Do not treat holiness lightly

Reflections based on Leviticus 9:1–10:3.

Leviticus 9 sees the priests begin their duties as those who will enter the Tabernacle and sacrifice on the altar on behalf of the people. Moses’ brother Aaron and his sons are chosen as priests and the start of our passage details how Aaron follows God’s instructions to the letter. We are told that Moses and Aaron then enter the Tent of Meeting and when they came back out God’s glory appeared. A fire from His presence burned up the offering and the people responded to His presence in joy but also by humbling themselves, recognising they had just witnessed an incredible display of His holiness.

Unfortunately, there were two among them who didn’t take God’s holiness as seriously. Underestimating God, they offered up unauthorised fire to Him – and were consumed as a result. It seems harsh to our modern eyes but these men had been warned. They had followed God’s commands on how to be ordained as priests, which involved a long and complicated process (see chapter 8). They had seen God at Mount Sinai, had heard how God told them not to allow His fire on the altar to go out (in chapter 6) and seen Moses and Aaron go inside the Tabernacle and emerge unscathed. And yet, at this critical moment, they choose to offer ‘unauthorised fire’. It is as if they had grown cocky somehow, or, at the very least, indifferent. Whatever was going on in their minds, they chose to ignore God’s command at their peril. The details were there to protect them from God’s holy fire; their disobedience cost them their lives. This is a sobering reminder that God is holy; we are not. 

Prayer: Father I can see that You gave strict instructions in order to shield Your people from Your holy fire. I humbly acknowledge You are still a holy God today. Amen.