Thursday, February 5, 2009

Not My Way, But Yours O Lord!

The chapters from Leviticus today (8-13) explain in vivid detail the ceremonies that took place for purification and ordination of the priests, as well as dietary restrictions and rules and other purification procedures. In the midst of the account, a very disconcerting event takes place in chapter 10, and I'd like to camp out there briefly for today's reflection. I will preface this by stating that I am not a Biblical scholar, but I am grateful to those who have written extensively about these scriptures because their insights are invaluable to me as I try to discover how this applies to my life today.

It seems that after Aaron and his sons, Nadab and Abihu, were ordained as priests, the two young men decided they'd burn something other than incense in the burners, ignoring God's careful instructions regarding this holy practice.

The Bible doesn't reveal their motivation, but some have suggested that it was because of pride; others, ambition; another possible reason proposed was jealousy; but I'm inclined to think that possibly it may have been a bit of all of the above combined with a dose of dangerous impatience.

Whatever their motivation, these two guys wanted to establish their own relationships with God in a manner that conflicted with The Lord's terms. What we do know is that their act was unholy and blatantly disobedient, and as a result, this is what happened:

So fire blazed forth from the Lord’s presence and burned them up, and they died there before the Lord. Leviticus 10:2

Does that sound extreme? Unfair? In a world where we "pride" ourselves in being so civilized, so enlightened, so refined, and so humane, to some--it may. But let's think this through from the perspective of our Holy and Righteous God who had gone to great lengths to establish a means for these rebellious people to have a relationship with him.

These two young men had been marked for service and set aside as priests (along with their father, Aaron) through a very formal ceremony that concluded with God's glory being displayed for the entire community to witness. They had witnessed miracles as God had delivered them from Egypt. They had seen the fire, lightning, and smoke, and they had heard the audible voice of God. They had felt the thunder and earthquake at Mount Sinai, and they'd even gone up with Moses and Aaron for a special meeting with God as detailed in Exodus chapter 24.

Nadab and Abihu had enjoyed incredible spiritual privileges and experiences, but that was not enough to keep them right with God. Because they came to him in an unauthorized way, they died--and some have suggested that their deaths may have occurred inside the Most Holy Place in the Tabernacle which would suggest another serious transgression of God's guidelines.

So what does this have to do with us in the 2000's? It serves to remind us that we do not come to God on our own terms in our own way. Every way except HIS way leads to our death. His way is a narrow way. It is a not an "all roads lead to heaven," way. It is not a "do good, be good, and think good thoughts and you can earn it," way. He has provided a permanent way for us to be purified, and a once-and-for-all-time way for us to enter the Most Holy Place (the temple veil was torn from top to bottom when Jesus was crucified-Matthew 27:50-51). We cannot make the mistake that Nadab and Abihu made by thinking that it's not really a big deal how we approach Holy God.

My prayer for you is that you realize that it doesn't matter whether or not you agree with God's one and only way--but that you humble yourself in submission regardless of any personal preferences or expectations. There simply are no exceptions because scripture tells us that no one can come to God apart from Christ. Nadab and Abihu are living--I mean dead--proof that God means business and his way is not negotiable.

What a precious blessing to know that it's not up to us to work out a way to get God's grace, that we do not have to negotiate or argue our case, and yet we can still be the recipients of his mercy because of Jesus. How amazing that he desires a relationship with us so much that he would make a way that is so simple even a child could can receive eternal life and see his glory.

Father, just as I am, without one plea, I thank you Jesus for your blood that covers me. And if I come in the way you've planned, I know I'll live forever in your promised land. Amen.

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