Monday, April 28, 2008

Burnt Offerings, Leviticus 10:1-20

The smell of burnt flesh lingered in the tabernacle, a noxious, unforgettable smell that burns into the memory like the flame that gave rise to the stench. The high priest stares, his eyes watering from the sting of smoke and the sight of charred ephods and burned hands; hands that once held his own, they were smaller then and plump, they were soft once and not black as they are now.

Just yesterday those hands were used to help him, the high priest, offer the blood which he had sprinkled on the altar for the people, the altar before which they now lay in utter ruin. They had stood by as he had lifted up his hand and blessed the people:

The LORD bless you and keep you; The LORD make His face shine upon you, and be gracious to you; The LORD lift up His countenance upon you, and give you peace.

Just yesterday they had seen the fire come out from the presence of the LORD and consume the burnt offering and the fat on the altar. Now they are gone. Their hands will assist here no more. The same fire that consumed the burnt offering has consumed his sons.

"This is what the LORD spoke, saying: 'By those who come near Me I must be regarded as holy; and before all the people I must be glorified.'" Moses spoke these words into the ear of his brother, still taking in the sight before him, and Aaron held his peace. Moses called to Aaron's cousins, and they came to take away the remains of Nadab and Abihu.

"Don't uncover your heads nor tear your clothes, lest you die, and wrath come upon all the people. But let your brothers, the whole house of Israel, bewail the burning which the LORD has kindled." Aaron could only stand and watch as the bodies of his boys were carried out of the camp before the eyes of all the people.

Aaron turned to his remaining sons, Eleazar and Ithamar. This very day, they would wear the ephod and minister before the LORD. Their hands would assist in the task of intecession. They will not mourn their brothers. Today, they will offer incense and offerings before the LORD as Nadab and Abihu before them. Tonight, they will lie down to the chorus of a million wailing voices, expressing a grief they cannot utter themselves.

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