Daily Bible: Leviticus 9-10

Sorry it’s been several days since my last post. It’s just been a super busy couple of days.

Lev. 9:4, …and an ox and a ram for peace offerings, to sacrifice before ADONAI; also a grain offering mixed with olive oil — because today ADONAI is going to appear to you. (CJB)

Priestly service is a work of mediation: mediating the Presence to the people and mediating on behalf of the people before the Presence. And there was a clear sense of God’s nearness — today ADONAI is going to appear to you. Imagine going through your day with this kind of awareness, attuned to reality of God’s appearance and presence. Too many of us go through our lives with virtually no expectation of God’s appearance. We relegate his promises to history, as if their currency extended only to ancient Israelites in the wilderness thousands of years ago. But all this reading for history and information misses the history of the present and the work of formation brought about by this word. Eyes to see, ears to hear.

Lev. 9:23-24, Moshe and Aharon entered the tent of meeting, came out and blessed the people. Then the glory of ADONAI appeared to all the people! Fire came forth from the presence of ADONAI, consuming the burnt offering and the fat on the altar. When all the people saw it, they shouted and fell on their faces. (CJB)

God’s presence was additionally mediated through sacrifice. The miraculous fire is paralleled by another miraculous sacrifice to come, the ultimate expression of the glory of God. As Jesus himself said, all the Scriptures bear witness to him (John 5:39).

Nadab and Abihu’s “unauthorized fire”

But this glorious moment is quickly interrupted by the rebellion of Nadab and Abihu. Much has been written about this “unauthorized fire” — a mysterious phrase that is certainly open to interpretation. Some translations reference the fire as “foreign” but this is inaccurate. There is nothing in the text to indicate that the fire was “foreign,” simply “unfitting” or “unprescribed.” So, this really isn’t the prooftext against PowerPoint, motion backgrounds, or any of your worship pastor’s other “innovations.”

Amazingly, Jeroboam I (the first king of the northern kingdom of Israel) would later name two of his sons Nadab and Abihu/Abiyah/Abijah (1 Kings 14:1; 15:25), a bad omen that Israel had not learned the lesson of Leviticus 10. Unfortunately, both men in the Bible with children named Nadab and Abihu (Aaron and Jeroboam) would go on to make golden calves to lead the people into idolatry (Exodus 32; 1 Kings 12:28). Thus, no baby Abihus in our churches today.

The same words to describe the miraculous consumption of the ordination sacrifice of 9:24 are also used to describe the death of Nadab and Abihu. Their fate is a grim reminder of the penalty for failing to observe the proper boundaries when standing before the Holy One.

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