Leviticus 8 is the beginning of a time of celebration for the nation of Israel – God’s people. Up to this point God has chosen them (Gen 12), freed them (Exo 12), fought for them (Exo 14), and taught them how to be His (Exo 25-40, Lev 1-7). Here, God commanded Moses to ceremonially consecrate (set-apart) the sons of Aaron for the holy priesthood. Moses did so by having them washed, changed into new clothes, anointed with oil, blood sacrifices on the bronze altar – all for 7 days. On the 8th day, you could feel the excitement, the anticipation, the expectation. If they had done everything right, the glory of the Lord would fall and consume these final sacrifices made on the 8th day on behalf of the priests since they too were sinners before God. Sure enough, the glory of the Lord in the form of fire fell from heaven, consumed the sacrifices made on the altar, and the people responded, shouted, and fell on their faces.
The very next verse in chapter 10 will blow your mind. I had heard this preached on several occasions, but I never realized that it came directly after the ceremonial consecration of the priests. Aaron’s sons, Nadab and Abihu, made fire mixed with incense in their priestly pans. But something went very wrong. Moses writes that their fire offering was unauthorized worship before God. It could be that Nadab and Abihu unlawfully entered into the Holy of Holies. It may have happened that they were drunk when making this fire before the Lord. Or it could simply be that God didn’t command them to make the fire at that time. Whatever the case may be, it was unauthorized worship, and the Lord consumed the two priests right there just as He had previously consumed the sacrifices offered on their behalf. Their father, Aaron, was stunned, but he “held his peace” (10:3).
Please see here that we cannot play around with worshipping our holy God. He takes it seriously, and so must we. We must not offer Him worship in any unauthorized way since He not only hates it, but He desires to pour His wrath out against it. What is the only authorized way of offering God our worship? We must only authorize worship to God through His Son, Jesus Christ alone. But to tie it all together, Jesus isn’t only the Son of God; He is also our High Priest! He is the High Priest that takes worshipping God very seriously. In fact, He only offered one sacrifice and one offering to God: His own body. It was such a pleasing sacrificial offering to God that it was the last one God required. Now everyone that believes in this High Priest, Jesus, is fully forgiven by God. If Jesus is our High Priest, and we as Christians are in Christ, then we are priests to God, Scripture says. What are priests? Priests are chosen people of God who are authorized to draw near to Him and to spiritually care for God’s people.
Peter writes and says that we, as members of the church, are like stones being built up to make God’s house (His temple). He says this in order for us to be a holy priesthood who offers spiritual sacrifices to God through Christ (1 Pet 2:5). In God’s temple, there are no holes. Every stone is important. Did you watch the 4×100 Olympic swimming relay race where the U.S. won be 8 hundredths of a second? If only one of our swimmers swam one second slower, we would have lost the gold medal. In our churches, we are only as healthy and as powerful as our weakest members. Every believing member within our churches are priests to God. Each of us must be working very hard to draw near to God, love each other in the church, and minister to those in our community. How do we do this? Through Jesus Christ alone, our great High Priest.