Then Moses said to Aaron and his sons Eleazar and Ithamar, "Do not let your hair become disheveled and do not tear your garments, or else you will die, and the LORD will be angry with the whole congregation. But your brothers, the whole house of Israel, may mourn on account of the fire that the LORD has ignited.
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. WHAT IT IS FOR THE AFFLICTED AND BEREAVED TO HOLD THEIR PEACE UNDER THE CORRECTING HAND OF GOD.
I. EVEN A CHILD OF GOD MAY BE EXERCISED WITH SORE TRIALS AND AFFLICTIONS, THAT MAY LIE VERY HEAVY UPON HIM. (Psalm 38:2; Job 9:17). And what wonder, if the children of God meet with trials upon earth, where they were never promised, nor could rationally expect their rest? What wonder, seeing they so often sin, and procure the evils under which they groan? All this is consistent with the love of a father, and our relation to him.
Aaron held his peace.
Homilist.I. THE DISTURBING INFLUENCES. Physical sufferings, secular anxieties, social grievances, moral remorse, heart bereavements. To the last of these Aaron was now the victim.
1. He has lost two sons. A double trial.
2. He had lost two sons after they had reached maturity.
3. After they had entered upon the most important and honourable office in life. What a disappointment!
4. In the most sudden way.
5. With no hope for their future blessedness. They were struck down by offended justice, without a moment for repentance.
II. THE TRANQUILISING INFLUENCES OF HUMAN LIFE. "He held his peace."
1. There are three kinds of calming influences that are resorted to by men under trial — the carnal, the stoical, and the Christian.
2. The last of these is the only true tranquilising force. It contains at least four doctrines that tend to pacify the human spirit under the most trying circumstances of life.(1) That all who have implicit confidence in Christ as the Mediator are reconciled to God and delivered from condemnation.(2) That every disturbing event takes place under the superintendence of God.(3) That God has an absolute right to dispose of all things as He thinks fit.(4) That the most painful events to the good are short, and may be rendered subservient to their highest interest. They deepen the sense of our individuality by detaching us from society and making us in our sufferings feel our loneliness; they impress us with the unsatisfactoriness of all things pertaining to this material life. Southey has, with great poetic beauty, described how the calamities of life afflict the pious soul: they are only as clouds passing over the moon, making the queen of night appear more majestic in her march.
II. WHAT IS IMPLIED IN BEING SILENT UNDER THE TRIALS GOD SEES FIT AT ANY TIME TO EXERCISE US WITH?
1. A deep sense of God's hand in what we suffer. This was the ground of David's silence: "I was dumb, and I opened not my mouth, because Thou didst it" (Psalm 39:9). And Hezekiah, mourning, directs his eye to God and heaven. "What shall I say? He hath both spoken unto me, and Himself hath done it" (Isaiah 38:15).
2. It includes a subscribing to God's justice in all His dealings with us, and that whatever He takes from us or lays upon us, we dare not to conclude the worse of Him in our thoughts or to open our mouths against Him. Thus being silent is opposed to self-justification, as being convinced that He hath punished us less than our iniquities deserve.
3. It includes a resigning ourselves to God, as having the most unquestionable dominion over us, and right to do with us and ours as seems good in His sight (Job 3:12).
4. It includes resting in His pleasure, as that which is wisest and best; in opposition to murmuring and impatience, inward frets and discomposure of soul.
III. WHAT CONSIDERATIONS MAY HELP TO WORK THE SOUL OF A CHILD OF GOD INTO SO DESIRABLE A FRAME, AS TO BE MUTE WHEN GOD'S AFFLICTING HAND MAY BE MOST PRESSING UPON HIM. The reasonableness of this frame may appear —
1. From God's unquestionable right to dispose of us and ours as He pleases. When it is His will which is done upon us, His sovereignty should teach His creatures to be silent (Romans 9:21, 22).
2. It should teach us to be silent in whatever instance God afflicts; as it is He that continues to us many other mercies, which have been all forfeited, and which might have been as justly removed as those He has taken away.
3. We ought to be silent under what God will have us suffer, as considering we have many ways sinned and offended against Him (Job 40:4, 5).
4. We have reason to be silent, as considering that all God's dispensations, how afflictive soever, are conducted by unerring wisdom to His own glory. And if God be glorified, why should we be dissatisfied?
5. The people of God have reason to be silent under every affliction He brings upon them, considering He hath made with them an everlasting covenant ordered in all things and sure, which is sufficient to be all their salvation and is all their desire (2 Samuel 23:5).Application:
1. To be impatient under affliction is unbecoming a child of God, considered as a new creature.
2. To oppose our wills to the will of God is high presumption, and both provoking to God, and dangerous to ourselves (Isaiah 45:9).
3. It is contrary to our covenant engagements. When we yielded ourselves to God, did we not expressly agree that He should lead us to heaven, and that we would follow Him through what way He pleased to show us — through seas or wildernesses, or through any, even the roughest paths, so He brought us safe to the promised land.
4. Impatience under affliction is inconsistent with our own prayers. Submission to the will of God is, or ought to be, our daily request, and especially under such trials.
5. It would bring us under the charge of ingratitude to our best benefactor and friend. Has God heard my main prayer, and drawn me to Christ? Yet, if He lays His hand upon me in this or the other instance, shall I by my complaints drown all the remembrance of His former loving-kindness and grace? Moreover, what a slight should we put on the remaining everlasting rest, should we repine at present sufferings, which are so soon to issue in endless joy!
1. It certainly implies, in the first place, that the afflicted and bereaved should not complain of the Divine conduct towards them. They have no ground to complain, because God takes nothing from them but what He has given them, and inflicts no more upon them than they deserve and He has a right to inflict.
2. For the afflicted to hold their peace implies that they not only cease to complain, but that they cease to think hard of God. It is much easier to suppress their verbal complaints than to suppress all their inward repinings under the correcting hand of God.
3. The only way in which the afflicted and bereaved can get rid of their inward murmuring thoughts is cordially to approve of the conduct of God in causing them to suffer their present afflictions and bereavements. Nothing can remove hatred of God but love to God. Nothing can remove opposition to God but submission to God.
II. WHY THE AFFLICTED AND BEREAVED OUGHT TO HOLD THEIR PEACE AND SILENTLY SUBMIT TO THE CORRECTING HAND OF GOD. This is their duty —
1. Because they always deserve the bereavements which they are called to suffer. They are under the same obligations to submit silently and unreservedly under the frowns of God as to rejoice under His smiles.
2. The afflicted and bereaved ought to hold their peace and silently submit to the correcting hand of God because He has a right to afflict and bereave them whenever He sees it necessary to do it
3. It becomes the afflicted and bereaved to bow in silence to the sovereign will of God because He always afflicts and bereaves them at the proper time. It is well that God does not allow men to choose when He shall afflict them. He always knows the best time, and when He does afflict them they must know that He sees good reasons to afflict them at that time rather than any other. And since He sees good reasons for afflicting them at such a particular time they have no ground to complain but ought silently to submit to His unerring wisdom, whether they are high or low, or whether they are young or old.
4. That men ought to hold their peace under the afflicting hand of God because He always afflicts them in the best way as well as at the best time.Improvement:
1. It appears from the nature of silent submission under Divine corrections, that it must be highly pleasing to God. It is the very spirit which He requires them to feel and express while He lays His chastising hand upon them. He says to them, "Be still, and know that I am God."
2. It appears from the nature of sincere submission under trials and afflictions that insubmission is extremely criminal. When either saints or sinners complain under Divine corrections they practically say that He who has made them shall not reign over them. Can there be anything more displeasing to God?
3. It appears from the nature of true submission under afflictions that it is something different from stupidity. Stupidity consists in despising the chastenings of the Lord. Mankind are far more apt to be stupid than to be faint under afflictions and bereavements. They try to overlook the hand of God in them, and to consider them as mere accidents, or necessary evils, which could not be avoided and must be borne. Such stupidity under Divine corrections in the sinners in Zion God severely condemned. If afflictions do not remove stupidity they increase it; if they do not soften the heart they harden it; and if they do not produce submission they create obstinacy. But the afflicted are extremely apt to misconstrue the effect of their afflictions and to mistake stupidity for submission, and imagine that they feel resigned when they only feel stupid and insensible.
4. True submission is diametrically opposite to stupidity and is perfectly consistent with the keenest sensibility under the correcting hand of God. It becomes the bereaved to view their bereavements, as far as possible, in all their painful effects and consequences, that they may exercise a deep and unlimited submission to the Divine corrections. Though Aaron held his peace and refrained from speaking, yet he did not refrain from thinking. His mind was undoubtedly awake, and all his powers and faculties in vigorous exercise. There is much more danger of feeling too little than of feeling too much under Divine chastisements.
5. If the afflicted and bereaved ought to hold their peace under the chastising hand of God, then they ought to submit to the heaviest as well as to the lightest chastisements.
6. It appears from the nature of submission that it is easy for the afflicted and bereaved to determine whether they do or do not sincerely submit to the correcting hand of God. There is no medium between approving or disapproving His conduct in afflicting them.
(N. Emmons, D. D.)
1. The impressions and the conduct of Aaron cannot be usefully estimated without a knowledge of the event.
2. It is a test of humility to be silent in the bosom of an irreparable loss, of a profound affliction.
3. In the mute sorrow of Aaron, there is more than this wise humility; we must see there also acquiescence.
4. Lastly, it is just to recognise in the conduct of Aaron lowly and firm resignation.
(J. A. Seiss, D. D.)I. THE POIGNANT CHARACTER OF AARON'S SORROW. The blow came and smote —
1. His patriotism — he would feel that Israel as a nation was disgraced.
2. His piety — religion was dishonoured and God insulted.
3. His paternity.(1) It is a great grief for parents to watch their children die when they have seen the end approaching, but in Aaron's case the bereavement was sudden.(2) It is a great grief for parents to surrender their children even when they feel sure they die in the Lord, but, in Aaron's case, his sons died under the frown of the Lord, and concerning their future he could have no sure and certain hope. To lose two sons under such circumstances was sorrow of the most poignant kind.
II. THE PATIENT CONDUCT OF AARON UNDER SUCH SORROW.
(F. W. Brown.)
(J. H. Hitehen, D. D.)
(John Pulsford, D. D.)— A certain heathen making an oration, as he was sacrificing to his god, in the midst of his devotion, word was brought him that his only son was dead: whereat being nothing at all moved, he made this answer, "I did not get him to live for ever;" and so went on with his business. Thus when we are entering into the sight of God's favour, it may so please Him to try us by afflictions; there may news come of a ship wrecked at sea, of a chapman broke in the country, of the death of friends and allies, &c. Yet ought we not for all this to leave off our course in the service of Him, but rather whatsoever comes cross, make it as it were a parenthesis, an ornament, not a hindrance, in our progress to heaven.
(H. C. Trumbull.)
(J. Parker, D. D.)
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