Summary: Throughout the priesthood of Aaron we learn about obedience to a holy God.
Holy Fire – Unholy Fire
The tragic house fire that took the lives of three children caught the attention of many people, not only in our community, but also in places far away. My wife received a phone call from Alaska from someone wanting to help; the man said it was on national news there. He used our church’s website to get the phone number.
The images of that night still burn in our minds. Neighbors, relatives and friends stood helplessly by as firefighters tried to control the fire. Since that time we have been trying to make the best sense we can out of this tragedy.
• Someone put up a large sheet on the house where people signed their names.
• A pile of flowers and teddy bears appeared by the tree.
• Some fifty people came to the church on Saturday for prayer.
• Many people called to ask what they could do.
• On Wednesday, 175 people gathered here for the memorial service which included a large number of teenagers, some of whom did not want to leave afterwards. It’s hard to lose a friend.
• Several of you helped serve a meal as a way to minister to the needs of family members and friends.
• And on Wednesday evening, over 60 people gathered for a short candlelight vigil.
• The local media have kept us informed of events as they happened.
According to fire inspectors, who went through the house four times, there was nothing anyone could have done to change the outcome. The fire may have smoldered above the ceiling for several days before it reached its flash point. And when it erupted, it was too late, especially for those who were upstairs.
Now we are left with our grief and we can only hope that something good will come out of this difficult experience.
Fires are scary, especially when they are unexpected and uncontrolled. But, some uses of fire remind us of God, as we learn from the Bible. The people of the Old Testament were acquainted with that kind of fire. You remember the story of Moses and the burning bush and the way Moses heard God’s voice when he saw it. That was a holy-fire experience for Moses.
If you have been with us for the past several weeks, you know that we have begun a journey through the Bible. We started with Genesis and are now in Leviticus.
• Remember that God saved Moses from death when he was a baby and later used Moses to lead the people of Israel out of slavery.
• God parted the waters in the Red Sea so they could get out. He led them in the wilderness and supplied their needs.
• God gave them the 10 commandments as a covenant.
• God led them with a cloud by day and a pillar of fire by night.
• And God commanded them to build a tabernacle, a tent, which would be a place where God would come down to meet them. It would stand in the center of their camp as a constant reminder of God’s presence.
• The book of Exodus ends with God’s glory coming down on the completed tabernacle, glory that was so intense Moses couldn’t even enter it because the glory of the Lord filled the tabernacle.
They were acquainted with the fire of God’s presence.
Last week we learned from Leviticus 1-7 what worship is. Worship requires offering one’s very best to God. And for the Israelites that meant sacrifices of various kinds. God wants his people to be holy. “For I am the Lord your God; sanctify yourselves therefore, and be holy for I am holy.” Lev. 11:44. That’s why God gave such careful instructions about how to worship.
In Leviticus 8-10, we see that God provided a priest to help this new community understand the will of God, and to give them instruction. It was also his job to guide their confessions of sin through sacrifices and to proclaim God’s forgiveness. So we learn about Aaron, the brother of Moses, as he is ordained for this awesome task of becoming a priest for the people. And at every step we see how important it is to do what God asks.
Note the repetition of “as the Lord commanded Moses.” Kids, when your mother or grandmother tells you something again and again, it usually means it is important, unless, of course, she has Alzheimers disease. One key to Bible study is to look for repetition. In these 3 chapters one little phrase occurs 16 times. That phrase is “as the Lord commanded Moses.” The Bible makes absolutely clear that they are following the instructions exactly as God gave them. That phrase is used again and again. And as a result, we read in 9:33 that the glory of the Lord appeared to all the people. When God’s people obey his word, they can expect to enjoy his blessing. But when people do not obey, the opposite is true. In chapter 10, we see that Aaron’s sons do something that was not commanded by the Lord and the fire of blessing was turned into a fire of punishment.