In Leviticus 9, God lays out a course of action for the initiation of Aaron and his sons into the ministry. Only after making a blood offering for their own sins are they qualified to make an offering for the sins of the people. This sets the precedent for priestly service for the next thirteen-hundred-plus years while they wait for the Great High Priest that will trump all others that came before.
The air is filled with the scent of blood and burning flesh as bulls, rams, bread and oil go up in smoke on the altar while Aaron and his sons perform the duties required by the law. God is well-pleased with the offering and just as He promised, His glory fills the tabernacle in plain view of all the people. The crowd gasps as fire flashes before them and consumes the burnt offering on the altar right before their eyes.
Engulfed in the moment, the people shout and fall on their faces, worshipping the living God who strives to do everything He can to make Himself known to His people. It’s a Kodak moment as God’s perfect plan to bridge the gap is followed to a tee.
No sooner than taking this first step forward on the right foot, the project almost comes to a screeching halt. Aaron’s sons, Nadab and Abihu start to get heady with their newfound position and take a few liberties with their temple duties.
We see it all too often when newbie and sometimes older-but-don’t-know better preachers rise to the forefront of Christian celebridom. Most are ill-equipped to handle overnight success and Aaron’s sons were no different. As they rise up in the ranks, something inside of them causes them to believe they are more than they really are. That something is called pride.
In only their second week on the job, the two brothers make more than one fatal mistake. Careless with the details of God’s protocol, they fail to follow the meticulous guidelines laid out in their job description. Knowing beforehand that this is serious business, they take lightly the responsibility of representing God’s people. Unfortunately, it costs them everything. While you might be thinking God is unmerciful to smoke the priests for a couple of innocent mistakes, taking a closer look at the text offers some insight as to what exactly transpired that day.
In Leviticus 10:3, God says to Moses, “Among those who approach me I will be proven holy; in the sight of all the people I will be honored.” The Amplified Bible puts it this way: “I [and My will, not their own] will be acknowledged as hallowed by those who come near Me, and before all the people I will be honored.”
This isn’t an “I’m God and you’re not” standpoint. This is about 1. humility: acknowledging who you are as opposed to who God is; 2. obedience: doing what God said to do and not what you think you should or would like to do and 3. submission: humbling yourself and doing it God’s way whether you agree with it or not.
The consecration of the priesthood was to establish the foundation of priestly service for all time. It would set the very foundation for sinful man to come before a holy God. To approach God under the law and not adhere to the law was the kiss of death.
Aaron’s sons approached God with a prideful, independent spirit and a self-righteous attitude. They not only disregarded God’s explicit command regarding the sacrifice, they showed little care or concern for who He was and what He wanted. Worse yet, they ignored God’s protocol and did it blatantly in plain view of all the people.
God was intent on laying the groundwork to establish the foundation for all mankind to enter His presence. Keeping in mind the importance of Christ’s sacrifice to make a way for all to come into right relationship with Him, God simply could not dismiss their utter irreverence and outright disobedience, allowing them to trivialize the significance of the Cross.
Hebrews 10:11-18 states that every priest would stand ministering day after day offering sacrifices which can never take away sin, but Jesus by one offering negated the need for even one more sacrifice. Even further, He took away our sin, just as John the Baptist prophesied, “Behold the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world.” And not only that, but He made us holy once and for all.
In 2 Corinthians 5:21, the writer states that Jesus was made to be sin for us that we might be made the righteousness of God. Without setting this heavenly pattern, there would be no remission of sin for us today.
God saw the big picture. He had to deal with a defiant breach of the law that would compromise His ultimate plan to save the entire world through Jesus. When the glory of His presence was manifested with fire, the wayward priests were consumed and when Aaron was told why, he held his peace and said nothing because he knew for a fact that God was holy and righteous.
So how does all of this apply to you? First and foremost, are you coming before God by way of the cross or by another way? Secondly, are you doing things His way or yours? This applies to everyone who considers himself a Christian, including those in the five-fold ministry: pastors, teachers, evangelists, apostles and prophets. Whether it’s a big issue or a seemingly small thing, disobedience to the perfect will of God has significant consequences.
If you turn it around right now, God’s grace is there for you. But if you continue to do whatever you want to do, you will pay a price. The choice is yours. For those who are right with God, please keep doing so despite the temptation around you. The Church and the world needs your witness and example. Stand with others and encourage them also.
If you’re already off-track, get back on-track. God’s not done with you yet. Don’t you think He can use what you’ve been through to help someone else?
Doing things God’s way may take some minor or even major adjustments along the way. Be sensitive to His leading and direction. You won’t always know when you’re off-course. Challenging days are ahead and we need to help and encourage one another to stay focused and finish well.