WORSHIP AS SERVICE
Leviticus 8–10“Moses said to the assembly, ’This is what the Lord has commanded to be done’ “ (Lev. 8:5).These chapters describe the initiation of Aaron and his sons into Israel’s priesthood. Each underlines in a significant way that, while offering the Lord dedicated service is one way in which we can worship, our ministry must be performed in full accord with God’s commands.
Aaron and his sons were ordained in an impressive, seven-day ceremony (8:1–36). They officiated at sacrifices offered “in the prescribed way” (9:1–24). Nadab and Abihu died for offering “unauthorized fire,” and Moses emphasized the importance of serving God exactly as He had prescribed (10:1–20).
Understanding the Text
“Your ordination will last seven days” Lev. 8:1–36. An impressive ordination ceremony served to emphasize the importance of the Old Testament priesthood and the awesomeness of the priests’ privilege. The men, their garments, and everything they would use in serving the Lord were set apart wholly for God’s service. During the priests’ ordination service Moses took the blood of a ram and placed some of it on the lobe of the priests’ right ear, the thumb of the right hand, and the big toe of the right foot (vv. 22–23). Those who serve God must be ready to hear His voice, to devote every effort to God’s service, and to walk in the Lord’s ways. The pattern holds true for believer-priests today. If we are to worship God with our service, we must listen to Him, work to achieve His ends, and maintain personal holiness by obedience. “The Lord . . . consumed the burnt offering” Lev. 9:1–24. The priests began their ministry by offering a series of sacrifices, first for themselves, and then for the people. The sequence of these sacrifices is significant. First was the sin offering (vv. 3, 8, 15). Second was the burnt offering (vv. 3, 12, 16). Third was the fellowship or peace offering (vv. 4, 18). The sin offering speaks of atonement, by which the offerer’s sins are covered. The burnt offering speaks of personal, voluntary dedication of oneself to God. The fellowship offering speaks of wholeness and thanksgiving. This same sequence is followed in our experience with the Lord. We must first trust the Saviour who died for our sins. Then we can dedicate our lives to His service. And only then, in personal relationship with Jesus and through commitment to Him, will we find joy and inner peace. The concluding verses, which tell of fire from the Lord which consumed the sacrifices, indicates that God was pleased with and accepted the offerings of priests and people. No wonder the people “shouted for joy and fell facedown” when they saw the heavenly flames. The Alliance Church in Salem, Oregon makes it a practice to place “Appreciation Cards” in the pews. Members are encouraged to write notes to people who have ministered to them that week, or have helped them in any way. Christians too feel joy and are moved to worship when we see evidence that God has accepted our service and used us to enrich the lives of others. “Unauthorized fire” Lev. 10:1–7. We can’t determine the motives of Nadab or Abihu in making the offering that led to their deaths. We do know that they violated God’s clear command concerning how He was to be served. “Unauthorized fire” suggests one violation. Incense was to be burned only on coals taken from the altar of sacrifice (cf. 16:2). Moreover, only Aaron was to offer incense within the tabernacle (Ex. 30:1–10). Whatever their motive, the actions of Nadab and Abihu showed utter contempt for God’s careful and detailed instructions on priestly service. Immediately fire flared out from the Lord and consumed them, “and they died before the Lord.” God explained this punishment. “Among those who approach Me I will show Myself holy; in the sight of all the people I will be honored.” Those who claim to serve God must honor Him by serving in the way God has prescribed. It is particularly important that those who claim to represent God be obedient to Him. To some extent, God has placed His glory and honor in our hands. “You . . . are not to drink wine or other fermented drink” Lev. 10:8–11. In the Old Testament, wine is frequently associated with joy and celebration. Fermented wine was drunk at feasts (1 Sam. 25:18), given as a gift (2 Sam. 16:1), and even poured on offerings to God (Ex. 29:40; Lev. 23:13; Num. 15:7). While wine is often symbolic of rejoicing, drunkenness and abuse of alcohol are sternly rebuked. The priests are warned never to drink wine when they go into the tabernacle to serve the Lord. Why? Because the priests were responsible to “distinguish between the holy and the profane” and “to teach the Israelites all the decrees of the Lord.” One who serves God and who is called to teach simply cannot risk any impairment of his or her faculties by drink or, in modern times, by drugs. “Would the Lord have been pleased?” Lev. 10:12–20 Aaron and his other two sons continued to minister at the tabernacle after Nadab and Abihu were killed. However they may have felt, they and they alone could offer the required sacrifices. Moses had commanded them not to mourn in the normal way Israelites behaved when death struck (v. 6). Later that day Aaron and his sons did not eat their share of the sin offering as Moses has prescribed. Moses was angry, but Aaron explained: Would God have been pleased if he had exercised his privilege as a priest to feast on the sin offering, considering that day’s tragic disobedience and its consequences? The censers in which the incense was burned were small, shovel-like instruments. Many censers, like those shown here, have been recovered from worship centers throughout the Middle East.
Jesus Is Lord (Lev. 9)
It’s one of those theological issues people like to debate. Can you accept Jesus as Saviour without taking Him as Lord? One side argues that all God requires is true belief that Jesus died for our sins. The other side argues that since Jesus is Lord, to truly believe in Him one must accept Him as both Saviour and Lord. Building an analogy on Leviticus 9 helps us resolve the question. Note the sequence and the character of the sacrifices offered for both the priests and the people. A sin offering was sacrificed first. This sacrifice was to cover the sins of the offerer. As Leviticus 4–5 repeatedly says, the person approaching God must bring this offering if he is to be accepted. The burnt offering was sacrificed next. This sacrifice symbolized the total commitment of the worshiper to God, and was a voluntary offering. It represents that full personal commitment expected from a Christian who consciously commits himself or herself to Jesus as Lord. Third, the fellowship offering was sacrificed. This offering speaks of the wholeness and inner harmony experienced by a person who lives in intimate fellowship with the Lord. The pattern suggests several realities to apply to the lordship debate. First, we must approach God through Jesus, our sin offering. Belief in Him as Saviour is the foundation of our salvation. Second, we may, once saved, voluntarily commit ourselves to Jesus as Lord. Third, following full commitment we will experience the peace that God makes available to His own. This analogy seems to take sides with those who say you can accept Jesus as Saviour without committing yourself to Him as Lord. But the sequence is always linked! Christian experience is a series of steps toward intimacy. God never intends any believer, once saved, to stop short of full commitment and fellowship. What an encouragement this is. Yes, it is exciting to know Jesus as Saviour. But salvation is the beginning, not the end, of our journey toward God. Only as you and I keep on walking toward Him, taking daily steps of commitment and obedience, will we discover the fullness of the joy that knowing Jesus promises.
Think of the Christian faith as a journey toward intimacy. How far along are you on the journey? What do you need to do to take your next step?