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September 14, 2022 12:01 am
When the sons of Aaron offered unauthorized incense on the altar, God killed them on the spot. Today, R.C. Sproul considers the important lesson we learn from this shocking incident.
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Sometimes preposition the New Testament uses is the preposition we believe in Christ on this is the fundamental thing that happens to us when we born again when we converted to Christ of faith unites us to him, the spirit unites us to him, and in that way we are bound together, and underneath all that is the fact that in everything Jesus did, he was representing us and because he was representing everything he has done is really ours.
None of these things are what we were In ourselves. All of these things we draw darling from our faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. He is everything, and he fills our nothingness union with Christ teaching series with Sinclair Ferguson visit Lincoln here.org/teaching series to learn more.
Have you ever heard a skeptic say something like this. Some events in the Old Testament that are recorded there are hardly incompatible with the character of God that is revealed to us in the New Testament, the God of love that is shown to us in Jesus certainly would never just kill people for a simple error at the altar in the Old Testament God often seems quick to display his justice striking people dead for what appears to us the smallest defense is that square with the God we read about in the New Testament under RC Sproul addresses that question today here on Renewing Your Mind as we feature his classic series, the holiness of God.
As we continue now with our study of the holiness of God.
We want to look at that aspect of God's holiness that I think perhaps provokes more consternation than any other dimension and that is the relationship of God's holiness to his justice. We've seen already that so much of what we know about God's character is revealed to us in the pages of the old testament and I think one of the reasons why we struggle so much with the concept of justice and of God's wrath.
For example, because we don't spend a lot of time anymore. It seems in reading and studying the Old Testament react as if Christianity was based merely on the New Testament, as if the New Testament could stand alone independent from its roots, which is a serious misapprehension there. If we are to understand the New Testament, we first have to have some knowledge of the Old Testament because all of the drama that takes place in the ministry of Christ. For example, is so intimately tied to and related to what has happened in past history that is recorded for us in the pages of the Old Testament. I think part of our struggle is this that we read of incidents in the Old Testament that frankly shock us. They seem to be so different from the climate of the New Testament. I don't know how many times I've heard people say to me. I love to read about Jesus who is so tender and kind and gracious that I struggle with the portrait of God that we find in the Old Testament, God seems so mean and harsh and ruthless in the Old Testament.
I think some of the passages that engender that kind of response have been called by the theologians, the hard sayings of Scripture like us to look at one of those today that is found for us in the book of Leviticus in the beginning of the 10th chapter we read this account then they dab and a buy the sons of Aaron each took his censer and put fire in it, put incense on it and offered profane fire before the Lord, which he had not commanded them, and so fire went out from the Lord and divided them and they died before the Lord, now let me just pause here for second and just look at that brief description you see what is happened. Moses, of course, was the first person consecrated by God to be the high priest of Israel. In fact, the whole priestly descendents see from the tribe of Levi is called the ironic priesthood.
After the first high priest Aaron and Aaron of course accompanied Moses and all of those encounters that Moses had with Pharaoh and so on. And God went to great pains in great detail to define precisely what the function of the priest was to be what kind of close. He was supposed aware even to the manufacture of his garments. God revealed that by divine decree in precise detail and so Aaron then gives his entire life to this office of priesthood and off I can speculate for a second. I'm sure that he was thrilled beyond measure. When he saw the consecration of his sons also as priests on this brief story that I've just read to you.
You see, what happens is the native and abided the two sons of Aaron come now to the altar of incense and offer what the translation.
I read from calls profane fire on the altar.
Other translation simply rate they offered strange fire on the altar fire that had not been commanded by God. We don't know exactly what the ingredients were of this particular situation.
We don't know whether they were engaged in some kind of pagan ritual at the altar or if they were playing a prank at the altar or engaged in some kind of innovation and experimental worship that God had not instituted were not sure precisely what it was that these two young priests were doing what we do know what happened that as soon as they offered this fire on the altar. The fire exploded and consumed and killed them on the spot hardly understand that how do we interpret that I've seen some very interesting interpretations of this text. One, it was from Emmanuel Bella Koski, who became somewhat controversy over several decades ago when he came up with an innovative theory of how the world at one time was in the path of the comet much like the comment that collided with Jupiter in the summer of 1994, and that this comment came close enough to the planet Earth as to create a catastrophic up evil on our planet than actually changing the rotation of the earth that stop the rotation on the earth and reversed the turning of the globe which created massive tidal waves and all kinds of catastrophic events, but also according to his theory. This map the gas fell from the heavens and entered into crevices on the earth in the subterranean deposits which are now the oil deposits that we find are the natural gas deposits which are heavily concentrated in the Mideast and so in Bella Koski's speculations. It was almost as if he was writing a story.
In antiquity, and like the Beverly hillbillies where they dab in a bio went out one afternoon and they're digging in the ground and outcomes of bubbling crude and they don't know what this interesting stuff is and so they come and they experiment with it on an altar and this material blows up in their face and kills them. That's how Bella Koski interprets this particular story in the Old Testament. Now we may smile at that. But what he is trying to do is to give a natural explanation for this story, which he treats more or less as mythological. But that approach is not far from much of what is going on in critical scholarship and the various approaches that are made to the Old Testament.
One of the assumptions that is made frequently in the academic world is that God never works supernaturally and that all of the so-called supernatural events that are recorded for us in Scripture, particularly in the Old Testament have to be understood by virtue of the assumption that what we have is a record of people's primitive mythological interpretation of natural events. They assume that whatever happened was an accident on the altar here, and certainly wasn't an action of God. I remember reading a curriculum that was introduced in a major denomination for high school kids for the use in the program of the church and as I was reading over and reviewing the Old Testament curriculum. The curriculum made this point, namely that some events in the Old Testament that are recorded there are utterly incompatible with the character of God that is revealed to us in the New Testament, the God of love that is shown to us in Jesus certainly would never just kill people for a simple error at the altar, and that probably what happened was that these priests who were deviating from the normal practices. Perhaps had so much apprehension as they approach the sacred altar with the corruption of what they were doing that they actually just simply put themselves in a position where the accident can happen and they they were killed or they died of fright. This is also how the story of causes sudden demise is often interpreted, which we will look at later. I have a problem with this kind of interpretation. I have a higher view of Scripture than that than I I don't think that there's anything here at all inconsistent with the portrait of God that is given to us in Scripture.
But, though I also have to admit that it's not just modern scholars and modern people who struggle with this story.
Perhaps the person who had the greatest struggle of anybody was Aaron Eric.
We read in the in the next verse in the text. These words and Moses said to Aaron, this is what the Lord spoke saying by those who come near me.
I must be regarded as holy and before all the people I must be glorified so Aaron held his peace. One of the things I think it's interesting about Scripture is the economy of the reporting of certain events at times.
The record is so terse that it seems to us to be a brat doesn't mean this monumental event in the life of Aaron and all we know is that Moses said a few words to him and Aaron held his peace. If we can read between the lines or if you give me that license you will see that Aaron was exceedingly stressed and I can hear him going to Moses. That's what's going on here. What kind of a god is this, I've given my whole life to sacrificial service in his name, and my sons make one mistake on the altar and what does God do no warning, no second chance instantly, immediately, summarily, he executes them right there on the spot and I can see that Aaron is angry with God, and Aaron goes to Moses and says what's going on here and Moses reminds Aaron of the sanctity of the priesthood. He reminds Aaron of how God had instituted this operation in the first place. Elf will look back for a moment earlier into Jewish history. We will see that institution in chapter 30 of Exodus.
The chapter begins with these words, you shall make an altar to burn incense on and you shall make it of acacia wood, cubit shall be its length. The cubit it's with, and it shall be square, and two cubits shall be its height, and then in the verses that follow.
We continue with this detailed description of how the altar is to be fashioned and then consequently how it is to be used in verse six we read and you shall put it before the veil, that is before the ark of the testimony before the mercy seat that is over the testimony, where I will meet with you and Aaron shall burn on its sweet incense every morning when he tends the lamps, he shall burn incense on and when Aaron lights the lamps at twilight, he shall burn incense on it, a perpetual incense before the Lord throughout your generations and you shall not offer strange incense on it, or a burnt offering, or a grain offering, nor shall you pour a drink offering on it and Aaron shall make atonement upon its orange once a year with the blood of the sin offering the atonement once a year, he shall make atonement upon throughout your generations. It is most holy to the Lord. So there's the original instructions and God is saying to Aaron. Aaron, this is what you must do and I will not permit any on authorized use of this sacred place, and this sacred function because it's not just holy to the Lord, but it is most holy to the Lord. And so later on when this is violated and Aaron speaks to Moses. Moses says this is what the Lord spoke Aaron by those who come near to me. I must be regarded as holy and before all of the people I must be glorified in the brief concluding remark and Aaron held his peace you that Aaron held his peace, because suddenly now he grasped what Moses was saying is Moses that look Aaron, this is what it's all about. This is what your priesthood is all about, that the priests are set apart and consecrated to approach the very presence of God and the presence is most holy and you do nothing profane in the presence of God or you perish. I know those are your sons and I know you care about your sons and I know that you love your sons but there's something even greater at stake here and that is the very honor of God, your sons behaved in an un-holy manner. In the most holy place, and God will not tolerate that. I think it's trucks are sensibilities because we don't have that burning sentence of the sacred power customs are behavioral patterns are much more related to the profane than to the holy were comfortable with profanity. We have become secularized. Even our approach to church changes today I mentioned before that in Israel with the tabernacle and with the temple that there was a clear line that was drawn a line of demarcation that was the line between the common and the uncommon, the ordinary and the extraordinary.
The natural and the supernatural, the profane and the holy and the entranceway into the temple was the threshold between those two realms that we understand even in the Old Testament that the whole earth is filled with the glory of God and that in one sense, everything is holy that is related to God. But there are special times and special places that God sets apart for a special and sacred use. We still do that, we still have some understanding of sacred time and sacred space is still a part of our heritage in our culture to celebrate holidays. What we mean by a holiday that is a holy day in the sense that we recognize that this day is different from any other day.
It's different because it has special significance.
It is other, and it has been set apart Christmas is a day that we regard as holy because it marks a moment in time that is of special sacred significance. But even in a crass sense we have in our lives.
Sacred spaces sacred to us. I remember when in Pittsburgh when I was a boy I went to Forbes Field and I committed an act of vandalism.
I thought I was justified as a kid I didn't know all the theological ramifications, but I I carved my initials into a bench in the bleachers in the left field with those initials of my girlfriend, whom I later married and when Forbes Field was torn down in three Rivers Stadium was rebuilt. I wondered for a moment. I wonder if that bleacher bench is still there.
I didn't want to see it destroyed because it was sacred to me in a profane and what God is saying here is that my altar is. This is the sacred space and if you violate this profanity is a lesson we need.
I think we can all see why Dr. Spruill was so passionate to proclaim, teach, and defend the holiness of God.
As we continue his classic series, the holiness of God here and Renewing Your Mind were catching just a glimpse of the majesty of the holy one of Israel. You'll hear more messages from the series in the coming days, but that you can request all 15 lessons. We will add them to your online learning library where you can download them to your tablet or computer. Just contact us today with a donation of any amount along with the download will also send you the hardback 25th anniversary edition of Dr. Spruill's book the holiness of God.
You can make your request and give your gift online and Renewing Your Mind.org or you can call us at 800-435-4343 for 45 years. Table talk magazine has been dedicated to helping Christians grow in their knowledge of the holiness of God. Each monthly issue contains feature articles daily Bible studies and columns touching on biblical and theological themes to help strengthen and encourage you in your faith. To subscribe, just go to table talk magazine.com RC will be back with a final thought force in just a moment, but we want to let you know what's coming up tomorrow when King David recovered the Ark of the covenant he brought it home on oxcart when the oxen stumbled also reached out to steady the ark and God killed modern theologians look at that event in antiquity and say see here is a crass example of primitive, na´ve, methodologically oriented people attributing to God, something that God would never do.
RC will examine why God's holiness required swift justice in that case. Thank you again for being with us today on Renewing Your Mind and now here's RC with a final thought.
We don't have a tabernacle, but we still have sacred places we still have sacred time, and we live in a world that more and more is profaning that which is holy is not God's accustomed to send fire from heaven. Every time we transgress the holy if it were his normal pattern of behavior we would all have been consumed in flames years ago, but the record is still there, and God's character is still there, and God still is very much concerned with how we observe matters that are