Nadab and Abihu


Recognizing God’s holiness is the first step to regarding our sin and our need to repent.

Just this morning in reading Leviticus 10, I was struck with the reality that this is one of the most chilling chapters in the entire canon of Scripture. It’s the account of Aaron’s sons, Nadab and Abihu. It is a graphic reminder of the holiness of the Almighty, and the responsibility of Christian leadership to rightly represent the holiness of God to the people of God.

Nadab and Abihu decided that God’s explicit commands were merely optional, and so they made an offering contrary to God’s explicit command. The result was instant death, because as the text itself says, “I will show myself holy in the sight of all the people. I will be honored.” If there’s one thing God will ensure, it’s that His reputation will not be libeled by those who’ve been given the privilege and responsibility of leading his people in the pursuit of holiness.

While the deaths of Nadab and Abihu may seem harsh at first blush, this is not a singular biblical event. Think forward in the New Testament to Ananias and Sapphira. They purposed to lie to the Holy Spirit in the embryonic stages of the early Christian church, and they, too, faced instant death. Uzzah also mishandled the Ark of the Covenant. God’s people are reminded by these events that those who take the sacred name of Yahweh upon their lips must acknowledge His holiness. They must accept His commands with absolute respect for His sovereign rule.

Holiness does not just describe God’s moral character; holiness underscores His apartness, His transcendence. Yet, unlike in Islam, only in Christianity do we find the need for atonement at the heart of our understanding of God’s holiness, because without sacrifice, no atonement for sin is satisfactory.

Without the mediator—without Jesus Christ—no reconciliation between God and man is even possible. Even if we don’t experience the simmering judgment of God as Abihu and Nahab did, even if we do not experience death in this life, never forget that ultimate judgment awaits us in the life to come. Hitler will not merely die in the comforting arms of his mistress without eternal consequence. God will put all things to right.

Recognizing God’s holiness is the first step to regarding our sin and our need to repent, make a U-turn on the road of life, and do it His way as opposed to our own way.

Reading through Revelation is always a challenge because when we read through the book of Revelation, we often get lost in the apocalyptic language, and Leviticus is much the same. We get lost in all the types and shadows and we can’t figure it out and sometimes we grow weary, and we give up and go on to other things. But remember, Leviticus is useful for training and instructing in righteousness.

Every part of the Word of God is efficacious, so don’t give up as you’re reading in the Bible. Persevere, because in the end you will have the big picture. Ultimately, the big picture is you and I falling into lives of perpetual sin terminated by death, but in the end—because the holiness of God can be satisfied by Jesus Christ—we can inherit a new heaven and a new earth, where indwells righteousness.

The steps for every one of us to take to become part of God’s kingdom for all eternity is the recognition of God’s holiness, and vicariously, our sin, our need to repent, and our need to receive Jesus Christ as the atonement for our sins so that we might be reconciled to our redeemer for time and for eternity.

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