- The Explore the Bible lesson for Nov. 12 focuses on Leviticus 9:15-24; 10:1-3.
The title “Set Apart” along with the “Holy Priesthood” theme of this lesson brings forward a significant value to God—holiness. This is how God describes himself later in Leviticus 19:2, while also urging his people to emulate his holiness.
For sacrifices and offerings to be effective, a holy priesthood was required. This is where Aaron’s role enters. He and his sons went through their own ordination and began to serve as mediators between the people and God.
Today, we see through the New Testament lens of being “a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation” (1 Peter 2:9). So, we affirm the “priesthood of the believer.” However, we should not overlay that lens on this Old Testament story, because only Aaron’s house was sanctified and ordained to serve as priests.
We affirm God’s people are to live as a set-apart priesthood. At the same time, we also must remember Israel’s call was to be “holy” and to stand apart from the nations. They would not have considered being priests but looked to Aaron instead.
At last! The first offerings we discussed last lesson were now more than instruction. Ask your group to share about the “gap” between instruction and action, and what it takes to bridge that gap. We get a clear message Aaron and his sons are obedient “to the T” by conducting these offerings according to Moses’ directions.
Do we consider how big a deal this first offering was? The offering was Israel’s way to communicate with God, and now they were taking the first step. Their burnt offering and grain offering paved the way for the fellowship offering.
Baruch Levine translates the fellowship offering as “the people’s sacrifice of well-being” and their “sacred gift of greeting” (Baruch Levine, Exodus, 57). How does this fellowship offering mean more to us when we see it as both sacrifice and sacred gift?
Just imagine that as Aaron waved the offering before God, he was signaling the communication lines now were open. God had taken the first step, and now the people were responding in favor of opening fellowship. This is a beautiful mark in Israel’s story, as well as our story.
This piece of the story cannot be overlooked. When we skip the “blessing,” we are doing ourselves a disservice. Once holiness was made possible by the sacrifices of the people, fellowship was opened, and the priests now could mediate blessings to the people. How do you think Israel felt to receive at last a blessing for their sacrifice?
Once this was accomplished, Aaron safely could remove himself as he “stepped down” in order to meet with God at the newly prepared Tent of Meeting. He and Moses met with God, but not alone. Now all the people could experience God’s glory.
Verse 24 brings us to ask: Have you ever experienced both joy and fear together? God’s greatness and holiness leads us to experience these opposing emotions together. He is so different from other gods and so much greater than all, and God’s blessing brings us to our knees with joy to accompany our reverence.
Blessings truly are marvelous, and they impact our whole being!
Instead of being caught off guard by this sad recollection, we should look at the root of the issue that resulted in Aaron’s sons falling dead before God. Their “unauthorized fire” could better be translated as an “alien fire” these young priests brought that “had not been specifically ordained” (Levine, Leviticus, 58-59).
We must not get caught up in the oddity; instead, we should notice the lack of obedience. God gave instruction for sacrifice, and Aaron obeyed in the previous verses. However, here Nadab and Abihu took matters into their own hands and received the consequence.
God is not a foreign god, and his offerings are meant to draw us near instead of take us further away. To offer anything otherwise puts a wedge between us and God. Aaron’s offerings opened fellowship, but his sons’ offerings started to create division, and God could not stand for that to happen.
Like it or not, God’s holiness requires what is his over what is ours. As followers of God, we should follow God’s plan instead of following ours. How should we pursue holiness? What else may we learn about God’s holiness from this story?
Meditate on Psalm 139:23-24: “Search me, God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.” This should be our song as we prepare to be cleansed, blessed and made holy.
Additionally, one should not pass the opportunity to consider the practical application of blessing. Once we receive a blessing from God, we should feel charged to share his blessings with those whom we encounter. Consider closing with this lyric: “Make me a channel of blessing today, make me a channel of blessing, I pray; My life possessing, my service blessing, make me a channel of blessing today.”
Heath A. Kirkwood is lead pastor of First Baptist Church in Lorena.