As God gave instructions about the tabernacle,
one thing was clear.
Sin had consequences.
There was no “slipping by” or “squeaking through” when it came to falling short.
Holiness wasn’t a condition of “almost,” or “I did my best,” or “I’m only human.”
Holiness demanded a sacrifice.
A laying down and burning up of something.
God was willing to wipe the slate clean ONLY when the slate holder was willing to hand Him the eraser.
Give Him the power to say,
“This has to go,
and only this can stay.”
That’s the focus of Leviticus so far.
A constant awareness of the gap between who the Israelites wanted to be and who they really were.
“The fire on the altar is to be kept burning;
must not go out.”
Three times in chapter six God repeats these words.
Do not let the fire go out.
Keep it burning.
Sacrifice has to be continual.
Because the need for My grace is too.
I try to imagine life back then.
Every campsite surely had its own fire.
A place for cooking meals,
And oh, the stories they could share.
These fires sustained the people.
Glowing embers fading to cool ashes as they headed to their tents only meant one thing.
A new fire would be started in the morning.
But there was one fire in the camp that was different.
God would start it once,
sending flames from Heaven.
And it was there job to keep it going.
This fire was Holy.
And everything about it was set apart.
When they heard the instructions about this fire,
were the people reminded of Mt. Sinai and the warning not to come too close?
Go down and warn the people,
lest they break through to the Lord to look and many of them perish.
Also let the priests who come near to the Lord consecrate themselves, lest the Lord break out against them.
God’s presence wasn’t something to take lightly.
And His fire wasn’t either.
So when Aaron’s sons decided to bring their own pans of fire into this most holy place,
burning incense as they came,
things didn’t end well.
More flames came from Heaven,
but these were different.
These flames didn’t just consume a sacrifice.
They consumed Nadab and Abihu.
Holiness costs something.
And on this day,
it cost Aaron’s sons their lives.
Aaron stood silent,
fully aware of God’s power
and his sons’ mistake.
I’m sure the news spread quickly throughout the camp.
Aaron’s sons had crossed the line.
And they had died.
Later that day, Aaron was supposed to eat the sin offering but he didn’t.
By now, I’m sure everyone was trembling at the thought of getting anything wrong.
Causing Him to send yet another consuming fire.
So Moses goes to him, questioning his decision not to follow the rules.
And I love Aaron’s answer.
“Since these things have happened to me,
if I had eaten the sin offering today,
would it have been acceptable in the Lord’s sight?” (Ex. 10:19)
See, Aaron remembered something Moses may have forgotten.
“And there you shall eat before the LORD your God, and you shall rejoice in all to which you have put your hand, you and your households, in which the LORD your God has blessed you” (Deuteronomy 12:7).
Aaron was heartbroken.
How could he eat before the Lord with rejoicing?
Just as his sons’ fires had been unacceptable,
his eating of the offering while mourning would have been too.
I love that Moses understood this.
“When Moses heard this, it was acceptable to him.”
The chapter ends with these words.
Leviticus is filled with many things.
A holy fire.
A series of very specific rules and regulations.
A jealous God capable of consuming anyone who tried to do things another way.
And a story that reminds us that grief changes everything.
As if God Himself could already taste the death of His own Son,
He held back.
Gave Aaron permission to be overwhelmed with his losses.
And still removed the sins of the people.
I’m so thankful for a God who asks for everything but understands when everything feels like too much.
Keep the fire burning, Tammy.
Don’t let it go out.
But on the days when you can’t swallow everything God has asked of you,
lay down your fork.
The fear of the Lord may be the beginning of wisdom,
but grasping just how close God is to the brokenhearted is another step toward toward knowing Him fully.
Today, your fire may need flamed.
Don’t try to reignite it on your own like Aaron’s sons did.
Just ask God to breathe His life back into your soul.
You may find yourself so devastated by life as you’re reading this that the thought of lifting your hands in worship feels wrong.
That’s okay too.
And He’s patient.
If anyone knows the pain of sacrifice,
And if anyone gets your grief,
He does too.
For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son,
that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.
(Today’s reading was Leviticus 5 – 10)
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