Profane Fire Before the Lord
We use a fist bump to show a special approval of someone we know and meet up with. It is more friendly than a handshake, and it is definitely not something that we would consider offering to someone of higher stature than we are unless they offered one first.
In other words, when meeting the president, we would be foolish to put out our fist and say, “Hey Don, put it there buddy.” He very well may put it there, but he also may think, “What an arrogant jerk.” Rather, etiquette would have us wait for him to make the first offer, and then we would respond to that. This is an unwritten code, and yet it is a sensible thing to do because this is what culture expects.
In the case of God, we too often act as if we have a right to extend our hand in a fist bump and expect that He will respond accordingly. Preachers treat him this way, and the stupidity of it has flowed down to the youngest child in the pews.
Christian radio will often speak of the personal nature of our relationship with God because of Christ, but they will, at times, bring it down to that close and personal fist bump level. We are the initiators of it, and He will certainly respond accordingly.
In many ways, the sense of the true and absolute holiness of God is all but gone except in a very few churches in regard to the whole. But God is God. Despite having come in the form of man, and having lived among us, we must remember that He is holy. It is His very nature.
Reading the law is a good thing because it reminds us of that. Today’s passage is a perfect example for us to study and consider. Yes, we are under a far superior covenant, with a much closer and more personal Mediator, but we are still the created, and He is the Creator. Let us remember this as we live in His presence.
Text Verse: “Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom which cannot be shaken, let us have grace, by which we may serve God acceptably with reverence and godly fear. 29 For our God is a consuming fire.” Hebrews 12:28, 29
Hebrews is a part of which testament? Anyone? Really? The New? But it says that we are to serve God acceptably, with reverence and godly fear. What about the fist bumping? Does that qualify? Let us not treat our position in Christ as something that allows us to be flippant in our attitude toward the Lord. And let us not deviate from the sound and fixed words of instruction we have been given.
Two of Aaron’s sons did exactly this, and it cost them their lives. We have an anointing that rests upon us which asks us to be holy, not to act as if we are above the very word that led us to the position we now possess. May this precious word instruct us, fill us and guide us all our days as we live in His glorious presence, performing our duties to Him and for His honor. The way to do this is to be found in His superior word. And so let’s turn to that precious word once again and… May God speak to us through His word today and may His glorious name ever be praised.
I. Fire From the Lord (verses 1 & 2)
In the Bible, and especially during the time of the giving of the law, there are things which are prescribed, and then there is often a noted incident where a violation of that thing which is prescribed occurs. This is then followed with a most severe punishment for the violation. For example, in Leviticus, there is a violation of blaspheming the name of the Lord which is followed with the punishment of being stoned to death. The same is true in Numbers with a violation of the Sabbath. It is certain, as the Bible records, that other such violations were not handled in the same manner. But the examples are given to show what is the just due for violating such a law. In not executing judgment on the first of such a violation, it would set a precedent that such an evil act or tendency was actually acceptable and that nothing would ever be done about such infractions.
In the coming verses, we will see such an instance. Laws were given, standards were expected, and the holiness of God was to be considered. If the Lord did not take the action that He took, it would have set the precedent that nothing would be done about all future violations that matched what occurred here. In fact, it would demonstrate an unjust and fickle nature of God to let the first instance be overlooked, and then to arbitrarily choose to punish a later violation of the same nature.
However, no such fickleness would be seen if a later violation was forgiven. Instead, it would demonstrate the merciful nature of God whose holiness was again violated, but who was willing to forgive the transgression nonetheless. Understanding this, each one of us has seen the latter aspect of God.
We have been the recipients of His mercy when we were once objects of His wrath. Thank God that He did not hold us to the same standard as those who at first offended Him. Keep these things in mind as you ponder what happens in this account, and what really should happen to all people who are separated from the infinite holiness of God.
Then Nadab and Abihu,
These two sons of Aaron were introduced into the Bible in Exodus 6:23 in the genealogical listing of the family of Moses and Aaron. They were then invited up Mount Sinai with Moses, Aaron, and seventy of Israel’s elders. There they had a meal in the presence of God. They were then called by name to minister as priests before the Lord, along with their father and two brothers in Exodus 28.
Nadav means something like Volunteer, or Willing (in the sense of willing to give). It comes from a primitive root which gives the sense of volunteering or offering something spontaneously. Avihu means something like “Whose Father (is) He,” when referring to God. Understanding that the term “father” in the Bible signifies one who is in authority, and thus to whom respect and honor is due. It is something implied in the use of the term. Thus one under the father’s authority is under obligation to perform their duty when requested.
1 (con’t) the sons of Aaron,
Now they are introduced alone, apart from their father for the first time. Unfortunately, being unattended by their father, they assumed they could be true men of Israel on their own accord and stand before the Lord in whatever manner of their choosing. The Bible will later note that neither has children, and so they are still certainly young. Their youthful indiscretion will be a most costly lesson for the priestly line of Israel, and for Aaron in particular.
1 (con’t) each took his censer and put fire in it, put incense on it, and offered profane fire before the Lord,
The sins to be found in these recorded words are several. First, each took his censer. This implies that that these were censers not fashioned for use in the sanctuary, and which had not been part of the consecration process. The word for censer in Hebrew is makhtah. It comes from the word khathath which means terror, ruin, or destruction. It is a fitting concept in regards to what occurs.
This is the first time that this word has been translated as “censer,” and yet it is certainly correct in its use. Their using it in this manner shows that not everything that was to be done in the sanctuary was specifically recorded. Rather, there were rites and implements which had purpose which are not specifically a part of the written code, or which will later be included as a part of the written code. Such is the case with this type of censer.
Secondly, they came together to offer incense. This was a duty which was only to be conducted by one attending priest at a time.
Thirdly, incense offered in a censer was only allowed by the high priest. According to the law, it is never noted as an offering made by anyone but him. The incense offered by the other priests was burnt in the golden altar in the holy place, or along with offerings on the brazen altar, but never in censers.
Forth, it says that they offered profane (meaning strange) fire. According to verse 16:12, the high priest was to take the fire for the incense from the brazen altar, which had been sanctified by the Lord’s fire. It is the same fire which had come out and burnt the ordination offering on it. This is the fire that was to never be extinguished from that first time it was lit. It is a celestial fire, having been sanctified by Yehovah himself.
Instead of using this fire, sanctified by the Lord, they lit their own fire to ignite the incense. The word used to describe the fire is zarah which means “another.” It can be used when speaking of another god, an adulteress who goes after another, etc. They failed to use what was holy and fitting for their offering and instead used that which was another; thus it was profane.
Fifth, it says that they offered this profane fire liphne Yehovah, or “in the face of the Lord.” This could be disregarded as a mere idiom that they did it in any given spot, intending it to be as an offering to the Lord, but such is not the case.
Rather, they went directly to the Most Holy Place, and there they offered this incense. We know this is the case because Leviticus 16 begins with these words –
“Now the Lord spoke to Moses after the death of the two sons of Aaron, when they offered profane fire before the Lord, and died; 2 and the Lord said to Moses: “Tell Aaron your brother not to come at just any time into the Holy Place inside the veil, before the mercy seat which is on the ark, lest he die; for I will appear in the cloud above the mercy seat.” Leviticus 16:1, 2
It is after the death of these two sons that the Lord warns Aaron that even he is not allowed to come anytime he wished inside the veil. The implication is that this was at least a part of why they were destroyed, along with all the other infractions of their assigned sacred duties.
Verse 4 seems to imply that their bodies were laying before the sanctuary when they were to be carried out, and almost all great and noted scholars cite this being the case. However, the word when translated as “sanctuary” is not correct. We will see the intended meaning when we get there. It does not merely mean that they were to be taken away from the sanctuary’s presence.
In all, these transgressions demonstrated an uncaring attitude towards the highly specific, God-directed, commands that had been previously laid out. They probably felt that because they were ordained as priests, they had a run of the place and that they were even above the laws which ordained them in the first place, something not uncommon in those ordained, even to this day.
Ancient tradition, which is actually included in verse 9 of the Palestinian Chaldee version, says that these two sons had drank too much of the drink offerings and were therefore drunk at the time they did this. This seems more than possible, because the very first prohibition after this account is finished is that of the priests not drinking alcohol when they performed their duties before the Lord. It is thus one of only two instances in the Bible that the drinking of alcohol is expressly forbidden, the second being during the performance of a Nazirite vow in Numbers 6.
1 (con’t) which He had not commanded them.
asher lo tsivah otam – “that no commanded them.” This is a figure of speech where the negative form is used for an emphatic affirmative. Thus, there is more to be understood than is expressed in the words. Not only did they do something which was without some sort of command or authority from God, but they did it against his expressed command. Therefore, it should read something like, “…which was expressly forbidden to them.”
There is no such command recorded for us to read, but not everything they were told to do is necessarily recorded. And even more, it is implicitly to be understood from Leviticus 6:12 that the only authorized fire to be used is to come from the fire sanctified by the Lord when He consumed the offering of the ordination. The two sons have done what was expressly forbidden, and in so doing, there is now a consequence for their actions…
va’tese esh miliphne Yehovah va’tokal otam – “And there went out fire from the face of Yehovah and consumed them.” It is the exact same words, word for word, which were used only 2 verses earlier, but instead of “them,” it spoke of the offering on the altar. The timing of this event is made all the more notable because it was the last thing recorded, right at the end of Chapter 9 –
“Then Aaron lifted his hand toward the people, blessed them, and came down from offering the sin offering, the burnt offering, and peace offerings. 23 And Moses and Aaron went into the tabernacle of meeting, and came out and blessed the people. Then the glory of the Lord appeared to all the people, 24 and fire came out from before the Lord and consumed the burnt offering and the fat on the altar. When all the people saw it, they shouted and fell on their faces.” Leviticus 9:22-24
The words are the same, the Source is the same, the effect is the same, and yet the result is quite the opposite. Life and acceptance was realized in the offering upon the altar; death and disavowal was realized in these two young men.
1 Peter 4, citing an example found in Ezekiel 8, tells us that judgment begins at the house of God. Such is the case here. It is the first such time it is seen in Scripture, right at the very beginning of the time of the Aaronic priesthood, but it will not be the last. This, however, is a truly memorable incident which follows directly on the heels of that other memorable incident.
The Lord had shown His approval of the ordination process, He had accepted the offering made to Him, and He thus indicated that the ministry of Aaron and his sons would be acceptable before him. The fire of the Lord indicated all of this. It was a fire of approval, acceptance, and affirmation. But within an extremely short period of time, be it minutes or hours, His fire became one of disapproval, disavowal, and destruction.
The same sanctifying fire of the Lord which came out to acknowledge and accept the sanctity of the ordination process had now come out to sanctify that which had been profaned after completion of the ordination process. Instead of an offering for sin upon the altar, their lives were taken. Paul speaks of exactly this concept in 2 Corinthians 2:14-16 –
“Now thanks be to God who always leads us in triumph in Christ, and through us diffuses the fragrance of His knowledge in every place. 15 For we are to God the fragrance of Christ among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing. 16 To the one we are the aroma of death leading to death, and to the other the aroma of life leading to life.”
A New Testament example of what has occurred here is found in Acts 5 –
But a certain man named Ananias, with Sapphira his wife, sold a possession. 2 And he kept back part of the proceeds, his wife also being aware of it, and brought a certain part and laid it at the apostles’ feet. 3 But Peter said, “Ananias, why has Satan filled your heart to lie to the Holy Spirit and keep back part of the price of the land for yourself? 4 While it remained, was it not your own? And after it was sold, was it not in your own control? Why have you conceived this thing in your heart? You have not lied to men but to God.”
5 Then Ananias, hearing these words, fell down and breathed his last. So great fear came upon all those who heard these things. 6 And the young men arose and wrapped him up, carried him out, and buried him.
She said, “Yes, for so much.”
9 Then Peter said to her, “How is it that you have agreed together to test the Spirit of the Lord? Look, the feet of those who have buried your husband are at the door, and they will carry you out.” 10 Then immediately she fell down at his feet and breathed her last. And the young men came in and found her dead, and carrying her out, buried her by her husband. 11 So great fear came upon all the church and upon all who heard these things.
What happened to Nadav and Avihu is certainly what happened to Ananias and Sapphira. In verse 5, we will see that these two will be carried out by their tunics. Because of this, the fire of the Lord spoken of here is a not a fire of heat, but one which quenches life nonetheless, just as it was in Acts. The price for the disobedience in both of these instances was high because there is always the necessity of God vindicating His own glorious majesty.
Having said this, there is no reason to make the mental jump from temporal judgment to eternal punishment. Such is the case in both Leviticus and Acts. God knows who are His, and He will choose the discipline or punishment He feels is worthy of the offense, both in order to rectify the situation, and to demonstrate and reveal His divine attributes as He sees fit. And just because some are punished more severely than others, it does not mean that their position in heaven is necessarily forfeit. Of this verse, Adam Clarke judiciously notes –
“The Lord is a consuming fire! He will either hallow or destroy us: he will purify our souls by the influence of his Spirit, or consume them with the breath of his mouth! The tree which is properly planted in a good soil is nourished by the genial influences of the sun: pluck it up from its roots, and the sun which was the cause of its vegetative life and perfection now dries up its juices, decomposes its parts, and causes it to moulder into dust. Thus must it be done to those who grieve and do despite to the Spirit of God. Reader, hast thou this heavenly fire? Hear then the voice of God, Quench not the Spirit.” Clarke
Profane fire is offered to the Lord
Wrath and indignation is the result
First and foremost we should have checked His word
What has happened is only our fault
The Lord has shown us what is right and good
What is proper is carefully laid out
His word is not difficult; it can be understood
In careful study, we can be sure – having no doubt
But it is so much easier to have our ears tickled
Careful study is hard work, it causes the head pain
But if we allow ourselves to stew and become pickled
We will throw our heavenly rewards right down the drain
Help us Lord, to be attentive to Your word
Help us to pay attention to the instruction we have heard
II. The Holiness of the Lord (verses 3-7)
Moses immediately steps in to keep the situation from getting out of hand. He already knows the glory of the Lord in a way no other person could imagine. And so he reminds Aaron of the penalty for displaying anything other than holiness, even now. Moses is even more concerned about Aaron’s life being kept safe than he is about his emotional distress at the loss of his sons.
Therefore, in order to keep him from doing something rash and also dying before the Lord, he reminds him of the Lord’s own words. None of what he says next is a direct quote of anything we have read, but the principles have already been seen several times.
In other words, what Moses says is to be taken in a reflective tense, not a passive one. It is how things are with God at all times. He was this way; He is this way. Everything about how the Lord has dealt with Israel, Moses, and Aaron has been a demonstration of what Moses will now speak. He simply speaks of the judgment of God which always exists and which necessitated what came about.
3 (con’t) ‘By those who come near Me
I must be regarded as holy;
biqrovay e-qadesh – “In those who come near me, I will be shown as holy.” The words here bear directly on what will be said in the next verse. They are words which confirm that the two sons of Aaron died, not in the courtyard, but in the Most Holy Place, there before the Ark itself where they had gone to present their fatal offering of incense before the Lord.
They had made a sad lapse in judgment, assuming that they were immune from judgment, and thus above the law of the Lord, because of their consecrated status. Assuming they were encouraged with a little wine as well, they were emboldened when they should have been humble. They were tipsy when they should have been of sound mind. And they were set on a course of death rather than one of life.
The cherubim woven into the veil warned them of attempting to work their way into paradise, but they brushed the figures aside and proudly produced their scented offering. But it bore the stench of death, not the aroma of life. They drew near to holiness, but their hearts, filled with pride at their newly attained office, were their downfall in that Most Holy presence.
He had shown that in those who come near Him, He would be seen as holy. He had done this for them in the ordination process, but they had failed to live up to what was bestowed upon them, and so He was shown holy in them through the punishment He inflicted.
3 (con’t) And before all the people
I must be glorified.’”
v’al pene kal ha’am ekaved – “and before face (of) all the people, I will glorify myself.” The Lord had shown His glory numerous times already, and so it should have been a perfectly understood axiom that He was, in fact, glorious. The garments of the priests were given, as we were told, for glory and for beauty.
These things, and countless others, were done to display the glory of God to the people. He glorifies Himself in such ways. But when one of his chosen priests sinned openly and in a public way, he vindicated His honor and His glory through their destruction. There is nothing arbitrary or unreasonable about what has occurred. It was evident from His first dealings with Israel, and it had become even more evident with each step of the process that led them to where they were at the moment.
If we consider this from our own time and situation, how much more just and acceptable will it be when He glorifies Himself through judgment on the world in the tribulation period. We have another 3500 years of proofs of His glory demonstrated in fulfilled prophecy – in Christ the Lord, in His church, and in His return of Israel to their land. Imagine the severity of judgment which is due upon the false preachers, teachers, and ministers of His word.
3 (con’t) So Aaron held his peace.
v’yidom aharon – “and was mute Aaron.” Upon realizing the just nature of what occurred, Aaron completely shut up any possible questioning of the Lord’s judgment. He realized that what happened was just, it was right, and it was necessary. It reflects the words of David in the 39th Psalm –
We can rage against the judgments of man. We can be angry at the unfair decisions of our boss. We can shake our fist in the judge’s face, or demonstrate against the injustices brought upon us by our government, but we cannot question the Lord’s decisions. What He determines is perfect, fair, and final. It is a lesson Paul passes on to both Jew and Gentile as he sums up a portion of his argument in the book of Romans –
“Now we know that whatever the law says, it says to those who are under the law, that every mouth may be stopped, and all the world may become guilty before God.” Romans 3:19
The Lord is a consuming fire, and He is especially jealous for the sake of His own holy name. When that name is dishonored, or when His glory is diminished through the actions of His chosen, a demonstration of wrath is the natural result. Therefore, we should pray as the Shulamite did towards her beloved –
“Set me as a seal upon your heart,
As a seal upon your arm;
For love is as strong as death,
Jealousy as cruel as the grave;
Its flames are flames of fire,
A most vehement flame.” Song of Solomon 8:6
Moses now has a duty which needed be attended to. There are two corpses which must be removed from the camp. This cannot be accomplished by Aaron or one of his remaining sons. To touch a dead body would defile them, and they could not perform their duties. And so he calls for Mishael and Eltsaphan.
Mishael means “Who (is) what God (is)? Eltsaphan means something like “God has concealed,” or “God has hidden.” These two are the sons of Uzziel, or God of Strength. He is the uncle of Aaron, making the other two his cousins. The word for “uncle” is dod, which interestingly and literally means “Beloved.” They now have a somber duty awaiting them.
4 (con’t) “Come near, carry your brethren from before the sanctuary out of the camp.”
The words here are very precise. Two verbs in a row without any adjoining “and” begin the clause. It simply says, qirbu se-u – “go near; carry.” He uses the verb form of the adjective that he just used in verse 3, qarav, or “come near.”
It then says that they are to carry their brothers, meaning their relatives, from the face of “the holy.” He repeats another word that he just cited of the Lord in the previous verse, qadosh, or “holy.” The Lord said, “In those who come near me, I will be shown as holy.” Now he says “Come near, carry your brothers from the face of ha’qodesh, or the holy.”
He is explicitly instructing them to do what would otherwise be forbidden. Nobody but a priest could enter the presence of the Lord, but the exceptional circumstances demanded exceptional actions. They were to enter the presence of the Lord and remove the bodies of those in whom He had shown Himself holy.
A picture is formed out of these seven names. Moses, or “He who draws out” calls Mishael and Eltsaphan, or “Who (is) what God (is)?, and “God has concealed,” for a task. They are the sons of “God is My Strength.” Who is the beloved of Aaron, or “Very High.” They are to carry out Nadav or “Willing,” and Avihu, or “Whose Father (is) He.”
The entire verse points to the work of Christ who 1) draws out for us the nature of God so that we can understand it. It is He 2) who is what God is, and He reveals what 3) God has concealed. In these revelations of Himself, He is the Son of 4) the God of Strength and who is the 5) Beloved of the one who is 6) Very High, meaning God the Father. The dead are the 7) Willing and 8) whose Father (meaning God) is He. The unfortunate death of these two men is recorded in the most marvelous way to give us a snapshot of the incarnation and death of Jesus Christ. It is that by which the Lord, in the highest sense, has shown Himself holy.
The two cousins of Aaron do as they are directed. Having the expressed permission to enter the Most Holy Place, they retrieve the bodies of Nadav and Avihu and carry them, by their priestly garments, out of the camp. Tradition holds that the garments of the priests, when worn out, were used as wicks for use in the lamps of the sanctuary. However, these could not be so used as they were defiled. They, together with the corpses of the bodies, were buried outside the camp.
Several scholars have deduced from verses such as this that modern practices of burying people within the confines of cities is an abhorrent practice. They go further then and note that it is utterly contemptible that the dead should be buried on the grounds of churches. That is both highly legalistic, and it is stupid.
The camp of Israel cannot be equated with any such notion in either the modern city or the church. Common sense and reason does need to be used when considering our internment processes. The defilement caused by death ceased in Christ. Death has lost its sting, and a dead body is simply a shell which will decompose, but which possesses no power to cause the redeemed to become unclean. This is a precept of the law which is fulfilled in Christ.
As far as the account in Leviticus, it is now the 8th day of the ordination process, and it is just 6 days before the Passover was to be slain. Because of their defilement in touching these corpses, they will now be excluded from being allowed to participate in the Passover. Thus, they are at least partly included in the account recorded in Numbers 9 –
Now there were certain men who were defiled by a human corpse, so that they could not keep the Passover on that day; and they came before Moses and Aaron that day. 7 And those men said to him, “We became defiled by a human corpse. Why are we kept from presenting the offering of the Lord at its appointed time among the children of Israel?”
9 Then the Lord spoke to Moses, saying, 10 “Speak to the children of Israel, saying: ‘If anyone of you or your posterity is unclean because of a corpse, or is far away on a journey, he may still keep the Lord’s Passover. 11 On the fourteenth day of the second month, at twilight, they may keep it. They shall eat it with unleavened bread and bitter herbs. 12 They shall leave none of it until morning, nor break one of its bones. According to all the ordinances of the Passover they shall keep it. 13 But the man who is clean and is not on a journey, and ceases to keep the Passover, that same person shall be cut off from among his people, because he did not bring the offering of the Lord at its appointed time; that man shall bear his sin. Numbers 9:6-13
The priests were held to a very high standard, as we will see with other such things that will continue to be required within the law. The word used concerning uncovering the head is para. This comes from a root which means “to loosen.” Thus the idea is to let the hair be free or disheveled, or to shave it off such as in a sign of mourning. To so uncover one’s head or to tear the clothes were outward signs of mourning.
However, because they were adorned in their priestly clothes, they were to maintain dignity and honor before Lord, thus showing the Lord as holy, exactly as was stated explicitly in verse 3.
Eventually, the law will specify in chapter 21 that the priests who were sons of Aaron could show signs of mourning for their close relatives, but in verse 21:10 it says that the high priest could never uncover his head or tear his clothes. At this time, Aaron and both his sons had the anointing oil on them, and they were thus held to the highest standard of all.
Further, such signs could imply to others that they believed the punishment was unmerited and they were accusing the Lord of unjust severity in His actions. Should they treat Him as unholy again, as Nadav and Avihu did, then there would be consequences…
6 (con’t) lest you die, and wrath come upon all the people.
The Lord has already shown that the severest punishment would result from such an offense. How much more if the offenses continued right on the heels of His judgment on the first offense! The only thing they could expect would be death. But even more, wrath would come upon all the people. There would be no ordained mediator left for the people, and as we saw in Chapter 4 concerning the sin offerings, guilt would then be on all.
Without a high priest to mediate, only guilt would remain, and with guilt then only wrath could be the just due. They had verbally agreed to the terms of the covenant, and they had made themselves liable to all that it encompassed when they did. This included placing themselves under the high priest as their sole mediator before the Lord. This concept of a corporate sense of belonging continues on in the church. As Paul says in 1 Corinthians 12:26 –
“And if one member suffers, all the members suffer with it; or if one member is honored, all the members rejoice with it.”
6 (con’t) But let your brethren, the whole house of Israel, bewail the burning which the Lord has kindled.
The word says, “And let your brothers.” It could be translated as “but,” thus showing a contrast to Aaron and his sons, but it could also mean something entirely different. If the intent is “and,” which seems likely, then the verse would read, “And let your brethren, the whole house of Israel morn over the burning that the Lord has kindled.” Instead of mourning over the lost sons of Aaron, it is a mourning directed to the people of Israel who had seen the glory of the Lord diminished through the actions of their representatives.
At the very beginning of the priesthood, which comprises the mediatorial aspect of the Law of Moses, there had been a major failing which resulted in the indignation of the Lord, and an outward sign of His vast displeasure at their conduct under the law. From the outset of the priests’ mediation of the law, death was the first thing seen.
This then is set in direct contrast to the mediation of Christ under the New Covenant. Instead of death, God had accepted the first duties of the Mediator, His atoning sacrifice, and approved of it. Having so approved of it, He confirmed that approval in the… resurrection. It is the ultimate sign of His extreme approval at Christ’s conduct under this New Covenant.
The contrast could not be clearer. Instead of the fallible, and sin-filled nature of the priests of the Aaronic priesthood, we see the infallible, sinless nature of Christ the High Priest of the New Covenant. In all ways, His is the superior mediation.
This is telling them that they were not to follow Mishael and Eltsphan to the burial, nor were they to attend any funeral service which would be conducted, thus taking them from their place at the door of the tent of meeting. As I said, there are similar prohibitions which are specifically stated for the high priest in Chapter 21 –
“He who is the high priest among his brethren, on whose head the anointing oil was poured and who is consecrated to wear the garments, shall not uncover his head nor tear his clothes; 11 nor shall he go near any dead body, nor defile himself for his father or his mother; 12 nor shall he go out of the sanctuary, nor profane the sanctuary of his God; for the consecration of the anointing oil of his God is upon him: I am the Lord.” Leviticus 21:10-12
The high priest was never to leave the sanctuary at such a time, lest it would appear to the people that he had a greater duty to attend to the dead than minister between the people and the living God. Such is the case now for not only the high priest, but for his sons also. Service to the Lord comes before all things.
7 (con’t)for the anointing oil of the Lord is upon you.”
The anointing oil is symbolic of the Holy Spirit. He is a Spirit of life, not death. As this is so, they were to have nothing in common with death because sin is the source of death. In Christ, we are reckoned as dead to sin because of His work. We are dead to the law, and thus dead to sin. This is why we are, according to Paul, sealed with the Holy Spirit upon belief. Again, the contrast is made perfectly clear that the Law of Moses is wholly inferior to the New Covenant in Christ.
*7 (fin)And they did according to the word of Moses.
The obedience of Aaron to the word of Moses is explicitly stated here to show that Aaron and his sons understood the gravity of the situation, and were obedient to the precept. It was a lesson for them, and for the people of Israel, that the priests were first and foremost responsible to the Lord. From this, there would always be the reminder of how the priests were to conduct themselves.
The failings of future priests, and what occurs to them for their failures, would be understood in accord with this first precedent- setting account which came at the very inception of the priesthood. As a sober warning, Adam Clarke states these words concerning this passage –
“Every part of the religion of God is Divine. He alone knew what he designed by its rites and ceremonies, for that which they prefigured – the whole economy of redemption by Christ – was conceived in his own mind, and was out of the reach of human wisdom and conjecture. He therefore who altered any part of this representative system, who omitted or added any thing, assumed a prerogative which belonged to God alone, and was certainly guilty of a very high offense against the wisdom, justice, and righteousness of his Maker.” Adam Clarke
Adam Clarke is spot on. The sons of Aaron added to the word of God, doing that which their own minds conjured up, and they suffered for it. The warning to not add to or subtract from God’s word is repeated several times in Scripture. Under the New Covenant, we are given broad latitude in conducting our lives, both personal and religious, in the presence of the Lord.
However, we are also given many specific and direct admonitions as well. We are not to depart from them, and we are not to add to them in the sense of mandating that which is contrary to His word. I personally tremble for the many pastors who stand in the pulpit and claim a word from the Lord in order to conduct their ministries as they see fit, or to impose upon the congregation in a manner which suits them, but is not according to Scripture. Let us never allow this into our lives.
Rather, let us offer holy fire to the Lord, in accord with His word and in a manner which He will find acceptable. But, there is the truth that no offering to the Lord can be considered acceptable unless we first belong to that same Lord. The way to do this is through calling on Jesus. Only through that act can we be reconciled to God the Father, and only in that can we then make right offerings to Him.
Closing Verse: “For if the ministry of condemnation had glory, the ministry of righteousness exceeds much more in glory. 10 For even what was made glorious had no glory in this respect, because of the glory that excels. 11 For if what is passing away was glorious, what remains is much more glorious.” 2 Corinthians 3:9-11
Next Week: Leviticus 10:8-20 It’s really cold at this temperature you know… (Absolute Zero) (15th Leviticus Sermon)
The Lord has you exactly where He wants you. He has a good plan and purpose for you. Even if you have a lifetime of sin heaped up behind you, He can wash it away and purify you completely and wholly. So follow Him and trust Him and He will do marvelous things for you and through you.
The Burning Which the Lord Has Kindled
Then Nadab and Abihu, the sons of Aaron
Each took his censer and put fire in it, put incense on it
And offered profane fire before the Lord
Which He had not commanded them; not good we must admit
So fire went out from the Lord, a deadly sword
And devoured them, and they died before the Lord
And Moses said to Aaron, “This is what the Lord spoke, saying:
These words to him he was relaying
By those who come near Me
I must be regarded as holy
And before all the people I must be glorified
So Aaron held his peace, after his sons had died
Then Moses called Mishael and Elzaphan
The sons of Uzziel the uncle of Aaron, and to them said
“Come near, carry your brethren from before the sanctuary
Out of the camp, now that they are dead
So they went near and carried them by their tunics out of the camp
As Moses had said; according to his authoritative stamp
And Moses said to Aaron
And to Eleazar and Ithamar, his sons, as well
“Do not uncover your heads nor tear your clothes, lest you die
And wrath come upon all the people, as to you I tell
But let your brethren, the whole house of Israel
Bewail the burning which the Lord has kindled, for a spell
You shall not go out from the door
Of the tabernacle of meeting, lest you die; so you have heard
For the anointing oil of the Lord is upon you
And they did according to Moses’ word
Lord, how good we have it in the age of grace
We have the whole word laid out before us
In obedience to You we are sure of a heavenly place
By faith, and faith alone in the finished work of Jesus
This is what Your word tells us
That the law only brought death, sorrow, and pain
But now we are saved by faith alone, nothing plus
Help us not to throw such a gift right down the drain
Give us wisdom to pursue You through Your superior word
And be obedient to it by calling on Jesus
Yes, may we not deviate from the gospel we have heard
And which is able to save each and every one of us
Hallelujah to You, O God, hear our praise!
Hallelujah to You, O Lord, as to you our voices raise!
Hallelujah and Amen…