After all the instructions that God gave to the priests, and after all the preparations were in place, now the priests at the Tabernacle can finally begin their work of atoning for Israel’s sins! Chapters 9 and 10 of Leviticus are monumental and we should not miss this; this is where the rubber meets the road as the priests are finally going to act on their instructions… and it doesn’t go well from the start. Aaron’s sons, Nadab and Abihu, carelessly neglected to follow all the specific commands of God and were punished with death. It is an obscure and confusing passage, but overall, the story carries the same meaning: punishment comes from not following God’s clear instruction.
If we can say anything about Leviticus, it is detail-oriented; there was no room for the priests to make up their own minds about how to perform sacrifices. God was very specific and very clear about what He wanted to be done. The same is true for us: God is not a god of confusion, but of clarity and precise direction (1 Corinthians 14:33). He has specifically told us what He wants us to do as Christians in the New Testament through Jesus Christ; to stray away from His command brings relational and spiritual death, where we suffer to recover from our mistakes (Romans 6:22-23).
There are two challenges for all of us in the New Testament, and they are quite clear and precise. The first is to read Jesus’ words daily; you cannot possibly follow his commands if you don’t know what they are. The second challenge is to put his teaching into practice; it does us no good to simply know something, but instead, we must act upon it (James 2:14-17). Jesus tells us specifically that if we do not listen and act upon his teachings, then we are building our lives on sand instead of solid ground, giving us no foundation or stability (Matthew 7:24-27).
Let’s do better than Nadab and Abihu. Let’s follow God’s clear commands, revealed through Jesus Christ, and see the difference that it can make in our lives and the lives of others. It is not complicated; God is specific about what we are supposed to do.