Real People, Real Pain

I am reading through first Samuel and just doing some general study of the priesthood stuff. I checked out this reference from Leviticus 10: (from www.biblegateway.com)

Leviticus 10

The Death of Nadab and Abihu

1 Aaron’s sons Nadab and Abihu took their censers, put fire in them and added incense; and they offered unauthorized fire before the LORD, contrary to his command. 2 So fire came out from the presence of the LORD and consumed them, and they died before the LORD. 3 Moses then said to Aaron, “This is what the LORD spoke of when he said:
” ‘Among those who approach me
I will show myself holy;
in the sight of all the people
I will be honored.’ ”
Aaron remained silent.

4 Moses summoned Mishael and Elzaphan, sons of Aaron’s uncle Uzziel, and said to them, “Come here; carry your cousins outside the camp, away from the front of the sanctuary.” 5 So they came and carried them, still in their tunics, outside the camp, as Moses ordered.

6 Then Moses said to Aaron and his sons Eleazar and Ithamar, “Do not let your hair become unkempt, [a] and do not tear your clothes, or you will die and the LORD will be angry with the whole community. But your relatives, all the house of Israel, may mourn for those the LORD has destroyed by fire. 7 Do not leave the entrance to the Tent of Meeting or you will die, because the LORD’s anointing oil is on you.” So they did as Moses said.

When I read this passgage my first thought is to all of the theological discussions of God’s holiness. These two young men were killed because they didn’t take God’s holiness seriously enough. They were killed so that we, thousands of years later, could read this story and understand that God’s holiness is a big deal to God. We know about Him and about how wild, untamed, and really scary God is because of stories like this in the Old Testament. These are powerful words that teach us a great deal about God.

But now that I am a father, I start to see this differently. I start to see the human part of this. The father in me reads the line “Aaron remained silent” and I want to weep for him. The pain, the horror the anger that must have been going on in his heart. This God whom he served has just killed his sons for a mistake. Then Moses goes on to say that Aaron can’t even mourn his children, that he must act like a priest and not like a father. I can’t imagine the strength that such a responsibility took.

When reading through these stories sometimes I start to think of them as just stories. I forget that they aren’t allegories written to prove a point, these are real people trying to figure out God just like we are. They have real pain, real fear, real love, real hope. Remembering that gives me a whole new perspective on the Old Testament.

 

God is Serious about Holiness

If you don’t believe me read through Leviticus. He wasn’t messing around when He laid down the laws for the tabernacle and sacrifice system, not to mention all of the clean and unclean laws that He had for His people. God is serious about His holiness.

But the modern church doesn’t really reflect that. Maybe it is because we were so tired of the puritanical, legalistic focus of the American church for much of the 20th century that when we tried to celebrate our freedom in Christ we went too far the other way, but we spend much more time talking about God’s grace than about God’s holiness.

The problem is that we can’t really understand grace until we understand just how perfect and holy God really is. We can’t understand what a big deal it is for Him to wipe away our sins until we start to see just how much an affront to his very nature sin is.

So somehow we need to recapture a Levitican sense of the holiness of God without becoming so mired down in legalism that we become like the Pharisees of Jesus’ time. We must proclaim that God is holy, and we are called to be holy like He is holy, but we aren’t so that is why He gives us grace, but that doesn’t exempt us from striving to be holy.

But that is sort of hard to put on a bumper sticker, so maybe I need to work on it a bit.