Leviticus 10 tells a very sad story for Aaron and Moses. The time of ordination is underway. There were very specific instructions on what the priests that would attend to the Tent of Meeting were to do. Two of Aaron’s sons, “Nadab and Abihu….took their censors (firepans), put hot coals and incense in them, and offered strange fire to God – something God had not commanded”. So a couple of Aaron’s sons decide to spruce up the ordination time. They may have been getting bored with the process, or just trying to add something a bit more exciting to the festivity. But whatever their reason, it was a bad choice because they did not obey God. God did not ask them to do any of this, and in fact, it violated His instruction about incense which was forbidden in Exodus 30. They used common incense and common fire to try and create something for their ordination. God is not humored. In fact, “fire blazed out from God and consumed them – they died in God’s presence”. Wow – that seems harsh doesn’t it? Here we have a couple priests in the process of ordination who are trying to do something special for the event, and they are killed because they got a little creative…..does that seem right? Well it is all about obedience and God’s holiness and expectations for those who are serving in His presence. He gave very strict orders for the priests to follow. Were they not paying attention in class? I think it more likely they just decided to go ahead and do something on their own and it was not aligned with God’s instruction and as a result, the warning God had given to stay put for seven days and do what they were told as part of the ordination came to be – they died because they did not obey. Sometimes we want to focus on God’s love, which is unbelievable and good. But we cannot forget that God also is a God that requires us to be obedient and there is a price for failing to obey.
This chapter then goes on to continue the ordination process. Moses tells Aaron and the surviving sons, Eleazar and Ithamar what to do. Part of their role was not only to serve as priests that dealt with sacrifices, but also to “teach the people of Israel all the decrees that God has spoken to them through Moses”. So they had multiple things they were responsible for – to serve in the Tent of Meeting and be the priests that did the work, but also to educate and train people how to live. Their job just continues to expand and the responsibility goes up. We find later in the chapter that these remaining sons get a tongue lashing from Moses for not following protocol and he gets angry with them. They had failed to “eat the Absolution Offering….since it is most holy”. It seems there is a breakdown in following the rules by Aaron’s sons. It is easy to read this chapter and wonder why these boys did not obey. Then I look in the mirror and ask myself just how often I either ignore, chose to disobey, or change what God has told me to do through His Word. Far too often I want to make the rules for my life. God can give me some general guidance, but I can handle the details. That didn’t work here, and it really doesn’t work for us either. God’s direction is not a mere suggestion in scripture. He gives us things we need to obey and we need to do it His way. Are you lined up with God’s instruction?