Pulpit Commentary Homiletics
Leviticus 10:1-11Acts 5. We have considered the consecration both of the high priest and of the minor priests, and how, entering upon their office in expectation of a sign, they got it in the outflash of the "consuming fire." But sad to say, two of the minor priests so provoke the Lord by their presumption that they are instantly consumed. Having already contrasted the high priest's consecration with Christ's baptism, and the descent of the fire with the effusion of the Spirit at Pentecost, we cannot resist the parallel presented by the case of Ananias and Sapphira to this case of Nadab and Abihu. If believers are rightly regarded as "priests unto God," then the case of Ananias and Sapphira is one of presumption in an assumed priesthood. The parallel will help us to definite ideas about the sin.
I. HONOUR IS OFTENTIMES TOO MUCH FOR SOME MINDS. And it is generally a minor class of mind that gets intoxicated with position and success. Nadab and Abihu, elevated to the priesthood, are so elated as to suppose that everything becomes them. Moreover, allied with this mental intoxication and excitement there often is physical intoxication. Indulgence is thought a proper thing for the upstart, and so he leads his presumption by excess. The probabilities are in favour of supposing that Nadab and Abihu had indulged in wine or strong drink immediately on their elevation to the priesthood (cf. verses 9, 10), and, in consequence, were incapacitated for distinguishing between the holy fire and its unholy counterfeit. It is not every one who can stand a "full cup," or walk with it steadily. If with honour there comes not a quiet spirit, it becomes a curse rather than a blessing.
II. SELF-CONFIDENCE IS THE NATURAL RESULT OF THE INTOXICATION OF SUCCESS. Nadab and Abihu, in their folly, think that they can guide themselves in priestly duty. Their venerable uncle, Moses, is not to be consulted by such dignitaries as they are. They can approach the Divine presence in a perfectly new and original way. The fire which came originally from heaven, and which has been most carefully preserved as a sacred deposit, is not, they believe, a bit better than fire they themselves can kindle. They will not depend upon it, but furnish a good fire themselves. Their spirit is sell-confidence all through. The license of innovation was most uncalled for at such a time, seeing that the ritual was only in process of reception from heaven. There was no excuse for their course at all.
III. GOD NEVER GRANTS A MANIFESTATION, BUT SATAN GETS UP THROUGH SELF-CONFIDENT MEN A COUNTERFEIT. Nadab and Abihu believed they could produce as good a fire as God. Ananias and Sapphire believed that hypocrisy could conduct itself as creditably as Pentecostal devotion. To every suggestion of a "year of grace," there comes the counter-suggestion of a "year of delusion." All fire is equally common, or, for that matter, equally sacred, to the self-confident mind. Special inspirations are incredible. Censers can be filled on the most rational principles, and God does not refuse any man's person. Paul, in 1 Corinthians 13, conveys the idea of counterfeit eloquence, a loveless exhibition of oratory that casual observers might pronounce angelic; of counterfeit enthusiasm, and even faith, so that neither mysteries nor mountains can retard the loveless spirit's prayers; of counterfeit martyrdoms, giving up the body to be burned after giving up fortune to the poor; and yet, because love is wanting in such cases, they constitute an unacceptable and profitless service.
IV. THOSE WHO PRESUME WITH THEIR COUNTERFEITS MUST ACCEPT OF THE JUDGMENT THEY DESERVE. Nadab and Abihu, despising the Divine fire, and coming into competition with their own, are consumed by it. In a moment they experience how God is a "consuming fire' to all presumption. Ananias and Sapphira feel the same. They fall before the deserved vengeance of the Most High. God offers us the great alternative - either sanctification through the fire of the Holy Ghost, or destruction from the presence of the Lord and the glory of his power. God will be sanctified in some way: if the wrath of man does not turn to praise, it will glorify God in being restrained (Psalm 76:10).
V. IT IS CLEAR THAT GOD ONLY ACCEPTS WHAT HE HIMSELF INSPIRES. This is the lesson of this sad providence. We must bring back to God what he has given. Independent offerings are not acceptable. To come to him in a way of our own devising, instead of by Jesus Christ; to come to him in a self-confident spirit, instead of in the humility inspired by the Holy Ghost; to come to him with proud, cold hearts, instead of with warm and ardent ones, is to be sent empty away. He refuses all such counterfeit offerings; he must have Divine fire or none. - R.M.E.
I. THE ACT OF RASH DISOBEDIENCE.
1. We see two brothers sinning against God. Brothers may be mutually helpful or injurious. To witness the union of members of a family in pious zeal is delightful, but too often relationship is provocative of harm rather than of blessing. Elder brothers, beware of leading your younger relations into sin!
2. Two that were intimately related to holy men were not thereby shielded from thoughtless action and severe judgment. Alas! that the children of godly parents should ever belie their ancestry. Here the sons of Aaron and nephews of Moses dishonoured their relationship.
3. Two young men brought destruction upon themselves and grief upon their friends. They died childless, and, if more than youths, could yet hardly have attained to any great age. Eleazar, the next brother, was perhaps not twenty at this time, for he was not included in the list of the men forbidden to see or enter the land of promise. We are apt to censure the evil deeds of young men too gently, and to look upon youth as more of an excuse than God seems here to regard it. Experience proves that if youth naturally inclines to sin, so also is it, equally with age, visited with righteous retribution.
4. Two that had been openly dedicated to the service of God were unmindful of his precepts. They had just been consecrated as priests. This did not prevent them from violating the Law, nor protect them from the consequences of their behaviour. There is danger as well as honour involved in waiting upon God. If Peter had not been called to the lofty position of discipleship, he had not denied his Master. By smiting these two priests, sons of the high priest, Jehovah taught the people that sin could be committed by, and would not be pardoned in, the most exalted of the nation. It was a conspicuous, forcible demonstration of the majesty and holiness of God.
5. Two that had recently beheld the glory of the Lord forgot the obedience their position demanded. Perhaps it was the very excitement consequent on such's scene that unduly elevated them, so that, becoming giddy, they reeled into the abyss of impetuous self-will and awful penalty. We must guard against imprudent familiar handling of Divine things after the grace of God has visited us with wondrous revelations of his mercy and favour. It is evident that even if displays of supernatural power were frequent, they would not prove a security against transgression. Some have turned the grace of God manifested in full and free salvation through Christ into a covering for licentiousness and irreverence.
II. THE GLOOMY CHANGE EFFECTED BY SIN.
1. A day of hallowed joy becomes a day of mourning. This is the bitter chequered experience of life. The sunny skies soon grow dark with clouds, the quiet waters are lashed into tempestuous fury. Men are almost afraid of seasons of ecstatic rejoicing, as if a reaction must quickly ensue; the gladness seems itself a presentiment of coming trouble. Sorrow treads close upon the heels of mirth. Sin may well excite in us sentiments of aversion when we see how it has disfigured the fair features of creation's landscape, changing songs into sighs and smiles into tears. Many a day that began with singing and prayer has ended with wailing and remorse.
2. The fire of Divine approval is changed in, to the fire of Divine wrath. The men became a sacrifice to God's glory indeed, but were not an offering voluntarily laid upon his altar. It seemed fitting that the punishment should bear an analogy to the sin. Strange fire was punished with hallowed fire. The conception of a mild Deity unmoved to indignation at acts unaccordant with his will is not justified by Scripture, nor is it in harmony with the utterances of conscience or the testimony borne by the existent laws of his moral government of the world.
3. Not even the profession of desire to honour God excuses the willful neglect of his injunctions. To substitute human inventions for scriptural institutions is a dangerous practice. Reason may discern little difference of moment, but it is not safe to argue that therefore the particular observance is immaterial, and rests on no rational ground of distinction. The loyalty that will presume to alter the king's ordinances is of doubtful character and certain of rejection. - S.R.A.
I. THE NATURE OF THEIR SIN. We are told:
1. That they offered strange fire to God.
(1) The censers were right. They were doubtless those made under the direction of Bezaleel and Aholiab according to patterns shown in the mount (Exodus 25:40).
(2) The composition of the incense also was right; we have no intimation to the contrary. Under proper conditions, therefore, the incense might appropriately ascend with the "prayers of the saints" (see Luke 1:9, 10; Revelation 8:3, 4).
(3) But the fire was wrong. It was a fire of their own kindling: not that which came forth from the Lord. It therefore represented their own spirit rather than the Spirit of God. No prayer can be acceptable that is not divinely inspired (see Isaiah 1:10, 11; Romans 8:26, 27; James 4:3). It matters not how correct the form of words: the censer is nothing; or how orthodox the sentiment: the composition of the incense is nothing, without the sacred fire (1 Corinthians 13:1, 2).
2. That they acted without direction.
(1) This is the force of the words, "which he commanded them not." Their crime was not in doing what was forbidden, but in doing what was not enjoined. Will-worship is offensive to God. No body of uninspired men has any business to "decree rites and ceremonies." We should study the written Word to "prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God" (see Deuteronomy 4:2; Proverbs 30:6; Romans 12:2; Revelation 22:18, 19).
(2) These transgressors were moved by a criminal pride. What had been done hitherto was done by Aaron, his sons only helping him; and done under the direction of Moses. They set divinely constituted authority at naught, which amounted to the despising of the authority of God. It was the very sin of Korah and his company (see Numbers 16).
(3) They introduced confusion. One priest at a time should offer incense in order to foreshadow that One true Priest whose merits, as incense, invests with acceptable fragrance and gives direction to the prayers of the saints (see Psalm 141:2, margin; Romans 8:34; Hebrews 9:24; Revelation 8:3, 4). Here two at once rush in. These foreshadow the confusion of that antichrist which would make "priests" and "saints" and "angels" rivals of the one only Mediator (1 Timothy 2:5, 6).
II. THE LESSONS OF THE PUNISHMENT.
1. God is not to be trifled with.
(2) He is "a consuming fire." He will consume our sins in the sacrifice of Christ in his mercy, or he will make us a sacrifice and consume us in his anger. "He that believeth not shall be damned."
2. His vengeance is often retributive.
(2) They preferred a fire of their own kindling to the fire of God; God's fire put their censers out, together with the light of their life. Twice we are reminded that they had no children, viz. Numbers 3:4; 1 Chronicles 24:2. So completely was their light extinguished! "Quench not the Spirit."
3. His retributions are sometimes summary.
(1) Their presumption was hasty and their destruction was swift (see 2 Peter 2:1).
(2) They found "no space for repentance." They "died before the Lord," in presence of the mercy-seat, but finding no mercy. No wrath is more terrible than "the wrath of the Lamb."
(3) As their sin foreshadowed that of the Babylonish antichrist, so did their punishment betoken his (see 2 Thessalonians 2:3-8; Revelation 18:8). That judgment will be "before all the people." In it God will be signally "glorified."
4. Mourning for the dead has its laws and limitations.
(2) "Aaron held his peace." Did not murmur against God. Moses soothed him by showing that it was a necessary act of justice. Wherein God is glorified we should be content.
(3) It must not have expression in the holy place, which is a type of heaven. There the wisdom and justice of the judgments of God will be so manifest that the punishment of the wicked cannot be mourned.
(4) But mourning is proper in the camp (verses 4-6). The funeral procession through the camp of those corpses, wrapped in the very vestments in which the deceased too vainly gloried, would be an affecting sight. Nadab and Abihu, who had been in the mount, beholding the glory of the Lord (Exodus 24:1), are now by wrath issuing from that same glory brought very low. When a king falls he often finds a scaffold at the foot of his throne. "Be not high-minded, but fear." - J.A.M.
1. THE CHARACTER OF THE TRANSGRESSION. It appears (from verse 16, compared with Leviticus 9:15) that this forbidden act was done very soon indeed after the solemnities described in the preceding chapter (9). Otherwise we should have inferred that it was familiarity with sacred rites which had bred irreverent unconcern, and issued in disobedience. We seem shut up to the conclusion that these young men, even when the solemn inaugural scenes were fresh in their memories, and. the commandments of the Lord clearly before their minds, deliberately and wantonly took fire from another source than the heaven-kindled flame on the brazen altar (Leviticus 9:24). Their action was, therefore, not only a defiant violation of the Law they had received from Moses, the servant of Jehovah, but it was a perverse disregard of the manifest will of God, made known in special supernatural disclosure.
II. THE EXPLANATION OF THE PUNISHMENT. (Verse 2.) This may seem severe, has seemed so to some. Why not exclusion from office or excommunication from the congregation of the Lord? Why the extreme penalty for one act of error in worship? The answer is manifold.
1. Their deed was (as has been said) an act of willful and wanton disobedience.
2. It was committed by those who were in high position.
3. It was a sin on the part of men in the enjoyment of high privilege, and in the exercise of no slight influence.
4. It was an evil thing done in the holy place and before the very face of God; it was disobedience in connection with the public worship of Jehovah - the supreme sphere of activity, in regard to which it was of vital consequence to the nation that everything should be done aright.
5. One signal mark of high displeasure might be mercy as well as justice - inspiring holy awe and saving many others from similar transgressions.
III. THE LESSONS WHICH THE SIN AND THE PENALTY LEAVE BEHIND THEM. We learn from this solemn and painful scene:
1. That God's will must be sedulously regarded in our approaches to himself: "I will be sanctified in them that come nigh me" (verse 3).
2. That God will vindicate his Law in unmistakable ways: "before all the people I will be glorified" (verse 3).
3. That there is no exemption from exposure to temptation: not
(1) sonship of the holy;
(2) being in a holy place;
(3) engagement in holy things;
(4) recency of special privilege.
4. That the heinousness of sin depends on many things beside the nature of the overt act.
5. That between sin and suffering there will be found a striking correspondence. With fire they sinned, and by fire they were consumed. God makes meet penalty to overtake transgression: whatsoever a man sows, that he reaps (Galatians 6:7). Sins against the soul lead to spiritual injury; against the body, to weakness, disease, and death; against society, to social dishonour and shame, etc. - C.
Great and small things in the worship of God. Doubtless it seemed to Nadab and Abihu a matter of no consequence at all that they should take fire from one altar rather than from another. To us it may seem a comparatively small thing, when viewed in connection with the terrible doom that immediately ensued. Obviously, however, it was a great thing in the sight of God. The act of punishment by which he showed his high displeasure, and the words of the text, sufficiently prove this. The seriousness of this particular transgression on the part of the sons of Aaron arose from several attendant considerations (see Homily on "Sin and penalty," etc.): its seriousness to us, in the fact that we may be disregarding as small and insignificant that which, in God's sight, is great and even vital; that we may be approaching him with what we think acceptable service, when he is prepared to reject it as "strange fire," and condemn us severely for our disregard of his revealed will. In connection with the worship of God, there is -
I. THE APPARENTLY AND INTRINSICALLY SMALL. So far as the things themselves are concerned, it is of no consequence to that most High God "who dwelleth not in temples made with hands," what is
(1) the style of architecture of our sanctuaries,
(2) the character of their furniture,
(3) the order of the services,
(4) the number of ministrants who serve at pulpit or desk,
(5) the particular text chosen for the day, etc.
The judgment of good and faithful men may differ on these things, and their differences may be of no moment in the sight of God; in no way invalidating the service rendered, or lessening or lowering the blessing gained. But oven in connection with the smaller matters, as also apart from that connection, there is -
II. THE ACTUALLY AND INTRINSICALLY GREAT. It is of the most serious importance that:
1. In all things, weightier and lighter, we should study to follow the will of Christ. His will is revealed in his own words, and in the acts and words of his apostles. Thence we must studiously deduce his desire concerning us.
2. We should make all things conduce to a reverential spirit. "God will be sanctified," etc. The service which does not tend to impress the worshipper with the greatness, majesty, holiness, wisdom, faithfulness of God, is fatally defective, is essentially faulty.
3. We should exalt Jesus Christ as a Saviour from sin. The prominence and priority given to the sin offering in this book point clearly to the truth that "the Lamb of God that taketh away the sin of the world" should have the principal place in Christian worship. He, the Divine Son, is also to be "sanctified in them that come nigh."
4. We should present the entire truth of revelation; not that part which we prefer, which falls in with our tastes or acquirements, but the "whole counsel of God." Guiltily disregarding these imperative matters, we
(1) not only do not offer acceptable sacrifice, but
(2) render ourselves obnoxious to our Master's Divine dissatisfaction, to his displacement of us from his service, to his severe rebukes (Revelation 2, 3). The slightest deviation from the will of Christ, if caused by faulty negligence, and still more if due to willful disobedience, is a serious transgression; on the other hand, faithfulness in small things, rendered cheerfully and in a loving spirit, is certain of Divine acceptance and approval. - C.
I. A GREAT OFFENSE against the holiness of God.
1. Defilement of his worship. Violation of his written Word. Introduction of self-will and mere human device. Abuse of the joyful spirit of praise to insolent self-assertion and disregard of decencies and reverence.
2. Special profanation of the sanctuary by disobedience of priests. Holy offices dishonoured is a fearful evil.
3. Hiding of God's glory with false glory. Ritualism. Mere show of human talent. Abuse of music. Forgetfulness of God in his service. Temptation to vain-glory.
II. A SOLEMN VINDICATION of the sanctity of God's house and Law, Strange fire offended, true fire punished.
1. Profitableness of the study of providence, especially ecclesiastical history, as revealing the "consuming fire" of righteousness in the Church.
2. Representative character of all God's people, and especially those in prominent position. God glorified in us, whether by life or by death,
3. Double aspect of all Divine visitations of judgment, as confirming at once the strength of the Law and the faithfulness of the covenant, therefore both warning and encouragement. "Aaron held his peace," for he could only acknowledge the righteousness of God. Grace is above nature, and controls and exalts it,
III. A GREAT LESSON on the infirmity of man and the necessity of redemption. Immediately that the temple service was inaugurated, man spoiled it, as it were, by his sin. Compare the inauguration of earthly life spoiled by the sin of Adam and Eve; the new world after the Flood by Noah's sin (Genesis 9); defection in the new land of Canaan (Judges 2:13); Solomon (1 Kings 11); the corruption of the early Church (Acts 20:29, etc.); the final apostasy (Revelation 20:7-10). On what can we depend but the preserving mercy, the rescuing grace of him who has redeemed us? The "strange fire" was thus solemnly condemned only for the sake of calling out faith and attaching the people of God the more firmly to that fire of his love which, while it consumed the Sacrifice on the cross, did also prepare the way for all into the holiest, that all might be kings and priests unto God through Christ. - R.
Leviticus 10:3-7, 12-202 Samuel 12:15-23; Job 1:18-21; John 11; 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18. The conduct of Aaron under the bereavement is most instructive. He holds his peace and is prepared to do whatever Moses commands. And here we have to notice -
I. GOD'S SERVICE AND GLORY MUST TAKE PRECEDENCE OF EVERY OTHER CONSIDERATION. The surviving priests were to leave the mourning and the funeral arrangements to their brethren. The bereavement is not to interfere with their priestly service and consecration. God asserts his claims as paramount. "He that loveth father or mother more than me," said God incarnate, "is not worthy of me: and he that loveth son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me" (Matthew 10:37). It is ideally possible, therefore, to be so filled with a sense of consecration to God that every other consideration is made to dwindle into insignificance. Is not this what we shall realize in heaven?
II. SUBMISSION TO GOD'S CLEARLY EXPRESSED WILL IS A RELIEF TO THE SOUL WHICH HAS BEEN UNCERTAIN BEFORE IT. The thought that God willed the death of those dear to us, has a wonderfully calming influence upon us. We may see no reason for the stroke, and God may not for a long season show us his reason, but we can believe he has one and a good one, and. that "he doeth all things well." The death of Nadab and Abihu was as clearly a token from God as the previous manifestation. Job, again, shows the same submissive spirit under a still greater bereavement (Job 1:18-21). So did David on the death of his child (2 Samuel 12:15-23). So did Mary and Martha on the death of Lazarus (John 11.). All these worthies rested, as we all may rest, and there is no other rest but in the will of an all-wise God. Uncertainty is trying, but even the certainty of bereavement and of sorrow has an element of rest in it.
III. AARON IS CAUTIONED AGAINST ANY USE OF WINE OR STRONG DRINK WHEN ENGAGED IN PRIESTLY SERVICE. Doubtless the primary significance of this injunction was, as already noticed, that Nadab and Abihu had erred therein. But it seems to carry also a beneficial caution. For at no time are people more tempted to resort to wine and strong drink than when in bereavement. A little stimulus, they fancy, will sustain them. So they take to "the bottle" to replenish their courage. The result is that they fall into deeper troubles than ever. Aaron is the better of this injunction to abstain at this time when his sorrow is so keen.
IV. SORROW NECESSITATED FASTING INSTEAD OF FEASTING. After the terrible trial, Aaron and his surviving sons had no appetite for the feasting to which they were entitled; and so they seem to have burned the sin offering in its entirety instead of eating of it. Moses, in directing the sorrowing priests to proceed to the feast of fellowship, made no due allowance for their condition. Aaron instinctively saw the incongruity of feasting when his heart was so sore, and therefore he acted in the spirit of the Law, which disposed of what could not be used in the fire of the altar. And might not those who turn a house of mourning into a house of feasting learn a lesson of propriety here? Eating and drinking in connection with wakes and funerals have been carried oftentimes to most unseemly excess. The whole spirit of sorrow evaporates before the copious offerings to the "belly-god," and instead of spiritual profit there is spiritual deterioration. Fasting is an effort of nature to say a word for the spirit within. Sorrow takes the edge off appetite, and rebukes feasting that the soul may have a season of repair. If the sad heart gets fair play, it will emerge from its sorrows purified and elevated.
V. THE SPIRIT MAY SOMETIMES MOST PROPERLY SUPERSEDE THE LETTER. We have seen how fatal was the innovation of the presumptuous priests. But in this same chapter we come across an innovation on the part of Aaron, at which Moses and God were content. There is all the difference between rigidity which must not be broken, and a law whose spirit can move freely amid its forms. It was the latter which God gave. There are necessities which arise from time to time and are themselves laws to the spiritual mind. We should be jealous of ourselves in the exercise of our liberty, but, at the same time, we ought to realize our freedom as God gives it to us in his Law. - R.M.E.
I. HERE WAS AN INSTANCE OF SUDDEN DEATH. This is the more startling. The festival is changed into a funeral. The active frame is motionless, the busy brain that teemed with thought is still; we call aloud, but there is no reply; we bend down to touch the lips, but we receive no responsive kiss. How weak is man, when a stroke deprives him of all his faculties, removes him from earthly ken, and his place knows him no more!
II. IT IS SAD WHEN CHILDREN DIE BEFORE THEIR PARENTS. Then the cup of bereavement contains an added element of bitterness. The natural order is inverted. Pathetic was the expression of Burke's grief at the loss of his only son. "I am stripped of all my honours; I am torn up by the roots, and lie prostrate on the earth. I have none to meet my enemies in the gate. They who ought to have succeeded me have gone before me. They who should have been to me a posterity are in the place of ancestors." To see the budding rose suddenly blighted, all the promise of life unrealized, is enough to rend a parent's heart with disappointment.
III. IT IS SADDER STILL WHEN DEATH IS THE DIRECT RESULT OF THOUGHTLESS, SINFUL CONDUCT. Then no gleam of light tempers the darkness. If the flower be transplanted to adorn the heavenly garden, there will be joy at the thought to alleviate the sorrow. But when the removal appears like that of tares to be burned, who shall assuage the pangs of bereavement? Children! strive so to live that if Providence call you away in early life, the memory left behind may be sweet and fragrant, pleasant and reassuring. Let us not too hastily assume the death of the youthful to be a judgment. We may have no Moses at our side, as here, to interpret the harrowing scene. We would not rush instantly to adverse conclusions, nor misconceive the dispensation. Even in the case before us we are not warranted in deciding upon the ultimate fate of Nadab and Abihu. Death is truly in every case a particular instance of a general law. "This is it that the Lord spake, saying, I will be sanctified," etc. It ever reminds us of its connection with sin, and every time we are called to stand by the grave we should be impressed with a deeper sense of the enormity and awfulness of sin in God's sight. Beholding the effect, let us hate the cause.
IV. Aaron furnishes AN EXAMPLE OF FITTING BEHAVIOUR UNDER TRIAL. He could not rejoice to see the withering of his cherished hopes; God expects no such unnatural triumphing over the instincts of affection. But he refrained from murmuring, he "held his peace." "I was dumb, I opened not my mouth, because thou didst it." Open the quivering lips, and the pent-up agony of the spirit may find vent in the utterance of expostulations and reproaches unworthy of a child of God. Job's wife tempted him to "curse God and die," but he "sinned not with his lips." He was, indeed, able to say, "Shall we receive good at the hands of God, and shall we not receive evil?" "The Lord gave, and the Lord hath taken away; blessed be the Name of the Lord." It was after this that he "uttered that he understood not."
V. TO REPRESS REPINING IS ACCEPTED AS TACIT ACQUIESCENCE IN THE EQUITY OF DIVINE JUDGMENTS. His ways are often mysterious, but his wisdom cannot err nor his love prove unkind. The greatest degree of affection for our fellow-creatures must never be allowed to lessen our supreme regard for the glory of the Creator. "It is the Lord: let him do what seemeth him good." Listen to the voice from under the trees of the Garden of Gethsemane: "Father, not my will, but thine be done." Fond parents have sacrificed their children for the good of the commonwealth, how much more shall they be content to leave them in the hands of God, to be dealt with according to his infinite justice and mercy! It was the glory of the Father that necessitated the surrender of his beloved Son to death for the redemption of the world. - S.R.A.
I. THAT A MAN IS LESS HONOURED BY EXALTED OFFICE THAN BY LOFTY ACTION. We pay a certain respect to Aaron as the first high priest of the ancient Law, type of the "High Priest of our profession." But we pay a higher honor to him and feel a deeper regard for him, as one who acted nobly at a most trying time. Such a scene might well have unmanned him. We could not have blamed him had he given way to violent agitation, even in the house of the Lord. There is, in sorrow, a descending scale, and his was at the very bottom of its dark depths. Bereavement, the saddest of all losses; the death of a child, the saddest of all bereavements; the death of two sons in their manhood, the saddest form which the loss of children can assume; its startling, awful suddenness; its occurrence under the aggravating conditions of guilt and dishonour; - such was the staggering blow that fell on Aaron then! There is a nobleness of self-restraint which is truly touching, which excites our hearty admiration, in the fact that "Aaron held his peace." He did not give way to tempestuous emotion or to querulous complaint; he acted as became him: standing where he stood in the near presence of God, he bore the blow in sacred silence, he opened not his mouth, he was dumb, because he felt the Lord had done it (Psalm 39:9). There is nothing manlier, nobler, more admirable than calmness in the overwhelming hour. it is born of
(1) devoutness, a profound sense of the presence and sovereignty of God; and of
(2) self-culture, the training of our own spirit, the "keeping of our heart" (Proverbs 4:23).
II. THAT THE DEVOUT HEART WILL RECOGNIZE THE RIGHTNESS OF SUBORDINATING PERSONAL SENTIMENT TO THE SERVICE OF GOD. (Verse 6.) This melancholy occurrence had taken place in vindication of the honour of God (verse 3). The one feeling which was to fill the hearts of those who stood before God was an unquestioning acceptance of the severe and. afflictive decree of the Holy One. To show the ordinary signs of sorrow might be open to misconstruction; might appear as a protest against the death-penalty. In the cause of righteousness the natural feeling of father and sons must be energetically suppressed. And it was done. There come times in our history when, in the highest interests of all, in the service of God and of our kind, we are called upon to make parental, conjugal, fraternal, friendly emotions give place to calmness of spirit. When that hour comes, we, if we have Aaron's spirit, shall obey as he obeyed.
III. THAT GOD DESIRES US TO GIVE PLAY TO HUMAN FEELING WHEN HIS LAW IS NOT BROKEN OR, HIS SERVICE HINDERED THEREBY.
1. The relatives of the dead were to carry their bodies decently and reverently "from before the sanctuary" (verse 4).
2. The whole house of Israel were to "bewail the burning which the Lord had kindled" (verse 6). Where the lamentation was natural, and where there was no peril of its being misinterpreted, it was not only allowed but encouraged of God. Stoicism is no part of Christianity. We are to be natural and sympathetic. Jesus "rejoiced in spirit" and" wept" himself. He intimated his wish that we should act naturally, in accordance with our surrounding circumstances and inward spirit (Matthew 9:15-17; John 16:20-22; James 5:13). Sympathetic as well as natural: "rejoice with them that do rejoice, and weep," etc. (Romans 12:15). - C.
I. THE RESTRICTIONS.
1. Forbidden to mingle with the world in its engagements. "Not go out of the sanctuary," at least for a season, they are deprived of the liberty others enjoy, Pursuits which may be harmlessly indulged in by others are unbecoming to them.
2. Prohibited from contact with all that is defiling. They must not touch the dead bodies of their relations; the cousins of Aaron shall perform the last offices for their brethren. What concord hath the Spirit of life with death? To profane the holy unction is to incur the Divine displeasure. "Neither filthiness, nor foolish talking, nor jesting, which are not convenient." "Have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness."
3. Free manifestation of grief at God's visitations not permitted. The usual relief found in expression is excluded; there must be no signs of mourning upon the priests. Let it suffice for the nation to "bewail the burning." How shall the oil of gladness consort with mourning? The people of God are not to be demonstrative in their sorrow at his chastisements, lest it be misconstrued, and others, taking occasion from their example, go further and even denounce the ways of God, and so "wrath come upon" them. We must remember the wisdom of the Almighty and the glory due unto his Name. Will not the world entertain hard thoughts concerning him if we his servants are over-loud in lamentation?
II. THE INFIRMITIES which are not prevented.
1. They are subject to the common losses and bereavements. There is no special providence in this respect. Even Aaron and his sons have to bow before afflicting dispensations. If it were otherwise great part of the discipline of life would be omitted from the training of God's chiefest scholars.
2. They also feel the natural pangs of sorrow. It is evidently so in the present case, or the command to refrain from the usual manifestations of grief would not have been issued. God's ministers are not expected to become hard-hearted and callous, but they are not to give way to outbursts of anguish.
3. They are liable to commit acts displeasing to God. Nadab and Abihu are a solemn warning of the possibility of transgression. Even Christians of repute fall into grievous sin. They get hurried away by worldly passion, and offer unacceptable worship.
CONCLUSION. Observe the influence of our behaviour upon
(1) the honour of God, and
(2) the welfare of our fellows.
He who expects great things of us wilt also, if we ask him, accord us the necessary strength to enable us to comply with his demands. Whilst conscious of the importance attaching to all our actions, we need not be depressed with a load of anxiety. We may "rejoice in the Lord alway." - S.R.A.
I. THE FUNCTIONS OF THE PRIESTS.
1. To observe the various rites connected with the worship of God.
2. To see that nothing unholy entered the precincts of the tabernacle. The incense, which might suffice without, would be an insult to Jehovah within. The fire, useful for common cooking purposes, would be counted "strange fire" if presented to the Lord.
3. To advise the people concerning the distinction made by the Law between things clean and unclean. There was the food permissible to be eaten, the diseases requiring separation, the times in which ceremonial uncleanness was contracted, etc. All these matters were under the supervision of the priests.
4. To instruct the people generally in the statutes of the Lord. In the absence of written documents, this was a very important part of the duties of the priests, and furnished one of the reasons for afterwards locating their cities amongst the different tribes of Israel. This teaching was the origin of the present exposition of Scripture by the preacher, being now the chief feature of the minister's office. Is the acquaintance of the people with the Bible at all commensurate with the many advantages they enjoy? The Israelites may rise up in the day of judgment to condemn the ignorance of modern civilization.
II. THE IMPORTANCE OF RIGHTLY DISCHARGING THESE FUNCTIONS. Consider the happy results that would flow from a proper fulfillment of their obligations, and the dire effects of lax observance of the regulations of the priesthood. In this latter event God. would be insulted anti profaned, his indignation would destroy the slothful servants, anti the nation of Israel would relapse into a state of idolatry and disgrace. No priest lived or died unto himself. The progress and comfort of others were inseparably bound up with his due attendance at the altar.
III. THE NECESSITY OF ABSTAINING FROM WHATEVER IMPAIRS CLEARNESS OF THOUGHT AND STEADINESS OF CONDUCT. The effects of "wine" or "strong drink" are various in different men and at different stages. Carelessness, excitement, stupefaction, - either might ensue, and bring upon the offender the wrath of God. The principle is obvious that the service of God may require abstention from enjoyments otherwise permissible. As the number of priests was at this time so limited, the injunction of the text practically enforced almost continuous abstinence upon them. Enthusiasm stimulated by unworthy means, boldness engendered by false heat, an inability to declare the whole counsel of God, imagination running riot among his precepts, - these are offensive to God in his servants, and expose the possessors to his judgments. To walk not in the path of danger is better than to calculate upon successfully encountering its risks. The householder who cuts off the supply of gas is in no fear of an explosion, nor needs continually to examine the pipes. This prudent method is to be commended where the light furnished is unsteady, or superfluous because of the shining of the purer light. Drink not at the ruddy stream, and you will not dread its poison. - S.R.A.
I. THAT MINISTERS SHOULD BE RECOLLECTED IN THE PRESENCE OF GOD.
1. He was present in the tabernacle.
(1) In the text, as in many places, it is distinguished as the "tabernacle of the congregation." The original (אהל מועד, ohel mohghed) might perhaps be better rendered, "tabernacle of meeting." This would not exclude the idea of the congregation or meeting of the people, while it recognizes another more important truth, viz. that the tabernacle was the place appointed for God to meet with his people (comp. Exodus 25:22; Exodus 29:42, 43; Exodus 30:6, 36).
(2) Apart from this criticism, the fact is patent that the symbol of the Divine presence was there. Where the Shechinah is, the ground is holy; and it behooves the worshipper to put away irreverence, and, with clearness of intellect as well as fervour of holy zeal, to wait upon the Lord (see Exodus 3:5; Exodus 19:12; Joshua 5:15).
2. And God is jealous of his honour.
(1) This important truth is here intimated in the caution, "lest ye die." Confused by inebriation, some error might be committed which would involve fatal consequences (see context).
(2) Now, since this enactment, to taste the cup whose effects may expose to the liability of committing such an error, is itself a crime to be visited with death. The spirit of this instruction is that we must not tempt Satan to tempt us; that we are only safe when at the utmost distance from sin.
(3) Abstinence at other times was not obligatory upon the priests, but they might become Nazarites if they pleased. Gospel ministers should be sober men (1 Timothy 3:3).
II. THAT THEY NEED THEIR FACULTIES TO KEEP THEIR CHARGE,
1. They have to judge in holy things.
(1) in the service of the tabernacle some food was "most holy," and had to be eaten beside the altar (verse 12). This must not be eaten by "females among the priests." Yet a son of Aaron who had such a blemish as would preclude his attendance at the altar may eat of it (Leviticus 21:22). In some cases "holy" meats might be eaten by the priests and their families, but not by ordinary Israelites (verse 14); while in others the offerer had his share of the offering.
(2) Holy things might be polluted by accident. Thus a defiled person touching them would profane them (Leviticus 7:19); or the flesh of the peace offering eaten on the third day, even by a priest, is profaned, and the priest punishable (Leviticus 7:18; Leviticus 19:7, 8). Unclean persons must not eat of the holy things on pain of excommunication (Leviticus 7:20, 21).
(3) For the carrying out of all these laws, together with those of the distinction between persons, animals, and things, clean and unclean, the priest needed a clear head,
(a) that he might save his soul alive,
(b) and that he might fittingly typify Christ, whose judgment in moral and spiritual causes is true.
(4) Therefore he must abstain from wine and strong drinks (see Isaiah 28:7). And ministers of the gospel must be sober. If not types, they are "ambassadors," of Christ. They need a sound judgment to pronounce clearly and firmly against the efforts of antichrist to profane the laver and the altar in the sanctuary.
2. They have to teach the statutes of the Lord.
(1) The Law is the standard of appeal. It was spoken by the Lord from Sinai. It was "given by the hand of Moses," who authenticated it to be the Word of God by many miracles. The gospel is the "engrafted Word" (James 1:21)," spoken to us by the Son of God, confirmed by them that heard him, and authenticated by signs and wonders and divers miracles and distributions of the Holy Ghost (Hebrews 1:1, 2; Hebrews 2:3, 4).
(2) The duty of teaching the laws of the Old Testament devolved upon the priests (Deuteronomy 24:8; Nehemiah 8:2, 8; Jeremiah 18:18; Malachi 2:7). Christian ministers now stand in a similar relation to the Church under the New Testament.
(3) If sobriety was necessary in the teachers of the Law, it is surely no less necessary in those who teach the vital truths of the gospel (2 Timothy 2:15; Titus 1:7-9). Ministers of the New Testament may become Nazarites if they please; they should at least be Nazarites when "holding forth the Word of life." - J.A.M.
Exodus 29:42; Numbers 28:7). Perhaps, as some think, it was consequent upon the foregoing scene. But if not so closely connected with it as to be occasioned by it, the fact that its announcement followed that scene in order of time suggests the truth -
I. THAT FROM THE WORSHIP OF GOD EVERY TEMPTATION SHOULD BE RELIGIOUSLY EXCLUDED. If intoxicants would have even the slightest effect on the understanding so that error might be committed, they should be scrupulously avoided: and so with any and every source of peril, whatever it may be. Whatsoever would lead the mind away from God and his truth; whatsoever would interfere with the purity, sincerity, spirituality of public worship, should be shunned. It may be beautiful attire, ornamentation, music, rhetoric, philosophizing, etc. Every man must judge for himself; "happy is he who condemneth not himself in that thing which he alloweth" (Romans 14:22).
II. THAT IN THE WORSHIP OF GOD EVERY FACULTY SHOULD BE IT FULLEST EXERCISE, If intoxicants are anywise injurious, they enfeeble, they make the body drowsy, the intellect clouded, the spirit heavy and unaspiring. To the worship of God we should bring our best; not by any means the lame and the blind, etc. (Malachi 1:8), nor the second best, but the very best we can bring - the flower in the bud, the fruit adorned with its bloom; not the wearied bodily frame that sinks to sleep while God is being approached; not the mind that has lost its elasticity and strength, but our most vigilant and wakeful, our most vigorous and energetic self. We should bring to his altar the power that can discern between the evil and the good, between the acceptable and the offensive (verse 10); and the power that can rise on fleetest and most enduring wing into the heavens of joyful praise and earnest prayer and saving truth.
III. THAT FOR THE WORSHIP OF GOD THERE SHOULD BE CAREFUL PREPARATION. The priests were, in virtue of this and other precepts, to consider carefully beforehand what they should do and what they should avoid, that they might be ready to minister unto the Lord. Whether our offering of spiritual sacrifices unto God in his sanctuary (1 Peter 2:5) be acceptable or not, depends not more on the provision which is prepared in the house for us than on the conscientious preparing of our heart before we go up unto it. - C.
I. The influence of PERSONAL CHARACTER on the work of the teacher, "that ye may teach the children of Israel all the statutes," etc. (verse 11).
1. Self-control and temperance necessary to a wise judgment and a correct life. Possibly the offense of Nadab and Abihu owing to intemperance.
2. The teacher needs the respect of the taught to uphold him in his work.
3. The difference between the holy and the unholy, the clean and the unclean, should be seen as well as heard described.
II. THE SUPPORT OF THE MINISTRY may be safely left to come out of the faithful discharge of duty. If the priests are at their post, they will get their portion (verses 12-15). "It shall be thine by a statute for ever."
III. THE ERRORS AND OMISSIONS, as well as sins of the ministry, should be "diligently sought after." But in the spirit of charity, not with harsh and censorious judgment. Aaron's excuse was the overwhelming stress of natural feeling. Ministers are but men. Domestic affliction often clouds their mind and burdens their spirit. Moses was content when he understood that the law of nature was honoured; and there is no true sanctity in observances which violate the first principles of humanity, and subvert the natural feelings of the human heart. The slavish system of Rome exalts religious law at the expense of natural justice, and destroys man while it professes to save him. No true religion is cruel The Spirit of Christ is the spirit of mercy. - R.
I. A SECONDARY DUTY OF THE PRIESTHOOD - INSTRUCTION. No doubt the primary object of their appointment was sacrifice. Their function was, first of all, to mediate between God and the people, to stand at his altar and present sacrifices unto him. But this did not constitute their whole duty; they were to "teach the children of Israel all the statutes which the Lord had spoken." No doubt the whole tribe of Levi was associated with the priesthood in "teaching Jacob the judgments and Israel the Law" of the Lord (see Deuteronomy 33:8-11; Malachi 2:7; Hosea 4:6).
II. THE TWOFOLD TASK THIS INSTRUCTION INVOLVED. The priests and Levites would have:
1. To make known the particular precepts of the Law, so that the people might bring their proper sacrifices, come at the appointed seasons to the sacred festivals, shun all those things which were prohibited, act rightly in their various domestic and social relations, etc.
2. To explain the spirit and significance of the ritual, so that when the worshippers came to the tabernacle they might not only go through the right forms, but also enter into the spirit of them; so that they should be affected by a sense of sin, by a hope of forgiveness, by a desire to dedicate themselves unto God, by a spirit of holy joy in God and of brotherly love toward their fallows. To communicate all the particulars of the Law, and leave uninterpreted their spiritual significance, would have been to omit an essential part of their sacred duty as religious instructors of the nation. We may be reminded of -
III. THE OBLIGATIONS OF THE CHRISTIAN MINISTRY. The privilege of those who minister for Christ is also twofold:
1. To lead souls with them to God; to suggest those thoughts and words through which the worshippers may address themselves to him and make their own personal, direct appeal to him.
2. To instruct in Christian truth. And this instruction is to combine two things: it is
(1) to make known the will of God as stated in the sacred Scriptures;
(2) to impress that will on the conscience of the congregation. The Christian minister seeks to enlighten and to enforce. Then he must leave those whom he serves, to act; they must then "bear their own burden." Thus we come to -
IV. THE DUTY OF THE CHRISTIAN CONGREGATION. That is, to avail themselves of the work of the minister.
1. To follow him spiritually and sympathetically to the throne of grace and, with him, draw nigh to God. in prayer.
2. To seek to understand the mind of God as it is stated and explained.
3. To apply to themselves and their own need. the exhortations which are given. - C.
that were left," or who had escaped the terrible judgment in which Nadab and Abihu were involved. He repeats his instructions concerning -
I. THE MEAT OFFERING REMAINING OF THE OFFERINGS MADE BY FIRE.
1. This was accounted "most holy."
(1) This is equivalent to calling it the "bread of God" (Leviticus 21:6, 22). It was therefore "most holy," as typifying Christ (John 6:33). He is "most holy" in the mystery of his birth, as "coming down from heaven" (Luke 1:35). Also in his death, by which he was able to "give his life unto the world."
(2) It was the priests' due, or appointment, viz. from God. For it was first given to God, and now came from him. So Jesus, whom we bring to God as the Atoning Sacrifice for our sin, God gives to us for the nourishment of our souls. To the spiritual priesthood he is still the "Bread of God that cometh down from heaven."
2. It was to be eaten, viz.
(1) "Beside the altar." Jesus becomes the' food of his people after his passion. The bread of the Eucharist was "broken" before it was "given" to the disciples to eat (Matthew 26:26; John 12:24; 1 Corinthians 11:23-26). The Lord's table is furnished from the altar that was without the camp (Hebrews 13:10-12).
(2) It was to be eaten "without leaven." There was neither "malice" nor "wickedness" in Jesus, nor should there be in those who seek his fellowship (1 Corinthians 5:6-8). He is the Truth - Truth itself - Truth essential; fellowship with him, therefore, must be in "sincerity and truth."
(3) It was to be eaten "in the holy place." The joys of the Christian profession should be sought in the fellowship of the saints. Odd persons, who stand aloof from Church communion, are not serving God according to his order.
II. THE WAVE BREAST AND HEAVE SHOULDER.
1. These were accounted "holy."
(1) They were so because they had been offered to God. Julius Bate construes the words rendered "wave breast and heave shoulder" (verse 14), "the breast that is presented, and the shoulder that is lifted up." This at least expresses the spirit of the original.
2. The holy things were to be eaten in a clean place.
(1) This marks the difference between the "holy" and the "most holy." The "most holy" must be eaten in the holy place, in the court of the priests, and therefore by the priests alone, but the "holy" may be eaten in the houses, and therefore by the daughters of the priests.
(2) The moral teaching is that while the "most holy" communion with Christ is by the altar-side in his Church, we may have "holy" communion with him in our families. The ordinary meals of godly persons will be received as from God with thanksgiving, and thereby become in a sense sacramental (see 1 Corinthians 10:18-31).
(3) The one limitation is that the holy things of the peace offerings must be eaten "in a clean place." Viewed in the letter, this means that the house must not be polluted by the dead, or by a leper, or anything for which the purifications of the Law may be required. Viewed in the spirit, the teaching is that if we would have communion with Christ in our families, vicious dispositions and ungodly strangers must be excluded. "The friendship of the world is enmity against God" (see 2 Corinthians 6:14-18; James 4:4; 1 John 2:15). - J.A.M.
I. THAT THE SIN OF SOME MUST NOT INTERFERE WITH THE SERVICE OF OTHERS. (Verse 12.) Consternation or resentment might have led Aaron and "his sons that were left" to leave the remainder of their sacred duties undischarged. This must not be. The sin of the two sons must not interrupt the service of the Most High. His worship must not cease because two men have erred. Men often plead the inconsistencies and transgressions of others as an excuse for their own shortcoming. They decline to worship God, or to sit down to the table of the Lord, or to work in the vineyard of the Great Husbandman because of their resentment against the wren. - doing of their fellows. This may satisfy themselves, but it will have no weight at all in the balances of the Divine Judge.
II. THAT THE SIN OF SOME NEED NOT INTERFERE WITH THE PRIVILEGE OF OTHERS. (Verse 14.) The whole congregation were to "bewail the burning which the Lord had kindled" (verse 6). But they were, nevertheless, to "eat in a clean place of the sacrifices of peace offerings." The saddest things need not interpose to prevent our enjoyment of the sacred privileges with which God has provided us.
III. THAT RESPONSIBLE MEN MAY WELL BE VIGILANT IN ALL MATTERS PERTAINING TO THE SERVICE OF GOD. (Verses 16-18.) Moses "diligently sought" the goat which should not have been burnt, but eaten, he showed a holy solicitude to conform to the exact requirements of "the Law of the Lord," and a commendable concern when he thought he discovered a slight departure therefrom. In Christ Jesus we are not bound by any minute commandments like those which regulated the temple service of the Jews. But there is room enough in the Church of Christ for holy vigilance on the part of those who are "over others in the Lord." They should watch keenly to observe and to correct the slightest departure from the spirit of the Master; from the spirit
(1) of reverence, or
(2) of earnestness, or
(3) of humility, or
(4) of charity.
IV. THAT THE SPIRIT OF OBEDIENCE IS EVERYTHING IN THE SIGHT OF GOD. There is something profoundly touching in the excuse (verse 19) which Aaron urged. His sons who "were left" had, spite of their bereavement and their fraternal sorrow, "offered their sin offering and their burnt offering before the Lord;" they had laid great restraint upon their feelings; they had striven to render the service required of them. And when "such things had befallen him;" when Aaron "held his peace," indeed, but "his sorrow was stirred;" when his parental heart was bleeding, - would the eating of the flesh of the goat in such a "day of desperate grief" have been an acceptable service in the sight of the Lord? Would an act in which there must have been so large a measure of constraint have been in accordance with the will of God? Moses was content with Aaron's plea; he felt that it was sound. We may infer that he was right in accepting it. Had Aaron repined, or had he resented the retributive act of God, he would certainly have sinned. But this he did not. He summoned himself and his sons to continue in the service of the Lord, and only stopped at the point where overcoming sorrow laid its arresting hand upon him. God desires of us
(1) the will to serve him,
(2) the faith in him which uncomplainingly accepts his decisions when these are painful and perplexing, and
(3) the endeavour, to the height of our power, to continue at our post. When the spirit of obedience is thus in our hearts, he does not exact a strict measure of work to be accomplished by our hands. - C.
I. SOME HUMAN AFFECTION. If not "sons that are left," or daughters, yet friends whose attachment has grown with the growing years.
II. SOME HUMAN ESTEEM. There are those - it may be many, at any rate a few - who hold us in genuine regard; who honour us, and pour on our wounded spirit the precious ointment of their esteem.
III. Solacing memories of faithful work.
IV. The consciousness of our own integrity (Psalm 41:12).
V. The abiding favour and friendship of the Lord (Psalm 125:2).
VI. The hope of eternal life in the presence of God (2 Timothy 4:6). - C.
Luke 16:29; Acts 15:21). Hence the "body of Moses," about which Michael disputed with Satan, is by some supposed to denote the substance of the Law (Jude 1:9). In this view he appeared upon the mount of transfiguration, surrendering to Christ, who, in like manner, impersonated his gospel (Matthew 17:3-5). So the vail over Moses' face represented the shadows in which the Law invested the glory of the Lord until the death of Christ, when the darkness passed away and the true light shined forth. Hence, when the vail, that is to say, the flesh of Christ, was tom in death, the vail of the temple was rent from the top throughout (Matthew 27:50, 51; 2 Corinthians 3:7; Hebrews 9:3, 8; Hebrews 10:19, 20). Aaron's function was to bring out the spiritual meaning of the Law; and so he was a type of Christ, who came not to destroy but to fulfill it. Bearing these things in mind, light may be let in upon the remarkable passage before us. We have here -
I. THE ANGER OF MOSES.
1. Look at the history in the letter.
(1) Moses had given instructions to Aaron and his sons respecting the goat which was to be offered for the sin of the people (see Leviticus 9:15, 16).
(2) These instructions were not fully carried out. The goat was killed and its fat burnt upon the altar; but the flesh was not eaten in the holy place.
(3) Moses made search, and behold the goat was burnt, probably without the camp (Leviticus 4:12; Leviticus 6:11). This angered him, and led him to question the "sons of Aaron who were left," or had escaped the fire that consumed their brethren, as to why they had deviated from his directions.
2. Now look at the moral.
(1) It should have been eaten in the holy place, because it was "most holy," that is to say, the "bread of God' (Leviticus 6:16, 17; Leviticus 21:22); that which wrath was to feed upon. This significantly pointed to Christ. After declaring himself to be the "bread of God which cometh down from heaven," he explains, "the bread that I will give is my flesh, which I will give for the life of the world" (John 6:51). How remarkably the mysteries of the bread offering and the "flesh" of the sin offering, associated on the Levitical altar, are again associated in this gospel explanation!
(2) By the fire of God feeding upon the sin offering, it bore "the iniquity of the congregation, to make atonement for them before the Lord" (verse 17). But this is said of the eating of the flesh by Aaron and his sons. By eating the flesh of the sin offering, then, Aaron was to appear as in the place of it (comp. 1 Corinthians 10:7). This significantly indicated that the true sin offering was not to be an animal, but a man.
(3) The rule is laid down that if the blood was not brought in within the holy place, the flesh should be eaten in the holy place (verse 18). That rule showed that the Law priests were typically to bear the iniquity of the people, until that High Priest should come who would carry his own blood into the holy place not made with hands. In that event their functions were destined to cease.
II. THE EXPLANATION OF AARON.
1. The anger of Moses was with the sons of Aaron.
(1) We are not told that he felt any anger towards Aaron. We see a propriety in this when we consider that Aaron was a type of Christ. Moses directed Aaron all through the ceremonials of his consecration, and so Christ in this world, in which he was consecrated to his priesthood, was "made under the Law." But the Law could have no anger against Christ, "who fulfilled all its righteousness," and in every way "magnified and made it honourable."
(2) But against the sons of Jesus, who are far from being as perfect as their Head, the Law may have occasion for anger.
2. But Aaron speaks in his own person for his sons.
(2) And speaking for them thus, Aaron was able to appease Moses. Not only was Moses "satisfied," as in the text, but what Aaron urged was "well pleasing in his eyes," as in the Hebrew. So triumphantly is Jesus able to deliver us from the anger of the Law (Romans 5:9, 20, 21).
3. But what is the import of Aaron's words (verse 19)?
(1) Here he concedes that the sin offering had been offered, and that, under usual conditions, to have complied with all the directions of Moses would have been proper. But he explains, "such things have befallen me," referring to his parental sorrow in the loss of his sons under most distressing circumstances. He was, therefore, a mourner, not outwardly (see verses 4-7), but in spirit, so, had he eaten the sin offering, would it have been accepted by the Lord, viz. who looketh upon the heart? Moses had nothing to reply to this (comp. Deuteronomy 12:7; 1 Samuel 1:7, 8; Hosea 9:4).
(2) But was there not a prophetic meaning in these words of Aaron? As Caiaphas "spake not of himself, but being high priest that year, he prophesied that Jesus should die for that nation" (John 10:50, 51), does not Aaron as truly in the spirit of prophecy here say that the death of the priest sets aside the type (see Colossians 2:14)?
(3) The consent of Moses shows how the Law bears testimony to Christ, and is itself to vanish as a shadow when the substance takes its place.
(4) It also shows that it is proper to break the Law in the letter, when to do so is necessary to its observance in the spirit. The spirit of the Law is the gospel. - J.A.M.