Sunday, August 3, 2014

Unlawful fire

Nadab and Abihu, sons of Aaron, each took his censer, put fire in it and incense on the fire, and presented unlawful fire before Yahweh, fire which He had not prescribed for them. Then from Yahweh’s presence a flame leaped out and consumed them, and they perished in the presence of Yahweh. And Moses said to Aaron, “This is what Yahweh meant when He said: ‘In those who are close to Me I show holiness, and before all the people I show My glory.’” Aaron remained silent.

Moses summoned Mishael and Elzaphan, sons of Aaron’s uncle Uzziel, and said to them, “Come and take your brothers far away from the sanctuary, out of the camp.” They came and carried them away, still in their tunics, out of the camp, as Moses had ordered.

Moses said to Aaron and his sons Eleazar and Ithamar, “Do not disorder your hair nor tear your garments; you are not going to die. It is with the whole community that He is angry; it is the whole house of Israel that must lament your brothers, the victims of Yahweh’s fire. Do not leave the entrance to the Tent of Meeting, lest you die; for the chrism of Yahweh is on you.” And they obeyed the words of Moses.

Leviticus 10:1-7 Jerusalem Bible

What are we to make of this incident? Those who believe in ‘our Grandfather who art in heaven’ would have us believe that this is just a story, a myth, a metaphor, an allegory, anything but what it is. Those who believe in the ‘religion of peace’ regardless of the religion they actually practice, will point to it and accuse those, who believe in the Holy Bible, of believing in a barbaric God who does cruel and violent acts, of believing in a Book that is full of such stories, and even of such laws, that are at total odds with the modern world, against peace, against freedom.

Well, what is described in this passage from the Bible really did happen. Its presence in the Bible gives us a glimpse of one of the aspects of the Divine Nature. The God revealed here and with whom we have to deal is certainly not the God we may have wanted and hoped for, not the God we expected. Why does He have to say such things? Why does He have to give us such commands? Why does He have to anoint us and take possession of us like this? Why does He insist on being with us, saying, ‘In those who are close to Me I show holiness’? This isn’t what we expected.

So it can’t be real, this God who does these things, mysterious and so unfriendly to man. This is not the God we expected. He’s turned out to be more, not less, than what we expected, and who can put up with that? The story must not be history, it can’t be. It must just be a story. Ah, what can we make of it? Let’s spiritualize it, let’s give it a meaning He never intended. Maybe He won’t notice. Oh, but wait! Not to worry, that God isn’t really there anyway. Our God is. Our man-friendly God who is ‘gentle Jesus, meek and mild,’ and anything else we want Him to be.

This is how their minds think, but it’s all been foretold and written down, that they would be ‘always learning and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth’ (2 Timothy 3:7).

The God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ is the same Being,
the same Divine Nature,
that revealed Himself in the Hebrew scriptures,
always through His Word,
who walked with Adam in the Garden,
who instructed Noah to build the ark
that would save all breathing life,
who instructed Abram in his journeys,
blessed him with a son, and gave him the Promise,
who brought the sons of Jacob down into Egypt,
and by Moses and Aaron brought them out again,
who led them in the wilderness
and from there to take possession of the land,
who spoke by the prophets, through His Spirit,
telling and foretelling by them His will for the nations,
and who is enthroned in glory upon the cherubim,
who receives all those who are offered to Him by His Son,
who penetrated the depths of all creation, even to Hades,
to capture men as tribute to His Father.

This is the Being who assembled for us the Book, the only divine scripture on earth, and did not hide from us His majesty or His humility, His might or His weakness. He is a terror to the kings of the earth, yet why do the poor still run to Him for refuge?
Does fire leap from His presence and devour them?

As C. S. Lewis writes in retelling the pagan myth of Eros and Psyche in his greatest novel Till We Have Faces, ‘The Divine Nature wounds and perhaps destroys us merely by being what it is,’ we have an honest God who has revealed to us in an ample historical record how existence works, that it operates by laws, that the harshness and danger of fallen nature is real but will have an end, but that we must place ourselves precisely before His mercy seat to enter into a relationship with Him, that transforms us into partakers of the Divine Nature. There will always be good reason to fear that Divine Nature until we allow ourselves to be immersed in it. No being is safe or can be safe until it is embraced by the Being.

Immersed in the Divine Nature, embraced by the Being?
How is this possible?

Go back and read the 3rd chapter of the holy gospel according to Saint John. For man, this is impossible, and history proves it. But for God, not just this, but all things are possible. Do not be like the sons of Aaron, Nadab and Abihu, wise in your own eyes, offering unlawful fire to the Being. Yes, what happened to them really happened, but God never does the same act twice. Though your thoughts are not His thoughts, your acts not His acts, your sacrifice as ineffectual as Cain’s, He doesn’t consume you with fire from His presence. What happened once, happened. Now, the story has ripened in mankind’s memory, and is there for your learning. Do not be like those who are ‘always learning and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth’. Believe what is written, keep it, and Life will be yours.

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