Parashat Shemini (Eight)

Vayikra (Leviticus) 9:1-11:47

This week’s reading is very interesting and rich; it contains some nuggets of wisdom for those of us who fear the Lord and follow Him. First, let me remind us of one of the things that we learned from last week’s blog, Pesach (Passover) Reflections: our God is the one and only true God; He is the Creator of the world, and everything is for Him and His glory.

Our portion this week opens with God’s specific instructions of how He expected the Children of Israel to offer sacrifices. These instructions are important for many reasons, but mostly because they reveal God’s character, and specifically His holiness and glory:

“And Moses said, “This is the thing which the LORD has commanded you to do, that the glory of the LORD may appear to you.”” Leviticus 9:6

As we learn from Leviticus 9:7-22, Aaron, acting on behalf of the people as Priest, did as the Lord commanded, and the result was an incredible, supernatural revelation of the Lord:

“And Moses and Aaron went into the Tent of Meeting. When they came out and blessed the people, the glory of the LORD appeared to all the people. Then fire came out from before the LORD and consumed the burnt offering and the portions of fat on the altar; and when all the people saw it, they shouted and fell on their faces.” Leviticus 9:23-24

Can you imagine witnessing this incredible event? Our God’s glory is something magnificent that stretches beyond our imagination. As we can see in the verses above, His fire came down and burned all of the offering which was on the altar (a prophetic picture of what is to come) and the people could not comprehend it and fell on their faces.

Yet, following that amazing event, something tragic occurs and it’s crucial for us to pay attention and understand its implications.

“Now Nadab and Abihu, the sons of Aaron, took their respective firepans, and after putting fire in them, placed incense on it and offered strange fire before the LORD, which He had not commanded them.” Leviticus 10:1

I have no doubt that Nadav and Avihu heard God’s very specific instructions and witnessed that glorious moment when the heavenly fire consumed the sacrifice. However, they did not have the fear of the Lord in them; they were not wise and, as we can see, they were prideful. They wanted to do what they wanted to do in the way they wanted to do it rather than the way God instructed them to do it. They offered a strange fire before the Lord, which the Lord did not command them to.

Even if I try to look at this from a positive perspective, and give them the benefit of the doubt that they had good, pure motives to offer a sacrifice to the Lord, there is still a problem that they simply did not follow God’s specific instructions. In short, they defied His will. What they lacked was a true fear of the Lord. Since our God is Holy and is not playing games with anyone, the byproduct of their sin was immediate death from God’s holy fire:

“And fire came out from the presence of the LORD and consumed them, and they died before the LORD.” Leviticus 10:2

I think about what lessons this holds for us today, especially since we do not have a sacrificial system. As I wrote, our God is a holy God; He alone has the right to determine that which is holy and that which is not. We also see this in the specific instructions with regard to that which is holy (clean) and that which is unclean. (Leviticus 11)

As we read chapter 11 we learn something very interesting which shows us something very basic which is that when we do something that God tells us not to, we make ourselves unclean:

“Do not render yourselves detestable through any of the swarming things that swarm; and you shall not make yourselves unclean with them so that you become unclean. ‘For I am the LORD your God. Consecrate yourselves therefore, and be holy; for I am holy. And you shall not make yourselves unclean with any of the swarming things that swarm on the earth.” Leviticus 11:43-44

As a final thought, I want to point out an important principle which is important for us to understand as followers of Messiah Yeshua and the one true God, יהוה (YHVH):

“‘For I am the LORD, who brought you up from the land of Egypt, to be your God; thus you shall be holy for I am holy.’”” Leviticus 11:45

He gave us the tools to be holy, just as He is holy! God delivered Israel from the land of Egypt (slavery) so that they would be a people set apart unto Him, for His glory. And that principle holds true today, both for the Jewish people as well as those who are grafted-in to the commonwealth of Israel (believers in Messiah Yeshua). Through Yeshua, we have been delivered from slavery to sin into His kingdom. We are to be holy and set apart unto Him, for His glory and His namesake!

Where are you today? Is there anything in your life that is keeping you from being holy and set apart to the Lord? Are you offering a “foreign fire” to the Lord that could separate you from Him?

Shabbat Shalom,

Moran