Today’s reading begins with Aaron’s offering at the tabernacle and concludes with improper offering of Eleazar and Ithamar.
This reading today is somewhat brief and covers the first series of offerings made at the new tabernacle. What’s significant about this reading is the consuming of Aaron’s sons Nadab and Abihu. There really isn’t a great deal of discussion regarding the cause of God’s anger with Nadab and Abihu other than this brief description:
“Now Nadah and Abihu, the sons of Aaron, each took his censer and put fire in it and laid incense on it and offered unauthorized fire before the LORD, which he had not commanded them. And fire came out from before the LORD and consumed them, and they died before the LORD. Then Moses said to Aaron, “This is what the LORD has said, ‘Among those who are near me I will be sanctified, and before all the people I will be glorified.’ ” And Aaron held his peace.” Leviticus 10:1-3
That’s it. Unauthorized fire. I wish that I knew more of the reason that God was so enraged with these two newly ordained priests of the Tabernacle. I’m not flush Bible commentaries, but the MacArthur Bible Commentary is also unclear as to the reason for the LORD’s fury other than the fire that was used by Nadab and Abihu didn’t comply with the ordinances just given to Moses. The commentary also states that based on the command to stay away from strong drink given in verses 8 and 9, that it may be implied that Nadab and Abihu were intoxicated at the time of their first offering. When God saw their disregard for His commands and that they disregarded the sense of reverence that the LORD deserved, that God decided to take their lives.
Possibly Leviticus 10:10 may sum it up well: “You are to distinguish between the holy and the common, and between the unclean and the clean…” God is to be treated as Holy–separate, above, other than, better than, unapproachable, pure, incomparable. As witnessed at the end of Chapter 9 “…fire came out from before the LORD and consumed the burnt offering…and when all the people saw it, they shouted and fell on their faces.” I’ve always envisioned the Holiness of God as this consuming fire and He is referenced as such elsewhere in the Bible.
God’s Holiness is that barrier, that separation, that special attribute of God that makes it impossible for us to approach Him except through the righteousness that can be had through Christ. In and of ourselves we are wholly unworthy to enter His presence. He is Holy, Holy, Holy. Absolutely separate. The fact that God has not consumed each and every one of us for not treating Him as such is a testament to his manifold, abounding mercy and grace. I hope that I can better live that reality.