The readings for this week April 16-22, 2017 are called Shemini—“Eighth Day”:
*Leviticus 9:4, 6, 23b-24. “…for today, the LORD will appear to you.” “…and the glory of the LORD will appear to you.” “Then the glory of the LORD appeared to all the people, and fire came out from before the LORD and consumed the burnt offering and the fat on the altar. When all the people saw it, they shouted and fell on their faces.”
It had been the LORD’s desire to dwell in the midst of His people, and, as we saw in Exodus 40:34, after they had done their part in preparing the way, the Glory of His presence came into and filled the mishkan (dwelling place, tabernacle). But it was also His desire that his people be able to minister to Him personally through bringing their offerings, which would then be presented before Him by the priests—and that the glory of His presence and acceptance of these gifts and sacrifices be witnessed and experienced by all the congregation.
Here it finally takes place—and as the holy Fire appears and consumes the sacrifices, the people can only respond with a shout and with falling down under the weight of His Glory (Interestingly, the root for this Hebrew word “glory” kavod is also the root for the word “weight”). And it is intriguing that the word for the “shout” the people release is quite often in Scripture (Job 38:7, Prov. 29:6; Isa. 35:6, I Chron 16:33…) translated “song”. When God’s glory falls on His people, they often can no longer remain standing—and sometimes its coming is accompanied by release of the Song of the Lord!
This week’s readings center upon the Holiness of Israel’s LORD—including the consequences to his children, especially those who minister on His behalf before the people, of not honoring that holiness:
*Leviticus 10:3b. “By those who come near Me I will be treated as holy, and before all the people I will be honoured.”
*Leviticus 11:44-45: “For I am the LORD your God. Consecrate yourselves therefore, and be holy, for I am holy. And you shall not make yourselves unclean…For I am the LORD who brought you up from the land of Egypt to be your God; thus you shall be holy, for I am holy.”
Aaron’s two eldest sons Nadav and Avihu had been granted a high and exalted “positioning” of ministry before the LORD, second only to Moses and to their father the High Priest. For them there was clothing and anointing (8:13, 24, 30) providing them special protection to minister in ways not granted to the other Levites. However, they were not commanded nor were they clothed and anointed to draw near to God in that specific ministry assigned to their father Aaron the High Priest.
Yet, discontent with the appointed “place” God had chosen for them, they presumed to operate in the ministry of their father’s office rather than being faithful to that of their own—they offered “strange fire before the LORD, which He had not commanded them.” In doing so, they dishonored God in the eyes of the people who looked up to and depended upon them. They also stepped into a place where the unique protection provided for their assignment of ministry was no longer effective, and the very fire from God’s presence which showed his favor in devouring the sacrifices in 9:24, devours in judgment these two sons who had abandoned their appointed places.
There is no reason to see in this passage a portrayal of severe judgment upon those who are novices and have accidentally slipped and made a mistake while attempting something new. James 3:16 and 1:13-15 shows how “where envy and selfish ambition exist, there is confusion and every evil thing”, and how “each one is tempted when he is drawn away by his own desires and enticed, Then when desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, brings forth death.” At this crucial time of testing, the darkness which had been growing in Nadav and Avihu was manifest and they were betrayed.
In the Haftarah (II Samuel 6:1—7:17) it appears not to have been a “growing darkness” in King David’s character which is manifest, but rather what had become a “blind spot” in his discernment after presuming to rate certain of God’s words as worthy of more respect than others. He deeply loved the Torah (instruction) of the LORD, declaring it perfect, capable of “converting the soul” (Psalm 19:7). Yet when it came time to bring the ark of God into Jerusalem (the incredible holiness of such an endeavor is emphasized in the text, “the ark of God, whose name is called by the Name—YHVH of Hosts, who dwells between the cherubim” (II Sam. 6:2)), he evidently allowed his logic to preempt the LORD’s repeated instructions in the Torah that it was to be transferred by the use of poles on the shoulders of the priests (Exodus 25:12-15, and other places).
After all, that was almost 500 years ago; a cart with wheels was more modern and took fewer men (even the Philistines had realized that), and it was a “new” cart. His negligence in treating God’s whole Word as holy resulted in disaster, in this case to others. Whether or not Uza volunteered for guiding the cart, he was not protected as the priests would have been—he had been placed in a role which was not God’s “positioning,” and when he spontaneously touched the ark to keep it from falling, like Nadav and Avihu, he was slain.
Today our Lord has provided a way for us also to come into His presence safely, through the finished work of Yeshua. But we are to do so in reverence, not in presumption or disobedience. Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom which cannot be shaken, let us have grace, by which we may serve God acceptably with reverence and godly fear. For our God is a consuming fire” (Hebrews 12:28-29).
Malachi 3:2-3 says that the coming LORD “is like a refiner’s fire” and will “purify the sons of Levi, and purge them as gold and silver that they may offer to the LORD an offering in righteousness.”
PLEASE PRAY: for a sense of the ‘holy’ in the Body of Messiah in Israel—that we will not be presumptuous in our worship and will not covet positions which God has granted to others, but be humbly thankful for the special responsibilities He chooses for us. Pray that we will at the same time yield ourselves to the refining purifying fire of God’s Spirit; and that the offerings which we offer up will be done in righteousness, in spirit and in truth.
*Leviticus 10:8-12. “Then the LORD spoke to Aaron, saying: ‘Do not drink wine or intoxicating drink, you nor your sons with you, when you go into the tabernacle of meeting, lest you die. It shall be a statute forever throughout your generations, that you may distinguish between holy and unholy, and between unclean and clean, and that you may teach the children of Israel all the statutes which the LORD has spoken to them by the hand of Moses.”
Perhaps intoxication was also a factor in the presumptuous sin of Nadav and Avihu. Although the Bible makes clear that God sanctions the drinking of wine or strong drink by His children (“before the LORD your God”— Deut. 14:22-26), Isaiah 28:7 just as clearly condemns its misuse, which can spoil our ministry, resulting in “erring in vision and stumbling in judgment”, not only in ourselves, but also in those who are looking up to us in seeking to follow His ways.
*Leviticus 10:10. “…that you may distinguish between holy and unholy.”
An even better translation would be “distinguish between the holy and the common.” The opposite of “holiness” is not necessarily “sinful.” That which is holy is first of all that which is “set-apart from the ordinary.” So for the priests, certain things (such as drinking wine) which might be acceptable under ordinary circumstances were not allowed when they went into the Tent of Meeting to perform their duties there before the Lord.
Chapter Eleven lists ways in which the Hebrews were to be “holy” or “set apart” from other peoples by their diet.
*Leviticus 11:4, 46-47. “Nevertheless, these you shall not eat among those that chew the cud or that have cloven hooves… This is the law of the animals and the birds and every living creature that moves in the waters, and of every creature that creeps on the earth, to distinguish between the unclean and the clean, and between the animal that may be eaten and the animal that may not be eaten.”
The Israelites were forbidden to eat these animals, not from “touching” them. As with Eve in the Garden of Eden (Gen. 3:3), there would be those who might add such restrictions, but the LORD’s restrictions regarding touch were related to the carcasses of dead animals (11:8).
These were dietary guidelines for Israel—for the Hebrew race, which God chose to set apart in this way. There is nothing in Scripture to imply that God desires or requires all people to follow these guidelines. Following the Flood, when Noah and his family came forth from the Ark, God released a special blessing, “Every moving thing that lives shall be food for you. I have given you all things, even as the green herbs” (Genesis 9:3; Emphasis ours.). All humankind were (and still are, Genesis 9:4; Acts 15:29) forbidden to eat blood. But Biblical restrictions regarding particular creatures applied only to the Hebrews.
Martin & Norma Sarvis
The Torah and Haftarah portions for next week, April 23-29, are a “double reading”:
I. Thazria –-“Quicken with Seed”, “Conceive”: TORAH: Leviticus 12:1—13:59
II. Metsora—“Skin disease, leprosy”: TORAH: Leviticus 14:1—15:33
HAFTARAH: II Kings 7:3-20