Sh’mini (The Eighth) Leviticus 9:1-11:47 and II Samuel 6:1-7:17
I would like us to look first at II Samuel and then move to the Torah portion for tonight. First a touch of background: the Philistines had captured the ark from Israel in battle and took it to their territory. However, pretty quickly they saw that was not working out for them so they took it from Gath and returned it to Beith Shemesh. In I Samuel 6:19 it tells us the people of Beth Shemesh opened the ark and because of that 50,070 people died. Then they sent it on to Kirjath Jearim where it stayed in the house of Abinadab for twenty years.
David, after defeating his enemies saw the need for a central place of worship in Jerusalem. He decided to go get the ark from Abinadab’s house. The scripture tells us they put the ark of G-d on a new cart and brought it out of the house of Abinadab and Uzzah put out his hand to the ark and took hold of it when the oxen stumbled. In anger the L-rd struck him and he died by the ark of G-d. What do you think David did wrong in this whole process of bringing the ark back to Jerusalem? David had the ark of G-d put on a cart instead of having the Levites carry it. In II Samuel 6:6-7 one of Abinadab’s sons reached out to steady the ark when the oxen stumbled. Why did he die? He was not a Levite and therefore was not allowed to touch the ark. The next time David goes for the ark what does he do? I Chronicles 15:1-2 says he sends Levites to carry it. Doesn’t seem like a big difference but what do we learn from these scriptures? G-d has a way and a plan. He expects us to live our lives in harmony with His plans. We do not have to do this but when we chose not to we suffer the consequences. What is the prevailing view of the world and even sometimes of Christians? The end justifies the means, or G-d isn’t really interested in the details of what we do from day to day. He loves us and will overlook things we do. David and Uzzah found out that really isn’t the way G-d works. G-d has a plan for each of us, a way to do things and living by those plans is what is important for each of us – not just doing what we want. When David did it right, he got to Jerusalem and G-d made an everlasting covenant with him – the ultimate fulfillment being in Yeshua the Messiah – a perfect and never ending kingdom.
Now to the Torah. In this Torah section, Leviticus 9:1-11:47 we see played out the plan G-d gave to Moses in Exodus 28-29. Here we see Moses and Aaron doing things exactly as G-d told them in Exodus. What was the result? The fire of G-d fell and consumed the sacrifice – the people fell on their faces and shouted (9:24) Where in the New Testament do we see the fire of G-d falling? Acts 2:1-4. So the fire of G-d can bring joy and salvation but it can also bring judgment. Here in Chapter 10 of Leviticus is one of those places. Where is the other incident of G-d’s fire falling to bring judgment? In the story of Elijah and the prophets of Baal fire fell and consumed the offering.
So, here we come immediately after the shouting and joy what happens to Nadab and Abihu, sons of Aaron. They knew when to offer fire and incense and how to do it but it says they offered profane fire before the L-rd. They offered it at the wrong time and in the wrong way. They offered it in a way that was not set out by G-d. What happened? They died. Why did they do it? In some ways the reason doesn’t matter. They knew better but for whatever reason did it their own way and like Uzzah it cost them their lives. So the same thread runs through both stories. Even if our motives are good we cannot do things just as we please. G-d has a way and it must be our way as well. These men were priests. So are we. They knew better. The fear of G-d is the beginning of wisdom. We serve a G-d who loves us and like a good father expects us to pay attention and follow His plan. As priests it is so important for us. How else will the world see G-d if not in our lives?
In Chapter 11 the kosher laws are given. What was the real purpose for these laws? It was to set the people apart. To keep them from being assimilated into the world. It was also teaching them to live by G-d’s plan, to live in G-d’s framework, to teach them they could not live by their fleshly desires. These were spiritual more than practical laws. They taught again, that G-d wishes us to be apart from the world and not be caught up doing what everyone else is doing. We are different and as such our lives must be different.