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Leviticus 10 Strange fire, pt.2

Leviticus  •  Sermon  •  Submitted
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The message points to the importance of obedience and faithfulness to the Lord's commands especially for those who are His ministers.

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We saw last time that Nadab and Abihu were most likely well respected by those in Israel from the top down. They had been part of the select group who had seen the Lord on Mt. Sinai, who had heard Him give words to Moses, were next in line to the High priesthood and yet, their failure at this crucial juncture was a tremendous shock to all. It serves as a warning to anyone who thinks they can come before the Lord any way they choose. We didn’t define exactly what was meant by the strange fire, but we know whatever it was it was not what God had commanded them to bring. It could have been the wrong incense, fire from a source other than the altar, they could have offered it at the wrong time of day or entered the area that was reserved only for the High priest. At any rate, they minimized the holiness of God, minimizing God Himself in their attempt and paid with their death. Another example of a person who attempts to come before the Holy God in an unholy fashion. Moses had to rid the area of defilement by dead bodies, and warn Aaron and his sons they were not to put on display of grief because that would be like the same kind of sin as Nadab and Abihu, showing disdain for God’s decree. We began the chapter with disobedience, we ended this first section with obedience as Aaron and his sons did as Moses commanded.
We would do well to take this warning to heart. God is jealous of HIs holiness. He demands that anyone who comes to Him be holy. Anyone who claims to belong to Him to be Holy. This would be another reminder that God is a dangerous God, not to be trifled with by a mere human being. However, there is a way to come before Him. He has provided it, given instructions on how to approach Him. One only needs to follow it closely to the letter in order to do so. That was the law, even these laws of sacrifice. But they were a constant reminder that they fail miserably and they need help.
Enter: the Lamb of God that takes away the sin of the world: Jesus Christ.
Now then, we are ready for the second level of this chapter

II. In Worship we must exercise faithful obedience in carrying out our duties, 8-11

This is a new section: 8-11 whereby the Lord speaks to Aaron instead of Moses. This is the first time God speaks directly to Aaron and it is a warning or instruction. This makes this a very important section just because of this.
It’s like getting called to the principles office. you know you are either in big trouble or the principle has something important to say to you. This case it is clearly the latter.
The Lord said to him, three things the two of which fall as a matter of course on the first one. In other words, if you don’t abide the first one, the latter two will not be done correctly either. So the first one is also of a first matter of importance because it impacts how the latter two will be accomplished.
As we see it is

A. No intoxicating drink while on duty

“Do not drink wine or strong drink, you and your sons with you, when you enter into the meeting tent, so that you do not die., which is a perpetual statute throughout your generations.”(ESV)
If nothing else, one of the issues this ensconces is that those who minister as priests and teach the word will need to be holy themselves.
those who would teach the word will need to be holy themselves. This is the only time in Leviticus this happens which heightens the importance of what he is told.
Now ‘strong drink’ is a fermented drink capable of intoxicating a person so that they are rendered incapable of making sound judgments.
We all know the change in conduct and thinking capabilities that occur when one is intoxicated. They often do foolishly stupid things. they stagger around bumping into things, they may get violent. They often err in their judgments. We have all seen the shows where the police officer gives a sobriety test to a suspected drunk driver. They have them try to touch the finger tips or walk a straight line one foot in front of the other or blow into a breathalyzer contraption to determine their level of intoxication. We all cringe at the thought of coming face to face with a drunk driver on some dark night. We read the news reports that are so tragic of that sort of thing happening. The fact that it happens and is all over the news its a wonder to me why it even happens. Don’t they know that if they get into that car and drive drunk they could kill someone or themselves? sure they do, but that is just point here. They don’t use good judgment. They don’t start off the day thinking, I’ll go have a few beers at PT109 and drive home drunk and get in an accident and kill someone. No! but when they do go to the tavern have a few beers and then go to get in their car to drive home, their reasoning abilities are impaired enough that they are tricking themselves into thinking they are not as drunk as everyone thinks. I can do this. I got this. I’ll make it home.
Well that is exactly why the priests were not to drink these beverages while on duty. Because they might not be able to stop the tabernacle from being defiled. They won’t know the holy from the unholy. Thus, inadvertently someone could enter in an unholy fashion and be killed just as these two were, or even bring something in that is defiled. In fact, they might even insist on defiling the holy place. Just think of Hophni and Phineas who were often drunk on duty, and were making the worship of God a mess.
So God commands Aaron personally so as to magnify the importance of this:
no alcohol-strong drink when you go in to the tent of meeting.
Notice the warning right at the tail end of this, highlighting how serious this is:
“Lest you die”,
In light of what just happened, some think this is what Nadab and Abihu did. they were drunk. In either case, the point I am sure is made. Aaron and his sons will not long forget this commandment.
The wages of sin is death.
I thought also of God’s warning to Adam and Eve not to eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil if they do they will surely die.
Their death was not just physical, in fact, they didn’t immediately die, but they were immediately separated from God. Their relationship was severed, killed.. Here it was I think a threat of immediate death as noted by Nadab and Abihu and by Uzzah. But probably more importantly, being cut off from relationship from God. Which is the very opposite of what their role as priests was intended to do. They were involved in the restoration process, but if they violate the law by practicing their priestly duties while intoxicated they have just defeated their purpose.
Now Isaiah records this was neglected by the priests when we get to drunkenness was one of the violations .
The same kind of prohibition is found in the NT and the leaders of the church and the connection to this is apparent:
1 Timothy 3:3–8 ESV
not a drunkard, not violent but gentle, not quarrelsome, not a lover of money. He must manage his own household well, with all dignity keeping his children submissive, for if someone does not know how to manage his own household, how will he care for God’s church? He must not be a recent convert, or he may become puffed up with conceit and fall into the condemnation of the devil. Moreover, he must be well thought of by outsiders, so that he may not fall into disgrace, into a snare of the devil. Deacons likewise must be dignified, not double-tongued, not addicted to much wine, not greedy for dishonest gain.
Titus 2:2–3 ESV
Older men are to be sober-minded, dignified, self-controlled, sound in faith, in love, and in steadfastness. Older women likewise are to be reverent in behavior, not slanderers or slaves to much wine. They are to teach what is good,
Titus 2
So the warning is for leaders of the church today too in a sense. Drunkenness is actually a disqualifying mark for those in leadership in the church or those who aspire to leadership in the church. If they can’t control themselves with relation to alcohol how are they going to lead someone done the narrow path?
Which then brings me to the second point here:
So the first point was they were not to drink intoxicating drinks while on duty. It doesn’t say they could not drink intoxicating drinks during the other 11 months of the year.
This second point is

B. Distinguish between holy and defiled, 10

I believe this duty here is one of the main reasons for the first law of no drinking alcohol. They have a purpose of determining what is holy and what is not. As priests they are mediators between man and God. And part of their responsibility is to distinguish clearly between holy and and common/that which is non holy, pure or impure. So three categories of physical state. Super important so the priests would not permit people or things to defile the holy tabernacle.
The word put difference/divide or separate, it is the idea of making a distinction between things or persons. Israel was to separate from foreigners, make a distinction between clean and unclean animals. In it was used to set Aaron apart to consecrate the holy things. Or the Levites from the rest of Israel, . So they had to be able to distinguish things.
The connection to the NT admonition to leaders in the church is clear, ,; ; for really the same reasons, so the leaders do not neglect the teaching of the Word and not distinguishing holy and unholy.
The last clause in v.9 and the first of v.10,11 are connected together grammatically to show that the prohibition against strong drink forms foundation for being able to
points out the responsibility of the priest included distinguishing between holy and unholy/profane, pure and impure, and then also to teach correctly the commands of God.
The word put difference/divide or separate, it is the idea of making a distinction between things or persons. Israel was to separate from foreigners, make a distinction between clean and unclean animals. In it was used to set Aaron apart to consecrate the holy things. Or the Levites from the rest of Israel, . So they had to be able to distinguish things.
between - holy/qodesh which is holy, sanctified, acceptable for worship and being the presence of the Holy God.
And common/profane, that which is not set apart or suitable for worship. In Ezekiel it is used here of common, ; ; .
The word is used for violating the law of God, ; . to profane is to misuse the name of God. or the Sabbath . It refers to anything that is not set apart as holy or that cannot be set apart as holy.
Sklar says the word “common” is not a separate category, but simply refers to that which is non-holy.
The second category then is unclean, tame-it can refer to unclean person, animal, things that are unclean by nature or ritually unclean. for example, menstruation, context with the dead, sexual relations, leprosy, misdeeds/sins. Objects could be rendered unclean through contamination.
Third category is clean/taher-pure, clear used of the pure gold of the furniture and vessels of the tabernacle, and so absent of impurity. a woman had to wait a period of days and bring offerings to restore her purity, as did a leper. The impure had to be made pure as we see throughout Leviticus,
It was necessary, therefore, for the priest to avoid anything that would hinder his ability to discern between these three categories in order that nothing defiled would be allowed to come into the worship of God. The Greek translation uses holy and what is not holy, lit. not of the temple, used of one who was debarred from the temple, unhallowed. It also uses akatharton/katharton unclean and clean.
Paul says a similar thing using the same language in
1 Thessalonians 4:7 ESV
For God has not called us for impurity, but in holiness.
Priests were like door keepers in a sense they had the responsibility to keep the dwelling of God and all that is in it sacred. They were not to allow anything or anyone that was not holy to enter in and thereby defile God’s house.
Paul points out we are to do the same thing. We are called to the same concept. We must be vigilant to not allow things, thoughts, people to defile our own walk with the Lord. Go back and read just and note his exhortation to walk to please God, keeping His commandments, the will of God is your sanctification, abstain from fornication, no lust, defrauding and so on. Avoid anything that would hinder our walk in holiness with the Lord.
THen finally, the third responsibility of the Priest was to teach the law, all the statutes to the people,

C. Teach the people the statutes, 11

to teach the sons of Israel all the statutes the Lord had spoken by the hand of Moses.
Teaching the law was part of the function of the priests.
Deuteronomy 33:10 ESV
They shall teach Jacob your rules and Israel your law; they shall put incense before you and whole burnt offerings on your altar.
; ; .
Ezra 7:25 ESV
“And you, Ezra, according to the wisdom of your God that is in your hand, appoint magistrates and judges who may judge all the people in the province Beyond the River, all such as know the laws of your God. And those who do not know them, you shall teach.
; .
Nehemiah 8:7 ESV
Also Jeshua, Bani, Sherebiah, Jamin, Akkub, Shabbethai, Hodiah, Maaseiah, Kelita, Azariah, Jozabad, Hanan, Pelaiah, the Levites, helped the people to understand the Law, while the people remained in their places.
We are talking about how to live in the presence of a holy God who if His holiness is violated it could mean instant death. They just had an experience of that.
It would be like working around electricity. If you don’t respect what it can do to you and you get careless about safety it can ruin your day in a hurry. So someone who is going to take up such a vocation is going to have to be educated as to the do’s and don’ts of working with electricity.
The priests have the responsibility of teaching and modeling the do’s and don’t’s of living with God who is holy. it can be dangerous. But it can be the most satisfying thing too. In fact, that is the way God wants it. So it is very important that there is nothing in the life of the priest that hinder the accurate teaching of the God’s statutes.
I mean would you feel comfortable sailing on a ship with a drunk captain? or getting into a car with a driver that was clearly inebriated? If the priest was drunk when you brought your sacrifice at a most important time in your life you would be offended. You would think, what is this guy doing. He doesn’t respect the Lord very much does he? you would either find someone else or you might think that if he doesn’t care may be I shouldn’t either. The teaching they were doing would be minimized. They probably would not even be teaching the truth. Their minds being altered they would not even be able to discern the truth.
As Christians we too have the same task don’t we? To teach others the good news. How to live with a holy God. How to be reconciled to Him and then how to live in harmony with Him. That is why Paul instructs Timothy and Titus what he does.
Ephesians 5:18 ESV
And do not get drunk with wine, for that is debauchery, but be filled with the Spirit,
is a good example and I will close with this.
He has given us all we need to live with Him in the fashion He has designed. We are to find our total satisfaction in Him. But what we learn is that we can’t come any old way we want. The only safe way is to come to Him in His way. And this book shows us that way is through the sacrifice and that sacrifice is Jesus Christ.
He has given us all we need to live with Him in the fashion He has designed. We are to find our total satisfaction in Him. But what we learn is that we can’t come any old way we want. The only safe way is to come to Him in His way. And this book shows us that way is through the sacrifice and that sacrifice is Jesus Christ.
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