Leviticus is not a law book, it is a history book. This section whips us out of command after command and reminds us that we are reading a story. And this is an important moment to have our attention whipped back into focus because so much happens.
So far in Leviticus, we have seen descriptions of the sacrifices. These sacrifices need priests to carry them out. But last we saw from Aaron the head priest in the book of Exodus, he was begging for his life after building Israel an idol in the shape of a golden calf. What was the state of the priesthood going to be?
Well, here, we see that God has provided a way for Aaron and his sons to not only be forgiven of this terrible sin but also to serve inside his tabernacle as priests.
And that is by obeying all the commands God has been making in Exodus and Leviticus.
In chapter 8, Aaron and his sons are ordained as priests after following all the commands God gave back in Exodus 29. Then Chapter 9 shows the priests carrying out the sacrifices Leviticus has been commanded so far.
The result of this obedience is tremendous. God revealed his glory to all the people and sent fire out from himself to consume the burnt offering.
But, then, only one verse later, fire comes out from God again. This time, it is not the fire of worship, but the fire of judgement.
Up to this point, everything God commanded, Moses and the priests obeyed down to the letter. But here, Aaron’s sons, Nadab and Abihu, break the pattern of obedience. They bring a different fire into God’s presence than the one he lit.
In contrast to God accepting the worship of the obedient by sending fire to consume the animal sacrifice, here God judges the worship of the disobedient by sending fire to consume Nadab and Abihu.
God showed his glory to the people when he consumed the sacrifice. Here, God shows his holiness to the people by sending his fire of judgement. Which is exactly what God says immediately after this incident: “Among those who are near me I will be sanctified, and before all the people I will be glorified.”
God will show those who come near him that he is holy and set apart. And whether in worship or in judgement God’s glory will be displayed to all.
This can be a heavy story for us to consider. How can we ever hope to come near God if Aaron’s sons were burned up for bringing in the wrong kind of fire?
Jesus is our answer.
Jesus is the final high priest who perfectly obeyed every command, wish, and will of God. Therefore, he did not have to go through a process of ordination where blood was spilled to pay for his sins. He was perfect.
Now, since he shed his own blood for us we can approach God with boldness; not because of our goodness or accomplishments, but because we know that Jesus perfectly represents us before God.
The fire we deserve to have consume us was fully extinguished upon Christ’s body on the cross. And like the fire on the altar showed God’s acceptance of Israel’s sacrifice, so the fire of the Holy Spirit that indwells believers today shows that we have been made into acceptable living sacrifices to God.
Our ability to draw near to God is not based on how well we follow rules. The reason why we are not consumed by God’s holiness is because his holiness has come to live in us. He makes us fully acceptable so that we can be a kingdom of priests that never perish.
I pray that the Holy Spirit would give you eyes to see the God of perfect holiness and tremendous glory. And that you would see that Jesus is the only way we can enter into God’s holy presence and behold his glory with joyful worship.