As we think about the holiness of God and the standard of his holiness – about our imperfection, and our position as set apart ones for him, be encouraged. We are not alone. In fact, he who began this great work within us will be faithful to complete it in us!
1 This is the account of the family of Aaron and Moses at the time the Lord spoke to Moses at Mount Sinai.
2 The names of the sons of Aaron were Nadab the firstborn and Abihu, Eleazar and Ithamar. 3 Those were the names of Aaron’s sons, the anointed priests, who were ordained to serve as priests. 4 Nadab and Abihu, however, died before the Lord when they made an offering with unauthorized fire before him in the Desert of Sinai. They had no sons, so Eleazar and Ithamar served as priests during the lifetime of their father Aaron.
11 The Lord also said to Moses, 12 “I have taken the Levites from among the Israelites in place of the first male offspring of every Israelite woman. The Levites are mine, 13 for all the firstborn are mine. When I struck down all the firstborn in Egypt, I set apart for myself every firstborn in Israel, whether human or animal. They are to be mine. I am the Lord.”
Numbers 3:1-4, 11-13
Nadab and Abihu, who would have been part of the priestly service in this story, are not. They were struck dead by God because they violated the priestly trust which God gave them. Their story is a reminder to us that when we are in a position of trust and leadership in which God has placed us, he cares deeply how we handle it.
That’s not good news for those of us who are in such positions and who struggle to stay on the straight and narrow. I was at a men’s group the other night in which we discussed whether we were raised in a fear-based, performance-based, or grace-based parenting style. The story of Nadab and Abihu resonates deeply with anyone who comes from a fear-based culture.
And as much as I would like to write us all a blank cheque in our conduct before God because of his overwhelming grace and mercy in Jesus, we need to fear God more. We need the awesome reverence in our hearts translating into godly conduct in our world. Otherwise we fall victim to Paul’s caution in Romans 6:1-2, “What shall we say, then? Shall we go on sinning so that grace may increase? By no means! We are those who have died to sin; how can we live in it any longer?”
How can we live in it any longer?
I am confronted with this reality every day. I am in God’s hand and following his path, and then my pitfalls drag me to the left or the right. Often within a short time of failing God, I am reminded of my trust. “Marc, will you pray for us to close our time together?” Well, I can, except that I was here as a sheep walked away from the shepherd in this moment and I am not sure I qualify this very second to do that… “Sure I will. Let’s pray…”
I am regularly overwhelmed by God’s grace as I realize that he knows me and loves me and continues to build me. We must all cling to these truths. We do not become the children of God to then be left to fend for ourselves. We are cared for as full members of the family of God – as full as anyone else whom we might think is perfect against whom we do not measure up.
Rather, we ought to consider ourselves like the Levites. They were dedicated as people for God in the place of every firstborn male in Israel. You see, because God had struck down every firstborn in Egypt as part of his rescue of the children of Israel, God required every firstborn male of Israel to belong to him. It was a picture – a reminder – of his salvation for his people.
And so the Levites were set apart to minister in the Tabernacle as those firstborn, dedicated to God.
Fast-forward to the New Testament teaching of Paul, who shares with us that Jesus himself is the very firstborn over all creation and firstborn from among the dead (Colossians 1:15-18). Jesus is in first place as the one who dedicated himself more than anyone ever had or will, to the mission and ministry of reconciliation of God.
We are dedicated to God in Jesus, a chosen people and royal priesthood (1Peter 2:9) set apart for the Lord. “They are to be mine. I am the Lord.” As God said that about the Levites, he has also said it about you and me.
And so as we think about the holiness of God and the standard of his holiness, our imperfection, and our position as set apart ones for him, be encouraged. We are not alone. In fact, he who began this great work within us will be faithful to complete it in us (Philippians 1:6).