Up until now, Moses had been offering the sacrifices. In Leviticus 9, Aaron and his sons step into their role as priests by offering a bull calf as a sin offering and a ram as a burnt offering every morning and evening. Each day began and ended in consecration to the LORD. What an example for us to follow! We can begin and end our days in prayerful consecration to God. I am up early this morning and will pause right now to do that!
I think it is interesting to note that Aaron offered a bull calf after having made a golden calf in Exodus 32. Just sayin'.
The Scarlet Thread of Redemption
The priests had to offer sacrifices every day for their own sins before they could offer sacrifices for the people. This whole system was set up by God so that His people could have access to Him through each atoning sacrifice. Without the sacrifice, the LORD could not appear to them (9:6) because they were sinful people. With this system, He could dwell among them and be their God (Exodus 29:45). Jesus Christ was the great High Priest who made a better way:
Therefore He [Jesus] is able also to save forever those who draw near to God through Him, since He always lives to make intercession for them. For it was fitting for us to have such a high priest, holy, innocent, undefiled, separated from sinners and exalted above the heavens; who does not need daily, like those high priests, to offer up sacrifices, first for His own sins and then for the sins of the people, because this He did once for all when He offered up Himself. For the Law appoints men as high priests who are weak, but the word of the oath, which came after the Law, appoints a Son, made perfect forever. (Hebrews 7:25-28)
After Aaron had performed the offerings for the people (9:15-22) and Moses and Aaron blessed them, the glory of the LORD appeared! What a sight that must have been! They had done "all the things which the LORD had commanded through Moses" (8:36). What a happy moment.
But then the sad part happened . . .
But then the sad part happened . . .
Aaron's joy of watching his sons consecrated was turned to sorrow when his two eldest sons, Nadab and Abihu (Exodus 6:23; 28:1), offered fire that the Lord had not commanded. As a result, fire came out from God's presence and consumed them.
There has been much speculation about the "strange fire" of Nadab and Abihu. Some have even suggested that since Aaron and the remaining sons were instructed not to drink wine or strong drink (10:9) that maybe Nadab and Abihu were drunk. We do not know, but one thing is for sure, they did not do "all the things which the LORD had commanded Moses" (8:36). That was enough.
Moses summed it up in what he told Aaron, “It is what the Lord spoke, saying, ‘By those who come near Me I will be treated as holy, and before all the people I will be honored’ (Leviticus 10:3). Aaron's silence must have been heartbreaking. What a crushing thing for a father.
REFLECTION (from 2008)
My heart aches for Aaron. Did God have to consume them to get His point across? They were new at this whole job of being priests in the tabernacle. I have often thought His actions were so very harsh, but as I meditated on 10:3 today, I see that holiness is serious business to God.
I do not want to treat the justice and holiness of God flippantly. What a privilege it is to draw near to God, and I want to draw near to Him in reverence and fear. As fellow Bible Book Club member, Laura, and I met today, we prayed, "I will ascribe to You the glory due You name and worship You in the beauty of holiness" (1 Chronicles 16:29).
In that moment, I felt so humbled before Him in light of His holiness. God is so big, and I am so small. I want my life to be one of worship and respect for God as I come into His presence. I want to treat Him as holy, and I want to honor Him in my surrender and service. I want to do all that He has commanded.
Pray through 1 Chronicles 16:25-30 and enter into pure, unhindered worship of our holy God!
Here are the words to a hymn that speaks of our holiness:
"Take Time to Be Holy" (William D. Longstaff, 1882)
Take time to be holy, speak oft with thy Lord;
Abide in Him always, and feed on His Word.
Make friends of God’s children, help those who are weak,
Forgetting in nothing His blessing to seek.
Take time to be holy, the world rushes on;
Spend much time in secret, with Jesus alone.
By looking to Jesus, like Him thou shalt be;
Thy friends in thy conduct His likeness shall see.
Take time to be holy, let Him be thy Guide;
And run not before Him, whatever betide.
In joy or in sorrow, still follow the Lord,
And, looking to Jesus, still trust in His Word.
Take time to be holy, be calm in thy soul,
Each thought and each motive beneath His control.
Thus led by His Spirit to fountains of love,
Thou soon shalt be fitted for service above.
Holy God, help us, by the power of Your Holy Spirit, to live holy lives before You. Amen.