This morning I read Leviticus 8-10, chapters describing the inauguration of Aaron and his sons as priests before the Lord. As you can imagine, if you are familiar with Leviticus, there’s a lot of blood and sacrificing. At the end of the ceremony, as they have been washed, and the ceremonial robes are placed upon them, they must then wait 7 days at the entrance of the Tent of Meeting. Only then will they be qualified, will they be pure enough to minister to God’s people:
35 You must stay at the entrance to the tent of meeting day and night for seven days and do what the Lord requires, so you will not die; for that is what I have been commanded.”
36 So Aaron and his sons did everything the Lord commanded through Moses. (Lev 8:35-36)
This is an intimidating example for anyone in ministry. Does it take that much preparation to bring us to a place where we are worthy enough to minister?
I am so thankful that this cleansing has primarily been taken care of for me, through the death of Christ:
But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God. (1 Corinthians 6:11)
and that is a promise to all believers. Of course, I still believe I have a responsibility to maintain this purity that Christ has won for me, but I am conscious of this: the sacrifice was his, the cleansing is mine.
At the beginning of chapter 10 of Leviticus, there’s an unusual incident. Two of Aaron’s sons, who had also been consecrated to be priests, make a deadly mistake:
Aaron’s sons Nadab and Abihu took their censers, put fire in them and added incense; and they offered unauthorized fire before the Lord, contrary to his command. 2 So fire came out from the presence of the Lord and consumed them, and they died before the Lord. (Lev 10:1-2)
It seems as though they had used temple incense to light a fire outside of the Temple, or in some other forbidden way. In case we are ever tempted to domesticate God, or take his commandments lightly, here is a solemn reminder that he’s not kidding when he says things should be done a certain way. And I think the punishment was so harsh because the priests were supposed to be role models of obedience for the people. To treat the things of God casually could be a deadly cancer, and rather than let it spread, God excises it at the source.
To quote R.C. Sproul on this incident:
One aspect of the modern church that most saddens and concerns me is that believers are no longer encouraged to have a healthy fear of God. We seem to assume that the fear of the Lord is something that belonged to the Old Testament period and is not to be a part of the life of the Christian. But fear of God involves not simply a trembling before His wrath, but a sense of reverence and awe because of His glorious holiness.
Even though we are living on the finished side of the cross, the fear of the Lord is still the beginning of wisdom (Ps. 111:10a). God is still a consuming fire, a jealous God (Deut. 4:24). When we come into His presence, we are to come as children, as those who have been reconciled, but there is to be a godly fear inspired by respect for the One with whom we are dealing.
Perhaps the best advice we can take from these chapters is the summary at the end of chapter 8:
So Aaron and his sons did everything the Lord commanded through Moses.
For those of us who claim allegiance to Christ, and especially those in ministry who are called to set an example, we should do nothing less. Are there elements of our walk with Christ that we are casual about? Sins that we are flirting with? Out of reverence for Christ, and out of love for his bride… stop.