Thursday, November 4, 2010

Leviticus 9-12: Draw Near to the Altar

From Garden to City reading:  Leviticus 9-12

We live under a new covenant.  Jesus died on the cross.  He is the sacrifice for our sin, all our sins, past, present, and future.  And when he left earth, the Holy Spirit came as our counselor, our comforter, the one who convicts of us sin, the one who empowers us to witness.

Because of Jesus, because of grace, we can approach the throne of God the father with confidence.

And I don't think we fully recognize how amazing that grace is.  If we've been Christians for very long at all, if we've grown up hearing about this, we may forget what life would be like if we didn't live under grace.

Leviticus reminds us.

Chapter 9 opens up with Moses instructing Aaron, the high priest:  This is what you must do that the glory of the Lord may appear to you.  Draw near to the altar . . .

And so Aaron offers sacrifices, exactly as proscribed by Moses, who has received instruction directly from God.  And he lays out the offering exactly as proscribed by Moses.  And if you're reading, or if you've read this before, you can see that this is not a quick in-and-out sacrifice.  This is complicated.  Detailed.  Precise.

But when he is done, Moses and Aaron can enter the tent of meeting, and when they come out, they bless the people and the glory of the Lord appears to all the people.

Just so they don't forget it, so that they fear God, fire comes out from the altar and consumes the fat still lying on the altar.

Many of us would like to see tangible representations of God's glory like this, but it comes at a price for Aaron.  Two of his sons approach the altar in an unauthorized way, and the fire of the Lord consumes them.

And I don't understand this, but I'm thinking that this story doesn't register for most of us.  This episode doesn't fit with our image of who God is.  And yet, God hasn't changed.

He is holy.

We come to him on his terms or not at all.

And it's true that we don't see random people consumed on our altars today, and I'm grateful for that, and it's often true that God reveals himself to us gradually, and we're always in the process of learning how to please him.  God gives us grace in the journey.

But we don't get to make up our own rules.

Aaron's sons knew God's holiness, and for whatever reasons, they decided to approach him on their own terms.  The results are disastrous.

I don't need fire, but I do want to see God's glory.  I want to experience his presence.  I want to know him on his terms.  I need to draw near to the altar, draw near to Jesus, worship him on his terms, and allow him to reveal himself to me.

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