We're going to delve into the Message today, partly because I love to see people lose it when I cite the Message, and partly because there's a passage in the OT which I wanted to chat about briefly:
That same day Nadab and Abihu, Aaron's sons, took their censers, put hot coals and incense in them, and offered "strange" fire to God—something God had not commanded. Fire blazed out from God and consumed them—they died in God's presence.Now, the especially-sharp among you will notice right away that this is a passage from Leviticus 10, and it's about the altar-worship, the priestly worship of Israel -- and Aaron's sons, who were priests, presented worship which God "had not commanded". And you sharp ones will say, "yes, but Frank: Christians don't do 'altar worship' anymore. We live under Grace and not the Law, so this passage may have some value as an artifact of a past time, but it's hardly good for
Moses said to Aaron, "This is what God meant when he said,
To the one who comes near me,
I will show myself holy;
Before all the people,
I will show my glory."
Aaron was silent.
Moses called for Mishael and Elzaphan, sons of Uzziel, Aaron's uncle. He said, "Come. Carry your dead cousins outside the camp, away from the Sanctuary." They came and carried them off, outside the camp, just as Moses had directed.
Moses then said to Aaron and his remaining sons, Eleazar and Ithamar, "No mourning rituals for you—unkempt hair, torn clothes—or you'll also die and God will be angry with the whole congregation. Your relatives—all the People of Israel, in fact—will do the mourning over those God has destroyed by fire. And don't leave the entrance to the Tent of Meeting lest you die, because God's anointing oil is on you."
They did just as Moses said.
Well, that person would be right to notice we don't carry a tabernacle around with us anymore, and that the blood of bulls and goats isn't what we turn to as a people when we find ourselves wanting to approach the living God.
But let me suggest something: what Moses tells Aaron here speaks to us clearly across the ages since which he said them.
This is what God meant when He said, "To the one who comes near me, I will show myself holy; Before all the people, I will show my glory."
That's Moses' explanation to Aaron why his sons, who were anointed as priests, were struck dead by God while they were allegedly worshipping: God shows Himself holy to those who approach Him.
Now today, this week after Easter, He is risen indeed -- and our sins no longer require a sacrifice because the work of that law is finished: paid in full. But let's think about whether or not God has changed -- and what God meant when He said "I will show myself holy".
What should a people like us do when we approach a God like that? I think that it has congregational implications, it has pastoral implications, and it has personal implications.
As Dan would say, discuss.