Description / Transcription
Father in heaven, we are often hard of heart and hard of hearing, so may our hearts be good soil. Give us ears to hear Your voice. May we be not only hearers, but doers of the Word. In Jesus’ name. Amen.
We come this morning back to the book of Leviticus, Leviticus chapter 10. As we’ve been in this little section within the book of chapters 8, 9, and 10 dealing with the priesthood. We’ve seen the ordination of the priesthood and then the installation, or you might call the inauguration of the priesthood in chapter 9, which Tom preached last week, and now to this sinful innovation.
Now innovation is usually a good word, but when it comes to God’s commandments and worship, it’s not so good, as we’ll see.
Leviticus chapter 10.
“Now Nadab and Abihu, the sons of Aaron, each took his censer.”
Now just pause right there. It’s a word we don’t usually use, but “cense.” Picture if you’ve been to maybe a high church Anglican or a Catholic church at some point and they have these fancy little things that old incense and perfume. Maybe you’ve seen a priest doing this. That’s what a censer is. It’s a contraption that holds the incense that the priests are going to bring.
“Took his censer and put fire in it and laid incense on it and offered unauthorized,” you see the footnote in the ESV, “strange,” “fire before the Lord, which He had not commanded them. And fire came out from before the Lord and consumed them, and they died before the Lord. Then Moses said to Aaron, “This is what the Lord has said: ‘Among those who are near me I will be sanctified, and before all the people I will be glorified.’” And Aaron held his peace.”
“And Moses called Mishael and Elzaphan, the sons of Uzziel the uncle of Aaron, and said to them, “Come near; carry your brothers away from the front of the sanctuary and out of the camp.” So they came near and carried them in their coats out of the camp, as Moses had said. And Moses said to Aaron and to Eleazar and Ithamar his sons, “Do not let the hair of your heads hang loose, and do not tear your clothes, lest you die, and wrath come upon all the congregation; but let your brothers, the whole house of Israel, bewail the burning that the Lord has kindled. And do not go outside the entrance of the tent of meeting, lest you die, for the anointing oil of the Lord is upon you.” And they did according to the word of Moses.”
“And the Lord spoke to Aaron, saying, “Drink no wine or strong drink, you or your sons with you, when you go into the tent of meeting, lest you die. It shall be a statute forever throughout your generations. You are to distinguish between the holy and the common, and between the unclean and the clean, and you are to teach the people of Israel all the statutes that the Lord has spoken to them by Moses.””
Then we read in the next paragraph of further instructions to partake of this offering and eating of the offering, and Moses thinks that they’ve done something wrong.
Verse 16: “Now Moses diligently inquired about the goat of the sin offering, and behold, it was burned up! And he was angry with Eleazar and Ithamar, the surviving sons of Aaron, saying, “Why have you not eaten the sin offering in the place of the sanctuary, since it is a thing most holy and has been given to you that you may bear the iniquity of the congregation, to make atonement for them before the Lord? Behold, its blood was not brought into the inner part of the sanctuary. You certainly ought to have eaten it in the sanctuary, as I commanded.” And Aaron said to Moses, “Behold, today they have offered their sin offering and their burnt offering before the Lord, and yet such things as these have happened to me! If I had eaten the sin offering today, would the Lord have approved?” And when Moses heard that, he approved.”
Whether we realize it or not, we all have a way of making sense of the world. No one just sees the world. We are constantly interpreting the world. We are always interpreting even our own experiences. We don’t simply have things happen or witness things, but we interpret what happens and what we see. So if you wake up, as many of you probably are at this time of year, as I have often, and you have a scratchy throat, you have a sore throat, you have a cough, what is it? It’s pollen because we just live in a cloud of pollen for several weeks or months or ever. Is it that or do you have a cold? Or is COVID? Or is some disease? However you interpret that scratchy throat lends to a certain level of concern or not. You can have the same experience, different interpretation.
When I was visiting my dad in the hospital months ago, one of the particular times when things were looking bad, he had a very big cough and my mom would be concerned that he had such a massive cough. It sort of rattled and shook him. The doctor said, “No, actually do you that cough? It’s a wet cough. It’s breaking up things inside the lungs. That’s a good cough.”
Now the cough sounded the same and it sounded bad, but somebody else gave us a different interpretation to say, “No, that’s a good thing.”
If you hear one of your small children scream, if you hear a small child scream in this service it’s a good chance it’s one of my children, but if you hear one of your children scream, doesn’t the context help you interpret? So if it’s dark and it’s the middle of the night and you hear a child in your house, “aahhhhh,” that gives you one sort of fear and panic. If you look out the window, you hear the same scream and she’s jumping on the trampoline with a big smile on her face, you interpret the same scream very differently. If she’s surrounded by brothers and sisters yanking on a toy, a different sort of scream.
Same noise, same sound, you interpret. We are always interpreting, so we all wear glasses, some of you literally like me wear glasses, to help you make sense of the world.
We call it, sometimes, a world view, that term is a bit dated but it speaks to something important. That we don’t just have the world, we view the world. Or to use a different kind of analogy, think of a bicycle wheel. You all know there are spokes on the wheel that connect to the center. What’s at the center? So a way of looking at the world. Another analogy is to say what’s at the center of that wheel? What is it that connects all the spokes? What’s the starting place from which all true knowledge flows? What is at the center?
I’m not even asking a particularly, deep, sophisticated, philosophical, epistemological question, but really just asking what is at the very center of your existence? How do you look at the world? Who gets to call the shots? Who provides meaning? Who is the one who interprets your reality?
There are really only a handful of ways that people can answer that question – What’s at the center of the spokes? What’s the hub there at the wheel?
A lot of people, even if they say they’re a Christian, really, really the center is the individual. My happiness, my fulfillment, my self-expression, my sense of right and wrong, my actualization, my enlightenment. That’s how I interpret what’s good, what’s bad, what I should do, through myself.
For others, perhaps those outside of the West, might have some group identity at the center. It’s not me as a self but it’s my family, it’s my tribe, it’s my ethnic group, or it’s the state or it’s my political party. They determine how I interpret my reality.
Or some people say, “Well, everything is at the center, because we’re all part of some energy field or some force and we’re all caught up in the same being.”
Or some people would say, “Well, there’s nothing. There’s no spoke. There’s no center. It’s just randomness. You’re just bouncing atoms and there is no center.” Which is still a kind of center.
Of course, we ought to know as Christians that God is the center. Before all things, outside of everything, yet everything holds together in Him. True knowledge starts with Him. If we are to understand the world, our place in the world, the purpose of the world, how we are to serve in the world, what reality really is, we must put God at the center.
Now you all know that, if you’re a Christian, yes, good, right, God, mmhmm, true. Can we be done now? No, not yet.
This is one of those passages that reorients us and it forces us to examine whether we really believe that God is God. Most everyone here in this room believes in God. Most everyone in this country believes in some kind of God. But this passage is a bit offensive to us and it forces us to consider the reality whether God is truly for you the reference point, the lens, through which you see yourself, you see family, justice, righteousness, obedience, and everything else.
There are three lessons about God in Leviticus 10 we must learn if He is to truly be at the center of that wheel.
Lesson number 1, the holiness of God is not to be trifled with. Lesson number 1, the holiness of God is not to be trifled with.
Now we’ve seen in this progression, chapter 8, 9, and 10, now to the end of this unit dealing with the ordination, the installation, the inauguration of the priesthood. No sooner had Aaron’s offering been accepted in chapter 9, the fire of God’s presence consumed the offering, acceptable offering, no sooner, in fact on the same day, Aaron’s sons commit their tragic and fatal sin.
We’re introduced to these two sons in verse 1, Nadab and Abihu, the oldest of Aaron’s four sons; the other ones, Eleazar and Ithamar, mentioned later. They’re petulant. They’re disobedient. We are not meant to feel sorry for them.
Here’s how the world gets us to change our views on things. It’d be really nice if the devil was just straightforward and he just gave us an official Catechism and said, “No more with the Westminster Shorter Catechism, I want the devil’s Shorter Catechism. Here, take it, believe it.” But of course he masquerades as an angel of light.
One of the ways that the world gets us to believe wrong things, actually two ways. One, by what we laugh at, and two, what we feel sorry for.
I like to laugh. Laughter’s good. But if you can, if the world can get you laughing at, to laugh at each other, okay, to poke fun at our own foibles, to laugh at things that show our humanity, all of that, there’s plenty of things to laugh about. But when we start laughing at sin as some light and trivial thing, no longer seeing it as offense to God.
Or when the world get us to sympathize with the wrong people. We’ve all had the experience of watching some movie and the way that it pulls at our heartstring and you don’t even realize that, well, this protagonist in the movie is making all the wrong decisions and they’re not honoring promises or vows, they’re not obeying, they’re not being true to anything but their own sense of self and desires, and yet you find yourself, because the story is told in such a way, and you go, “Yes, you should do that. Live. You be you. Find your own truth.”
And though we would know better if someone presented it to us like that, we sympathize.
So in this passage, there’s a danger. We feel sorry for Nadab and Abihu. But we shouldn’t. Their sin was blatant disobedience.
Now why were they killed? We are told that they offered unauthorized fire. Strange fire. What exactly was their sin?
It may have been that they took their censers, these vessels for burning incense, and instead of taking holy censers, the ones set apart for the worship of the tabernacle, they just took any old censer. Or it could be that instead of taking fire from the altar, they just went to their own neighborhood campfire. So it could have been the wrong censer or the wrong fire.
It may have been that they went into the wrong place. Incense and fire was a mixture prescribed for the day of atonement, and we read more about this in Leviticus chapter 16, verse 1: “The Lord spoke to Moses after the death of the two sons of Aaron, when they drew near before the Lord and died, and the Lord said to Moses, “Tell Aaron your brother not to come at any time into the Holy Place inside the veil, before the mercy seat that is on the ark, so that he may not die.””
So that instruction in chapter 16 seems to indicate that at least part of what they did wrong as they just moseyed their way when they had no business entering behind the curtain into the most holy place when it was not their time, it was not their place, and they went in and they offered their unauthorized fire.
It may have been the wrong kind of incense. Exodus 30, verse 9: “You shall not offer unauthorized incense on the altar.”
It may also have been, and perhaps on top of all of this or underneath all of it, they may have been drunk. Why do I say that? Well, because back in chapter 10 we have the curious conversation that the Lord has to Aaron in verse 8 and then verse 9, “Drink no wine or strong drink.” Well, why is this coming out of nowhere? Why all of a sudden is the Lord speaking to Aaron? This is the only time, verse 8, is the only time in the book of Leviticus where the Lord speaks directly to Aaron. All the other times He’s speaking through Moses. This is a big deal. God wants to give a very specific set of instructions to Aaron and here it has to do with drunkenness.
So it seems as God says that the priests must be able to distinguish between the holy and the common, verse 10, between the unclean and the clean. Perhaps Nadab and Abihu were stone cold drunk. They were tipsy. They didn’t get the right thing and they wandered off into the wrong place.
So whatever was strange about the fire, whether it’s one of these things or all of these things, they knew better. Some combination of having the wrong censer, the wrong incense, offered at the wrong time, in the wrong place, in the wrong way. So this was not just an “oops” moment.
We’ve already seen, there are sacrifices are for unintentional sins. This was not an “oops.” These are two men who knew better. They were among the privileged few who were allowed near the Lord when He descended upon Mount Sinai. They had just been ordained as priests in a week-long ceremony. There were to be teachers of the law. They knew what was required of them.
So to put in our parlance, this is not a middle-schooler who just became a Christian. This is a pastor who’s been through seminary, been ordained, been chosen, knows exactly what is required of him, and first day on the job, kicks back a fifth (is that a thing? I don’t know), gets drunk, wanders in to the holy of holies.
No, this is not some innocent mistake. We’re meant to see this stark difference between chapters 8 and 9 and chapter 10. We don’t have time to read it, but do you remember in chapters 8 and 9, over and over, we have this refrain: “And they did as the Lord commanded Moses.” Over and over. And they did such and such as the Lord commanded Moses, as the Lord commanded.
So surely it’s striking in verse 1, when they offer unauthorized fire, “which He had not commanded them.” Uh oh.
And you remember chapter 9? Chapter 9 ends, verse 24, “and fire came out from before the Lord and consumed the burnt offering and the people saw it, they shouted, and fell on their faces.” Chapter 10, verse 1 and 2, is the mirror image of what happened in chapter 9, verse 24. In chapter 9, the fire comes out, consumes the burnt offering, the people rejoice with awe. Now fire comes out from the Lord, and instead of consuming the burnt offering, it consumes the two oldest sons of Aaron, and the people fear.
This judgment was final and it was decisive. Now it’s God’s grace that He doesn’t always act like this, but this judgment was death, just like it was in the garden. The instructions were clear. These were men who knew better and they had drawn near to God, they had been given a place of great privilege and responsibility. It is always true, and here I’m speaking perhaps in particular to the men in this church who serve as officers, the closer you are to the holy things of God, the closer you must attend to your own holiness.
I think of that with fear and trembling. I hope a good kind of fear and trembling in my own life. I think sin is serious for anyone. I think if I as a pastor of this church, of course I sin every week, we all do, sinned in some colossal way, it would redound to the shame of the name of Christ and hurt and affect so many people. The more people you influence, the more people depending upon you, the closer you are to holy things, the more you ought to attend to your own holiness.
This violation was so obvious, so egregious, so immediate, it had to be dealt with. Like a general who has just been drilling his troops and drilling his troops, and then commissions certain officers over the troops, and then on the very first day of engagement, these newly-formed officers, two of them go off and they get drunk and they wander around, and they start shooting their guns and firing off artillery. What are you going to do? The treason there, the disobedience, must be met with swift justice. That general must show that they are not only putting their lives in danger, they are putting all of their men in danger.
So it is here with the Lord. Look, if the Lord were to allow this blatant disobedience to go unchecked, this is not the occasion to say, “Okay, second chance for you guys.” No second chance for Nadab and Abihu. Their treason was met with swift justice because the holiness of the Lord is not to be trifled with. And if they could not see that, these men who had been so near to the holiness of God, set apart for this holy purpose, if they could handle the holy things so carelessly, what sort of example would it set for the entire camp if they Lord said, “Eh, never mind. It’s all right”?
The holiness of the Lord is not to be trifled with.
Number two. Second lesson about God if He is to really be the center, if we’re really to put on God-shaped lenses as we see the world. The glory of God ought to be our chief concern. The glory of God ought to be our chief concern.
The priorities in this passage are remarkable and when you see them, they’re a little hard to swallow. But they’re here.
Look at what Moses said to Aaron in verse 3: This is what the Lord has said: Among those who are near Me, that means your two boys, Aaron, I will be sanctified, I will be set apart, I’ll be holy, and before all the people I will be glorified.
Now think about this. Aaron’s two sons. Many of you have children. You have sons. No matter what the circumstances, if they were to be killed, I imagine Aaron’s fatherly heart broken, shattered. Yet we have no record of Moses telling Aaron, “I’m so sorry,” or, “Brother, you must be devastated. I can’t even imagine what you’re going through.” All of those are appropriate things to say usually, but not here.
Here Moses comes to his brother and says, “I want you to hear what the Lord has to say to you, Aaron. If you come near to the Lord, He’s holy. He’s to be sanctified. He’s to be glorified.” And then one of the most sobering sentences in all the Bible, at the end of verse 3: “And Aaron held his peace.”
He had a lot he wanted to say, I’m sure. You don’t think he had emotion? He’s a father. And he took it. He took it like a man, like a holy man, as if to say, “You’re right, Moses.” Perhaps choking back tears. “You’re right, my boys did not glorify the Lord. They were near to Him and they counted His holiness as a thing to be trifled with and the Lord has done what is right.”
You see what comes next. Moses calls some of the other Levites to carry the dead bodies outside the camp. You see in verse 6, he said to Aaron, to Eleazar, to Ithamar, his sons, so this is Nadab and Abihu, their dad and their two brothers, “Don’t let the hair of your head hang loose. Do not tear your clothes lest you die. Let your brothers, the whole house of Israel, bewail the burning that the Lord has kindled, but not you.” Oh, this must have been a hard word.
Yes, this is a sadness, this is a tragedy. A death has happened. Two men we all know, we all see, they just were ordained priests. Yes, let the congregation mourn, yes, there is a sadness here. There’s a loss of life and it is a grief. But not you, Aaron. Not you, Eleazar and Ithamar.
Later Leviticus 21 says no one shall make himself unclean for the dead among His people except for his closest relatives, his mother, his father, his son, his daughter, his brother, or his virgin sister. The idea was that the priests just in general could not be in mourning all the time, making themselves unclean. They had to be set apart. But it allowed for close family members they could do the traditional mourning ritual. For a brother, a son, they could. That’s the general principle. But here’s the exception – not now. Aaron and his two remaining sons, Eleazar and Ithamar, are told no letting down your hair, no tearing of your clothes, none of the traditional symbols of mourning for Nadab and Abihu. Let the rest of the nation mourn, not you. If you do, you’ll die and wrath will come out upon the people.
This is a hard word. So I say this is one of those passages that makes us think, “Is God really God in my life, or is He just a little piece of the pie in my Trivial Pursuit little pie there? Okay, I like God, I like sports, I like.. Yeah, I want God to sort of make me a well-rounded person.”
Or is He everything?
You might feel welling up within you the very understandable sentiment, “God, come on. These are brothers, these are his sons. Let them tear their clothes, let them weep.”
But God says here, “No.”
It’s God’s way of saying, and listen to this, you ought to be more broken-hearted for their disobedience than for their death. If you are to mourn, Aaron, if you are to weep, Eleazar and Ithamar, let it be that you mourn their disregard for My holiness. You mourn their failure to honor Me as Lord. You mourn that they have trifled with the glory of the Lord. This is what ought to be most crushing to you, Aaron, even more than the death of your sons.
This is a hard word. There is hardly anyone in here who doesn’t have that excruciating pain, and if you don’t, you probably will at some point, of having a child, a grandchild, a niece, a nephew, an uncle, an aunt, someone you love, one of your own kin, especially if it’s a son or a daughter, and they’re not walking with the Lord. They’re making all sorts of decisions to go their own way, to choose other than what the Lord has commanded, and here’s what happens. I’ve seen it and you’ve seen it and some of you are feeling this temptation in your own heart. You want to find a way because you so love, you so love, how could you not love your own kids?
Is there a way that God didn’t mean what God said? Is there a way that maybe God’s laws aren’t the same as the Church has thought they were for 2000 years? It’s been said before, and I’ve said it before, that so often blood is thicker than theology. We have what we know God has said in His Word and then comes along family and we find a way. Okay, well, maybe… How many times have I heard of a pastor that changes their views on say marriage and sexuality because child, a son or daughter, has come out making a different decision in their lifestyle. Oh, it’s painful.
This passage is one of those passages that’s going to force you to say, “Is God really at the center?” People will change their long-held beliefs, they will find ways to reinterpret, to put on different glasses, to know and find a way that maybe the Bible says what I didn’t think it said, but for 2000 years the Church has said one thing and I’ve always said one thing, but now, boy, I got a son, or a daughter, maybe it says something else. Many a father or a mother would have chosen Nadab and Abihu rather than the God that Nadab and Abihu had offended.
This passage is not how most people look at the world. To be honest, it’s not how most professing Christians look at the world. Too often it’s not how I look at the world, with God’s glory as the blazing hot center.
You have to ask yourself the question: To whom was the greatest injustice done on this day?
Because our world will say, surely it was Aaron. Aaron’s sons were killed. Or they’ll say Nadab and Abihu. All right, we all make mistakes.
But no, this passage tells us the greatest injustice was done to God in this passage. They sinned against God.
What are your priorities? What are you really concerned about? And you say, well, can I just write this off as some extreme Old Testament passage?
What about Jesus? Another disciple said to Him, “Lord, let me first go and bury my father, and Jesus said to him, ‘Follow Me. Leave the dead to bury their own dead.'”
It’s not that Jesus was against funerals. We have lots of funerals here. His point was simply, if you have to make a choice, I must take precedence, even over the most important things and important moments, and yes, even over the most important people in your life. Jesus is not really your Lord if someone else is more important.
What’s the very first thing Jesus tells us to ask in prayer? Our Father, hallowed be Your name.
Doesn’t that orient us? What’s most important? God, Your glory is our chief concern.
Here’s the final lesson. God is to be worshipped with reverence and awe.
This is the classic text used to defend what’s called the regulative principle. That’s the idea that the only elements in worship service should be those that are prescribed either by command or by good and necessary consequence in Scripture. In other words, God wants to be worshiped as He tells us He wants to be worshiped. He doesn’t leave it up to us, “Why don’t you come up with your best idea of how God should be worshiped?” No, this passage shows us, no, God tells us and we ought to worship as He wants to be worshiped.
Westminster Confession of Faith says the acceptable way of worshiping the true God is instituted by Himself and so limited by His own revealed will that He may not be worshiped according to the imaginations and devices of men or the suggestion of Satan under any visible representation or any other way not prescribed in Holy Scriptures.
In Exodus, the story of the golden calf, they said these are the gods that brought you out of Egypt. They were saying, “Look, we’re still worshiping Yahweh, we just are coming up with a new culturally-relevant way to do it.” And God says, “No, you ought to worship Me how I told you I want to be worshiped, with reverence and awe.”
Now this strange ending to the passage. You have this dramatic scene and then you have some weird instructions about alcohol, likely because Nadab and Abihu were intoxicated, and then you have what seems to be a really anticlimax with some verses about sin offerings and grain offerings and who ate what.
Here’s what’s going on. Moses tells Eleazar and Ithamar to eat the food that is left on the altar. Remember, some of the offerings of the five offerings, the priests were to eat them up, and others were be burnt in their entirety and none for the priests. But instead of eating it, they burned the goat instead. So Moses is pretty concerned. We can understand. Nadab and Abihu were just killed for not doing things according to the letter of the law, and now Moses says, “Aaron, what is happening? Didn’t we learn our lesson? Didn’t you learn anything from Nadab and Abihu? Do everything as God told you.”
But then Aaron answers Moses in verse 19 and it seems that Aaron’s point is, “With all that’s happened today, and with the fact that my two sons were killed, which in some way reflects poorly on me as their father and as the high priest, how could I have eaten this offering?” I think Aaron’s suggestion is, “I was not in a place of ritual purity and cleanliness as the priest to eat this offering.”
So it was something of a gray area. We don’t want the lesson from chapter 10 to be that God is just always hunched over, just ready at the most innocent little mistake any Christian makes to strike them dead. That’s not what this was. This was a high-handed, flagrant, they knew better sin.
Sometimes there are gray areas, and this was one at the end of the passage, and Aaron says, “I didn’t think that it was my place with everything that had happened, to eat in the sin offering.” And verse 20 says, “Moses heard and he approved.” We can surmise that God approved.
Aaron had learned his lesson. He had learned his lesson that we ought to do things from a position of purity as those who handle holy things. Moses was pleased because Aaron had learned the deeper lesson here, not just how to do things according to the minutiae of God’s instructions, but namely he had learned the Lord is a righteous judge, His glory is my chief concern, His holiness is not to be treated lightly, so if I’m not clean on this day, I’m not going to eat this offering. Moses approved and we can think so did God.
We ought to worship God with reverence and awe. Now some of hear that and we think reverence and awe means a certain decibel level, or maybe the music has to be slow or it has to be old or you have to wear very expensive clothes. Now you could do all of those things, but reverence and awe is not a particular music style, a particular decibel level, a particular outfit, it’s a particular approach. An approach to God with reverence and awe. It doesn’t always mean formality, it doesn’t mean you have to be very dour in your expressions. Why are you Presbyterians so sad? Because that’s how we worship. It doesn’t mean that.
But listen. It means a profound awareness of the central theme throughout this book, namely that God is holy and we are not. No strange fire.
Can you think of a passage in the New Testament that sounds a lot like this unauthorized fire but puts it into a Gospel key, literally? It’s Galatians 1:8 and 9 when Paul says, “Even if an angel from heaven, if I or an angel from heaven should come and preach to you another Gospel, let him be” what? Anathema. Let him be accursed. Let him be cut off.
So without a tabernacle worship, without temple worship, in a literal way, Paul applies this same principle now to the Gospel. He says, “If I come to you with some strange Gospel, some unauthorized Gospel, let me struck down and accursed.” Just like Nadab and Abihu.
So it’s a warning for those who bring the Gospel but it’s also a warning for all us who worship.
The best place to finish, as is often the case in Leviticus, is in Hebrews. Lest you think that this reverence and awe is just an Old Testament idea, listen as we close to Hebrews chapter 12, verse 25 through 29: “See that you do not refuse him who is speaking. For if they did not escape when they refused him who warned them on earth, much less will we escape if we reject Him who warns from heaven. At that time His voice shook the earth.”
Now listen here for the recurring language of shaking.
“For the voice that shook the earth, but now He has promised, “Yet once more I will shake not only the earth but also the heavens.” This phrase, “once more,” indicates the removal of things that are shaken—that is, things that have been made—in order that the things that cannot be shaken may remain. Therefore let us be grateful for receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, and thus let us offer to God acceptable worship, with reverence and awe, for our God is a consuming fire.”
Any other Gen-Xers out there who can’t help but read that verse and think of the Third Day song, “Yes, our God is a consuming fire.” I sound just like that guy. It’s one of those first sort of Christian this on the radio. “Our God is a consuming fire.” Then it says, “He melts down this cold heart of stone.” Absolute fun song, absolute terrible exegesis. This is not about God the consuming fire who lovingly melts down our cold hearts of stone to give us new life. No, this is about the terrifying God of consuming fire whose holiness is not to be trifled with, and so let us approach with reverence and awe, shaking.
Did you hear all the language of shaking? By His voice, God’s voice, the earth shook. Then it says by His voice also the heavens will shake. So there’s an ending that is coming, but there is a kingdom that cannot be shaken. So all these created things will pass away, they will shake, be dissolved, destroyed, but there is a kingdom that cannot be shaken and here’s, though the word isn’t mentioned, here is what I think is the implication we’re meant to draw. His voice shakes the earth, His voice shakes the heavens, but there is a kingdom that cannot be shaken, and who is that kingdom for? It’s for those who stand before the Lord and they shake just a little, with reverence and awe.
Now here’s the good news in Christ, Hebrews tell us we can draw near with confidence. But the only way you come to Christ is if at first there is some fear. O God, who am I to come before You? No, no, no, God, You are the one who struck down Nadab and Abihu. O God, who am I with my sin? Who am I to come and look upon you? It’s only when you have that heart before God that He says, “My son, My daughter. You come in the blood of Christ. Draw near, for as you have been shaking, I have for you a kingdom that cannot be shaken. Come now, and worship with reverence and awe.”
Let’s pray. Father in heaven, surely You have work to do in our hearts, for many of us know what are the right things to say and to believe and yet when it comes to it, we all struggle to have You really at the center. C.S. Lewis said he believes in Christianity like he believed in the sun, not just because he could see the sun but because by the sun he could see everything else, so because of You, God, we can see clearly everything else. Forgive us, Lord, for displacing You from the center, for approaching You casually, flippantly. Have mercy, O Lord, and for Jesus’ sake, receive our worship. In His name we pray. Amen.