blood is pure and holy; and because he is holy and accepted by God, we are sanctified and accepted by God in him.
Had God condemned Jesus by treating him as a condemned sinner under his wrath, Jesus would not have been a sweet fragrant sacrifice and offering to God.
Whenever God’s wrath was revealed under the law, he would not accept the sacrifices and offerings as a sweet aroma (Leviticus 26:31, Jeremiah 14:11-12). Yet, when God’s people returned to him in repentance, God accepted both them and their atonement sacrifices as a sweet fragrance (Ezekiel 20:40-41).
Christ gave himself for our sins as a sweet fragrant offering and sacrifice to God, and for his sake we are cleansed by his blood.
When God consumed the sacrifices at the dedication of the tabernacle under Moses, divine fire burned upon the altar. Earlier in Leviticus 6, God had instructed Moses concerning the fire upon the altar, saying, “it shall not be put out” and “it shall never be put out” (see Leviticus 6:9-13).
This is significant because of the important role which the brazen altar of sacrifice had in connection to the golden altar of incense within the holy place.
In scripture, the incense from the golden altar is associated prayer (Revelation 8:3). By all evidence the burning of the incense upon the golden altar must have been accomplished with the divine fire from the brazen altar.
In Leviticus 10, not long after God had consumed the sacrifices with the divine fire from his presence, Aaron’s two sons, Nadab and Abihu, took it upon themselves to offer incense with “strange fire.” When they did this, divine fire once again came from the presence of the Lord, but this time, it devoured the two sons of Aaron, and they died under the judgment of God.
This all foreshadowed Christ, who is man’s only approach to God. All other ways lead to God’s judgment. Through Christ alone we are enabled to approach and stand in the presence of a holy God. Jesus gave himself for us as a sweet smelling savor to God (Ephesians 5:2) and it is through him alone that the divine presence of God burns within our hearts.