By Ben W. Curtis
Pastor, First Baptist Church, Tracy City
Focal Passage: Leviticus 9:15-24; 10:1-3
The book of Leviticus presents us with a vision of the holiness of God that we so desperately need in our day. To see God for who He is will sustain us in suffering, transform us in holiness, and ignite our hearts in worship. After a seven-day ordination ceremony of the priesthood, Leviticus 9 records the first service in the tabernacle. If you’ve ever been part of a special ceremony or meeting of God’s people, think about the mood of that extraordinary moment. Nothing is more satisfying than the presence of an approving God and nothing is more terrifying than the presence of a holy God.
In Leviticus 9, certain preparations must be made before the glory of the Lord appears. Aaron who is now functioning in his role as priest presents a sin offering and various other offerings throughout the chapter (vv. 15-21). Then, he lifts his hands toward the people and speaks a blessing over them, perhaps something like Numbers 6:24-26 (v. 22). After going into the tent of meeting to fellowship with God, Moses and Aaron come out and bless the people once more (Leviticus 9:23). There is a joyful mood as God has revealed that He is eager to meet with His people. One thing that is sadly lacking in many of our corporate gatherings is a sense of anticipation and an active pursuit of the presence of God. We must believe that God is eager to meet us and to put His glory on display. As Moses and Aaron spoke those words of blessing, fire came from heaven symbolizing the very presence of God (v. 24). As awesome as this display of God’s glory must have been, we have “even more glory” in Christ (II Corinthians 3:8).
Nadab and Abihu who had front row seats to the glory of God in Exodus 24 are now stepping into their role as newly ordained priests (Leviticus 10). Though we do not know the specifics of their sin, they “offered unauthorized fire before the Lord” (v. 1). We make the same mistake each time we place our own ways above God’s ways. Our tendency is to minimize sin and expect the mercy of God, but here He responds with immediate judgment, killing Nadab and Abihu (v. 2). It’s tempting to think that God’s response was harsh, but we must remember that every sin deserves the swift judgment of God. Verse 3 tells us that the purpose of the entire episode was for God to display His holy character and glory (Isaiah 8:13; Deuteronomy 4:24). As Aaron’s two oldest sons lie dead on the ground “Aaron held his peace” realizing that the judge of all the earth had done what was right (Genesis 18:25; Romans 3:19).
In the same day, Israel witnessed both the fire of divine blessing and the fire of judgment. In both cases, the “fire came out from before the Lord” (Leviticus 9:24; 10:2). In chapter 9, the sacrifices are consumed by the fire. But in chapter 10, it is Nadab and Abihu who are consumed. Either a sacrifice must be judged and consumed in our place or that judgment must fall upon our own heads. God’s holiness was displayed at the cross like no other place. Let’s treasure Christ, who was offered as our sacrifice outside the camp and was consumed by the fire of judgment for sinners as a pleasing aroma to the Lord.