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Feb 10 / Chuck Smith, Jr.

February 9, 2020

The LORD spoke to Moses, saying, “Take Aaron and his sons with him, and the garments and the anointing oil and the bull of the sin offering and the two rams and the basket of unleavened bread. And assemble all the congregation at the entrance of the tent of meeting.” Leviticus 8:1-3

Intro: Let me go over again why we are in Leviticus

The gospels tell us the story of Jesus within the frame his own lifetime
– this includes his teaching, deeds, and his crucifixion and resurrection
• the rest of the New Testament reveals the meaning of his earthly life
– Hebrews is different; it reveals Jesus as he is in himself
• this is to say, Jesus’ heavenly life — it’s as if we see him in his glory
◦ as he appeared to the three disciples when he was transfigured
Even though we once [knew] Christ according to the flesh, we know him thus no longer (2 Cor. 5:16)
◦ in this new way of seeing Jesus, we know him in his fullness
• but to understand the Book of Hebrews, we need to know the Old Testament
◦ the one book with which we are the least familiar is Leviticus
◦ yet it plays an important role in Hebrews

Chapters 8-10 tell a story

There are only two stories in Leviticus and we fly through them quickly
– the rest of the book is rules, regulations, procedures, and protocols
Mary Douglas wrote, that when the two stories are “finished no further interpretation is provided. The sequence of laws seems to continue as if there had been no interruption.”
• it’s as if the legal code swallows up the narratives and they disappear
– here, in these chapters, we find a setting, plot, characters, and atmosphere
• the story has a beginning, a middle, and an end
◦ there is also a tense moment of suspense
• but we will soon come to all of that

God’s sanctuary, the tent of meeting, is set up and ready for service

But first it had to be made fit for God – this is no ordinary tent
– it must be made to transcend its status as a material structure
• to become God’s dwelling, it must be made ethereal, holy
• and then it has to be staffed by priests, who were also made holy
– all the people of Israel were invited – now gathered near the entrance
• Moses explained,
This is the thing that the LORD has commanded to be done (v. 5)
◦ but instead of telling them what God commanded, he went to work
• Aaron and his two oldest sons would be the first priests
◦ they had to be bathed
◦ then dressed in the sacred garments, item by item

The next stage of preparation was the anointing
– oil was poured and sprinkled
• first on the tent, its furnishings, and on the altar
• then Aaron was anointed (oil was poured over his head)
◦ this was to “consecrate” or more properly “sanctify”
◦ to make them holy, which means they and the sanctuary belong to
God exclusively
– then sacrifices were made
• the blood was used to purify the altar (smeared on its “horns”)
◦ some was also used to purify and ordain Aaron and his sons
• it was dabbed on the right ear, thumb of the right hand, and big toe of
the right foot
◦ starting at top, with the ear (meaning: to hear and respond)
◦ then the extremities, symbolizing
the sacred work they did with their hands
and their movements at the altar and in the sanctuary
The blood decontaminates and the oil consecrates

The whole time required for the ritual was seven days
– during this time, the priests were sequestered in God’s tent

Chapter 9 begins, “On the eight day”

The ritual of purification continues and moves outward to the whole community
– the ceremony of installation of the tent and the ordination of priests,
• would reach its climax with a big even
“. . . today the LORD will appear to you.” And they brought what Moses commanded in front of the tent of meeting, and all the congregation drew near and stood before the LORD. And Moses said, “This is the thing that the LORD commanded you to do, that the glory of the LORD may appear to you.” (Lev. 9:4-6)
• note, all the congregation drew near
◦ this word appears dozens of times in Leviticus
(they drew near, not just to sanctuary or the altar, but to God)
◦ I mention this, because drawing near is a key theme in Hebrews
– after sacrifice had been made for people, Aaron blessed them
• Moses and Aaron entered the sanctuary to complete the ritual
◦ then emerged and together blessed the people again
• that was the moment God revealed his glory
And Moses and Aaron went into the tent of meeting, and when they came out they blessed the people, and the glory of the LORD appeared to all the people. And fire came out from before the LORD and consumed the burn offering and the pieces of fat on the altar, and when all the people saw it, they shouted and fell on their faces (Lev. 9:23-24)

As spectacular as this is, I always struggle through these chapters

We have to slog through the death and dismemberment of animals,
– the manipulation of the parts that were burned on the altar,
• and the pouring, smearing and sprinkling of blood here and there
• I ask myself, What relevance does this have for us?
◦ how does it speak God’s answers to our questions?
◦ how does it address our fears and sorrows
◦ how does it help us become better people?
better spouses, parents, neighbors?
– when we come to passages like this, we must change perspectives
• sometimes our perspective is shaped by how the scriptures are relevant to our lives
◦ and other times our perspective is shaped by how the Scripture orient our lives to God so that we are relevant to him
◦ we may have to dig, search, and meditate to find this second perspective, but the answers will be there

I wish the story ended with chapter 9

Now Nadab and Abihu, the sons of Aaron, each took his censer and put fire in it and laid incense on it and offered unauthorized fire before the LORD, which he had not commanded them. And fire came out from before the LORD and consumed them, and they died before the LORD. Then Moses said to Aaron, “This is what the LORD has said: ‘Among those who are near me I will be sanctified, and before all the people I will be glorified.'” And Aaron held his peace (Lev. 10:1-3)

The entire process of the previous seven days was meant to draw a line
– it ran between what belonged to God,
• and what belonged to the people and their everyday world
◦ Nadab and Abihu stepped over that boundary
• they brought something outside the realm of holiness into it
– we’re bewildered at the abruptness and severity of God’s action
• warning sings are posted for a reason,
◦ like those around a high voltage substation
◦ if you disregard them, you do not get a second chance
• Nadab and Abihu did not take God’s holiness seriously enough
◦ perhaps it wasn’t clear to them that they were crossing a line

What motivated or inspired them to do this?
– they may have been caught up in excitement of the moment
• eager to jump in and participate
• sometime afterward, God has a conversation with Aaron
And the LORD spoke to Aaron, saying, “Drink no wine or strong drink, you or your sons with you, when you go into the tent of meeting, lest you die. It shall be a statute forever throughout your generations. You are to distinguish between the holy and the common, and between the unclean and the clean, and you are to teach the people of Israel all the statutes that the LORD has spoken to them by Moses.” (Lev. 10:8-11)
◦ this does not mean Aaron’s sons had been drinking
◦ it’s a warning against anything that could blur the lines
– there is a religious enthusiasm that creates illusions
• illusions of deep feelings of love for God or of inspiration
◦ no doubt, what Aaron’s sons felt seemed genuine
◦ but it was wrong to surrender themselves to that feeling
• our emotions can be moved by worship
◦ but we don’t want to mistake our emotions for God’s work in us
◦ so it is, that in the most gruesome part of the story,
its relevance to us becomes obvious

Conclusion: I was going to wrap this up with a word about reverence

That holiness can be terrifying, the sacred can be scary
– this is the reason the Bible uses the word “fear” for reverence
• that feeling awe and distance in worship, is as important as feeling love and closeness to God
– but I think there’s an ending to the story that we’ll find more helpful
• Aaron and his surviving sons were not allowed to mourn
◦ it seems harsh, but the protocol was precise and rigid
• later, Moses learned one of the offerings had been burned up
◦ furious, Moses took to task Aaron’s sons

Aaron was delicate in his response to Moses
And Aaron said to Moses, “Behold, today they have offered their sin offering and their burnt offering before the LORD, and yet such things as these have happened to me! If I had eaten the sin offering today, would the LORD have approved?” And when Moses heard that, he approved. (Lev. 10::19-20)
– he tip-toed around the tragedy, not mentioning it by name
• “approve” translates the Hebrew word, yah-tav, “to do well”
◦ Aaron knew God would understand — that he would pardon them for not eating when they did not feel like eating
◦ Moses approved, yah-tav – he took Aaron’s response well
he could see the good in it

God is holy–and God is love
Within the circumference of these two truths,
we know we can trust his faithful integrity
and his unfailing compassion
He accommodates our weaknesses and imperfection
making up for them by his grace
In his love and kindness
God accepts our service, such as it is
He is our loving Father in heaven

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