Saturday, 26 February 2011

Bad Priests & Blasphemers

Whilst trying to slash our way through the legal jungle that is Leviticus, we come across two “clearings” that give our shoulders a bit of relief – kind of. I say kind of, because whilst the death of Aaron’s sons (ch 10) and the stoning of the blasphemer (ch24) are hardly palatable to our 21 cent Western mindset, they are more interesting and easier for us to think about than the lists of laws thus far.

So what do we make of these two incidents? Do we go with the pop psychology view that says God is like a Col. Kaddafi, unpredictably destroying others as a way of covering up his own acute sense of inadequacy? Or is there more going on here?

The Death of Nadab and Abihu

Fire is symbolic of the purging presence of God. Only God can purge. Only God can make holy. Only God can set something apart for himself.

This is shown in the fact that God sends fire to consume the sacrifices when the Priests are first ordained, (Lev 9:24) and it was the duty of the priests to continue that fire 24/7, not letting it go out (Lev 6:12-13)

So for Nadab and Abihu to offer their own fire was an outrage, for the following reasons:
  1. There was no need for any fire, God had already started it (only 30mins previously too).
  2. It is God who draws near to us in grace to purge us, set us apart and make us acceptable for himself. To think that we can purge ourselves or set ourselves apart for him or offer anything to the process in any ultimate sense is ridiculous – like a man in a coma offering to stop his severe bleeding.
The greatest judgment is reserved for those who mimic the life and ways of God, but have no reality of God with them by the Spirit e.g. the Pharisees and religious types like them.

Aaron is not permitted to mourn for his sons for (at least) two reasons (I can think of):
  1. His sons did an outrageous thing in the presence of God and what God did was totally fair. One should not mourn God's righteous judgement of the wicked, rather stand in fear. God is a consuming fire.
  2. There is only joy in the presence of God, so for their father Aaron to mourn, by tearing the garments of his office and letting himself become unkempt (the usual signs of mourning), would be to desecrate God's appointed place of worship. That doesn't mean that Aaron was not allowed to grieve over this whole tragedy, but that whilst on duty, he must remember what God had called him to do. (In our navel-gazing psychotherapeutic world, we find stuff like this really hard to accept.)

In the New Testament, God has started a new fire - sending his Spirit - his holy purging and light giving presence into the souls of people. This new fire must not be quenched, but rather fanned into flame and is to be cultivated by his new priesthood, the church, through the laying on of hands. Once again, the church offers nothing to the start of the fire, she simply guards and cultivates it in the hearts of those - God is transforming.

The Stoning of the Blasphemer

The blaspheming going on here, is nothing like the somewhat amusing, but ridiculous caricature going on in films like Monty Python's Life of Brian. There are many brands of religious fanaticism around today that would reflect that kind of outlook, but the life of the Triune God is not one of them.

This isn't a case of a man stubbing his foot on a stone and crying out "Oh ..... !!" This man had set his face against the LORD and publicly cursed his Eternal Name. He therefore no longer had any place either amongst God's holy people or on God's good earth.

After seeking the LORD's counsel, they stone him.

In the New Testament, no one who is inhabited by the Spirit of God can say "Jesus be cursed." Those who can, ultimately have no inheritance amongst God's people, or in his New Creation.

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