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Thursday, February 18, 2016

The Fire: A Sign For Joy Or A Sign Of Judgment

"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. So fire came from the presence of the Lord and consumed them, and they died before the Lord." (Leviticus 10:1-2)

The fire falls and ignites the sacrifices (9:24). The fire serves as a visible demonstration that God accepts the sacrifices of His people. In fact, the fire falling in the Old Testament serves the very same purpose as the resurrection of Christ in the New Testament. The resurrection is God's demonstration of His acceptance of the Son's sacrifice on behalf of sinners just as the fire demonstrated His acceptance of the Levitical sacrifice.

The sad corollary to this story, however, is the death of Nadab and Abihu. The fire, a sign of God's acceptance, became instead, a source of judgment to those who dishonored God's holiness. Nadab and Abihu act contrary to God's prescribed way and add incense to the fire in their censers. The fire that consumes the sacrifice in the previous chapter now consumes Aaron's sons. 

After the resurrection the leaders of the Jews denied an event that they knew had taken place. Their unbelief brought them great judgment from God. Eventually the temple itself was destroyed. In the same way Nadab and Abihu profaned God's holiness and presumed upon their position. Whatever other sins they may have committed (drinking or possibly - v. 9 - or entering the Holy of Holies), the Bible clearly teaches that they died because they did not honor God's holiness.

The great lesson for today is the necessity of insuring that our worship is acceptable to God. Not all worship is acceptable to God. In Leviticus worship was acceptable when God's prescribed sacrifice is offered on the altar by God's mediator. Likewise, Hebrews (the New Testament commentary on Leviticus) tells us that because of the death of Christ we can draw near to God with a sincere heart in full assurance of faith (Hebrews 10:19-22). The fire that consumed Nadab and Abihu will one day consume all those who refuse to come to God through His Son Jesus Christ. 

Questions for today's Chronological Bible reading:
Leviticus 8:1-10:20
  • Why do you think God has the entire congregation witness Aaron and his son's inauguration as priests?
  • What do they do that demonstrates their transfer of sins onto the sacrificial or substitute offering?
  • What does Moses' placing the blood on their right ear, thumb of their right hand, and big toe of their right foot demonstrate?
  • Chapter nine covers the formal inauguration of the entire sacrificial system in Israel with Aaron offering his first offering. Before, he made a bull for people to offer sacrifices to but now he offers a bull on the altar to God. What does God promise will happen once the offering is made?
  • God instituted the sacrificial system (the shedding of the blood of the innocent to cover the sins of the guilty) so that His chosen people might, in spite of their great sinfulness, have access to God. Read Romans 5:1-2. What does God promise regarding access to New Testament believers?
  • What happens to the sacrifice once Moses and Aaron exit the Tent of Meeting?
  • What do the people learn about God through this process?
  • What does the death of Aaron's son teach Israel about God?
  • 10:8-11 is the only time in Leviticus where God actually speaks directly to Aaron. What instruction does God give Aaron?
  • Read Hosea 4:11; Proverbs 20:1; 23:28-35. What do these verses teach about alcohol?
Turning truth into prayer:
Thank the Lord for the access we have to Him through our Lord Jesus Christ.