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FAILURE IN THE PRIESTHOOD (vv. 1-7)
Priestly ministry had barely begun when those entrusted with it failed seriously. Two of Aaron's four sons put in their censers incense other than that which the Lord had commanded, and offered this in fire before the Lord (v. 1). Notice that it is not said the Lord commanded that they should not do what they did, but He had not commanded them to do it. This is most serious where worship of the Lord is concerned. Only what He has indicated is acceptable to Him. If we add any humanly conceived notions to this, God will consider it “strange fire.” In some areas of life we may have no explicit directions from the Lord, and where this is true we must not dare to lay down our own regulations, but it is wise always to seek the Lord's guidance in the scriptures, for this is the one safe preservative for us.
God's displeasure with Nadab and Abihu was immediately and strongly expressed in His sending out fire to consume them. He had before (Leviticus 9:24) sent fire to consume the burnt offering, in token of His acceptance of it; but this fire did not consume the offering, but the offerers, indicating God's refusal of their offering. Though He may not bring the same swift judgment today, yet any man-devised pretensions of worship are just as abominable to Him as this strange fire of Nadab and Abihu.
Moses discerned just what was involved in this, and told Aaron that God was indicating by such an infliction the fact that He must be regarded as holy, that is, as set apart from all that is merely men's conception, and glorified above and before all the people. This was especially important at the institution of the public worship of Himself. Aaron at the time was wise enough to say nothing.
The cousins of Nadab and Abihu were called upon to carry the bodies of the offenders outside the camp to bury them (vv. 4-5). Then Moses instructed Aaron and his two remaining sons not to even uncover their heads and not to tear their clothes (which in Israel was a sign of mourning). It was not consistent with priestly character to show signs of mourning, for the priest is one who draws near to God, in whose presence mourning has no place. A priest was never to tear his garments, though Caiaphas did this when interrogating the Lord Jesus (Matthew 26:65), a trespass for which the law demanded the death penalty. For above all, the High Priest is typical of the Lord Jesus. Will His garments of priestly dignity every be torn? Absolutely not! For this would indicate some failure or fault in His priestly work. Thank God this is impossible. He remains faithful and true forever!
The rest of Israel could mourn for Nadab and Abihu, but the priests were told to remain in the tabernacle at this time because the anointing oil of the Lord was upon them. The oil is typical of the Holy Spirit whose power is such as to lift the soul above every circumstance of sorrow. Thus we may learn today that in the Lord's presence (the holy place), where the Spirit of God pervades the atmosphere, we may rise above the sorrows of earth, in holy confidence and peace.
FITTING PRIESTLY BEHAVIOR (vv. 8-20)
The Lord now speaks directly to Aaron to forbid him and his sons to drink wine or other intoxicating drinks when they were serving in the tabernacle, lest this should lead to their death (v. 9). They were to have their minds unclouded so as to be able to distinguish between what was unclean and what was holy. It may be that Nadab and Abihu had had their minds impaired because of liquor.
Liquor was not forbidden generally to the people, though they were warned against drunkenness. But a priest was in a special place of responsibility, and in the service of God he was not to allow his mind to be impaired. The mother of Solomon also warned him that it was not for kings to drink wine or strong drink (Proverbs 31:4-5) lest this should impair their ability to govern fairly. Believers today, who are both kings and priests (Revelation 1:6) should take this to heart, and not indulge in anything that might becloud their sober discernment and wisdom in bearing witness to the Lord. For we might be intoxicated by pleasures or other things that would affect our judgment just as liquor might.
Besides this, the priest should be in proper control of his mind in order to teach the children of Israel all the statutes that the Lord had laid down for them (v. 11). This is an honorable privilege and one that should always exercise the teacher to practice self-discipline.
Moses then instructed Aaron, Eleazar and Ithamar to eat all that remained of the meal offerings, doing so without leaven. This is said to be the due of Aaron and his sons. God had decided this, and whatever God provides us in a spiritual way we should rightly respond by appropriating it. The breast of the wave offering and the thigh of the heave offering are specifically mentioned (v. 14). The priests were to thus (typically) enter into the affections of Christ as glorified in heaven (the breast waved), and into “the power of His resurrection” (the thigh heaved). The entire family of the priests was to share in this, daughters as well as sons, just as the entire priestly family today (all saints) is called to enjoy such spiritual blessing. The repetition of verse 15 is to emphasize the importance of this provision of which the priestly family was responsible to partake.
However, in verse 16 we are told that when Moses inquired about the goat of the sin offering, he found that it had all been burned. Therefore he was angry with Eleazar and Ithamar, questioning why they had not eaten this sin offering in the holy place, since its blood had not been taken into the sanctuary (v. 15). This offering was for the people, and the priests' eating it symbolized the fact of the priests entering into and feeling the guilt of the people as though it had been their own. This is what the Lord Jesus did in the fullest way, even taking that guilt upon His own shoulders in going to the cross. Every believer should have this same attitude. It will make us true intercessors rather than critics.
In this case, however, Aaron explained to Moses that, since his two sons had died that day, it would be too hard for him to rise above the level of his own distresses, therefore he would not be in a fitting state of soul to rightly feel the failure of others. He asks then, would his eating of the sin offering outwardly be accepted in the sight of the Lord? In other words, he would be going through the form without any real heart in it. Moses recognized the force of this, and was content.
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Text Courtesy of BibleSupport.com. Used by Permission.
Grant, L. M. "Commentary on Leviticus 10". L.M. Grant's Commentary on the Bible. https://www.studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 11 / Ordinary 16