Archive for the ‘Leviticus’ Category

Leviticus 8-10: The Closer we Get To God, the More Holy we Must Be

February 11, 2009

There are very few things in life that I am more committed to than church attendance.  When I say church attendance, I do not mean out of legalistic compulsion, but out of a sincere desire to worship.  Fortunately, I was raised in a home where church attendance was not an option but was expected.  I can honestly say as well that I cannot remember a single time in childhood, during my teen years or in my pre-ministry adult life where I did not have a desire to go and to worship on Sundays.  In a sense, Sunday worship been, throughout my life, the most important event of my week.  The fact that this is so is a tribute to my parents who modeled this and to the churches that nurtured me in the faith always gave me a healthy environment to grow spiritually and worship.  No matter how my week had been, whether lived in spiritual triumph or in the dumps, worship always offered a place to get it all straightened out.  This text gives us a very important perspective on ministry, but not a perspective that limits itself to the professional clergy, but to all Christians.

 

The title of this post originated from a line in  Christopher Wright’s  commentary on Leviticus.  The closer a person is to God, the more careful they need to be about his holiness. ”Otherwise they bring dishonour on God among the rest of the people (3b). It is bad enough to treat the things of God with contempt oneself; it is far worse to cause others to do so (c.f., 1 Sa. 2:12–17, 29–30; 3:13; Lk. 17:1–2).”[1]  As we continue our journey through the five books of Moses (Genesis – Deuteronomy), it will become increasingly clear that God takes our worship very seriously.  Our participation or our preparation in worship must not be haphazard and our attitude should be that to give our very best to God.  When we approach our personal times of worship, and even more importantly, our corporate times of worship in this way our worship experience will be far deeper and more meaningful than when we approach it in a haphazard and disengaged way.

 

When God’s people walk in God’s ways, there is great blessing all around.  In this text we are now introduced to the beginning of the priestly ministry of Aaron and his sons.  God ordained a priesthood in the Old Testament that would flow from the clan of Levi and from the house of Aaron, the brother of Moses.  The tribe of Levi who were not from the house of Aaron would assist the sons of Aaron (or the priests) in carrying out the sacred tasks of God’s holy priesthood.  In this text we notice that God gave a series of instructions ot Moses and Aaron and over and over again we notice in chapters 8-9 that Moses and Aaron carried out their duties exactly as God had ordered it to be.    This great obedience culminated in God showing his pleasure in a wonderful and visible way, “Moses and Aaron then went into the Tent of Meeting.  When thy came out, they blessed the people; and the glory of the LORD appeared to all the people.  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 9:23-24). As Moses and Aaron had pleased the Lord in their great obedience, all rejoiced in this special new thing that God was doing.  For Aaron, particularly, this must have been exceedingly wonderful because he knew that it would be from his line that the priesthood would permanently spring.  There is no way that at this incredible moment, he could have anticipated what would come next.

 

While it was the best of times for Aaron, it quickly turned into the worst of times.  Aaron’s sons, after they had been consecrated to God with an anointing on their right ear, right thumb and their right big toe (symbolizing that in order to serve as a priest of God one must be cleansed from head to toe, which is a foreshadowing of the eventual work of Christ), quickly took advantage of their position and from the outset and offered “strange fire,” to the Lord.  There have been many theories about what this strange fire was but Wright’s explanation makes the most sense to me, viz., rather than getting the fire for the rites from inside the temple where they were instructed, for some reason they decided that it was just as good to import it from outside the tabernacle.  Surely to Aaron’s horror and heartbreak, God immediately consumed these two brothers with fire.  The question that we ask in circumstances like this is whether or not such a punishment seems overly harsh.  The answers that we have to these questions can be very obvious like, “we are all sinners and we will all die because of our sin eventually.”  While this is no doubt the case and a fact, the reality is also that God has certain expectations for those who walk with Him.  As Wright said so well, “the closer we get to God, the more holy we must be.”  This is a true statement that bears our own time of individual meditation.  Someone might protest, “this really doesn’t apply to me because these fellows were part of God’s priesthood and it should have been a matter of course that they be held to a higher standard than most of the rest of us.” While this may be the natural reaction for most of us, the reality is that if we know Jesus Christ as our personal savior, God has great expectations for us, “As you came to him, the living Stone – rejected by men but chosen by God and precious to him – you also, like living stones, are being built into a spiritual house to be a holy priesthood offering spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ” (I Peter 2:4-5).  So, we notice here that the corporate worship of God is not some legalistic expectation that others foist upon us, but that it is the natural desire of those who have been transformed by the living God.  When we worship God in the context of community we are actually doing our spiritual duty and living according to the heartbeat that began the day we were given a new nature.   So what do you think about this idea that the closer we grow to God, the more holy we are expected to be?  The only path to true intimacy with God is through surrender to Christ.  Surrender to Him today and begin a relationship that will grow deeper in relationship and greater in holiness throughout the course of your life.


[1]Carson, D. A.: New Bible Commentary : 21st Century Edition. 4th ed. Leicester, England; Downers Grove, Ill., USA : Inter-Varsity Press, 1994, S. Le 10:1