Strange Fire

The below is an outline of the Sunday School lesson I had the privilege of teaching yesterday.  Fully written out, it would make a decent article.  I hope to have time in the near future.  In the meantime, though, here’s the skeleton:

Leviticus 10: How Priests Must Behave

Introduction

There’s some strange stuff in this chapter.  We need to pay very careful attention to the details, or we will miss what’s happening here – and there’s a point here that’s vital to us in the church.

The key to dealing with strange stuff in the Bible is to remember that if we had the mind of Christ, it wouldn’t be strange.  So when we read something and think “That’s weird…” that means we have an opportunity to be conformed to the mind of Christ in that area.  Rather than overlooking or ignoring the weirdness, we need to pay particular attention to it.  “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst after righteousness, for they will be filled.”

Narrate the chapter

Highlights:

  1. “strange fire”
  2. no mourning, no leaving the tabernacle
  3. instructions to Aaron
  4. burning the goat without eating

What’s happening?

Key: God communicates to His people in symbols, in pictures as well as words.  The Priest is responsible for making the pictures, and God takes it seriously if he messes up the picture, because that’s attributing to God an image that He didn’t design.   The priest getting the ritual wrong is like the prophet saying “Thus says the Lord…” when God hasn’t said any such thing – it’s that serious.

  1. “Strange Fire”
    1. Tabernacle is a portable mountain of God
    2. God’s fire on the mountain
    3. They introduced strange fire to the mountain, probably through using common incense instead of the holy incense (cf. Ex. 30:34-38)
  2. No mourning, no leaving
    1. High Priest can’t tear his clothes; he can’t mourn for what God did
    2. Aaron can’t leave because he’s being consecrated (i.e., spending time on the mountain with God) (cf. ch. 9)
  3. Instructions to Aaron
    1. Why does God say these things at this time?
  4. The sin offering goat
    1. Priest is to eat from the sin offering (Lev. 6:24-30)
    2. In this specific case, it’s the day of Atonement sin offering (Lev. 16)
    3. Aaron doesn’t eat it, because he can’t do it with a right heart; he sends the meat he would have eaten to be burned.
    4. Moses accepts this reason.

Application

We tend to read this kind of thing and think, “Yikes!  Getting killed for messing up some ritual requirement!  Well, thank God we’re not under the Law and we don’t have to worry about that.”  Not so fast…

What did God do to the Corinthians when they profaned the Lord’s Table? (1 Cor. 11:17-34, especially vv. 29-30)

Is that the only place we act as priests?  No – Baptism is another ritual required of us, for starters.  We also act as priests in the church meeting, as Hebrews teaches.  So we need to make a serious investigation of what God requires of us, lest we wind up playing the part of Uzza (1Chron. 13:10).

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