H. C. Anstey.

Christian Friend vol. 16, 1889, p. 36.

1. When worship is an offence, and the worshipper comes under the judgment of God.

2. Why there is a defect of judgment in us, and inability to put a difference between "Holy and unholy," and between "Unclean and clean." - Leviticus 10.

The Church, composed of all believers, and typified here by the sons of Aaron, is now in the place of privileged nearness and approach to God. And it is because she is so that God would have us consistent with the privilege, and would teach us a solemn lesson in this chapter. It is important that we should not forget that "whatsoever things were written aforetime were written for our learning, that we through patience and comfort of the scriptures might have hope." As all are priests (1 Peter 2:5), so all stand in nearness to God, to present to Him that worship (typified by the incense) the "sweet savour," which He has found in His beloved Son, and in all the work that He has accomplished for God's glory. In this God finds ever His own peculiar joy.

"And Nadab and Abihu, the sons of Aaron, took either of them his censer, and put fire therein, and put incense thereon, and offered strange fire before the Lord, which He commanded them not. And there went out fire from the Lord, and devoured them, and they died before the Lord." We note here that as Aaron's sons they had the right of approach. We see too that the censers and the incense are not found fault with; but that which came with them - "the fire." That which, so to speak, called forth the savour was the defect, and this led to the rejection of it all. There was fire with which all who were engaged with priestly service should have been familiar. It was that which burnt continually upon the brazen altar. (Lev. 6:12-13.) It met the eye of everyone approaching from without. The brazen altar was the first thing within the court. There could be no approach to God apart from the death of the victim upon this brazen altar. And the fire needed to produce the savour of the incense had to be taken from off this altar. (Lev. 16:12-13.) This was not "strange fire:" The burnt-offering in Leviticus 1 presents the death of Christ, and His personal ability to bear the judgment. It is not strange but familiar to us, that it was the judgment of God testing Him fully there that only brought out the sweet savour more distinctly.

The fire thus presents to us a figure of the judgment of God. In the first chapter of Leviticus the fire consuming the burnt-offering only brings fully out the sweet savour which God received from the death of the unblemished victim. This judgment of God, fully searching Christ on the cross, found only that in which God could delight. But in the fourth chapter of Leviticus, where we have the death of Christ in another aspect, and the judgment still typified by the action of fire, we have another effect produced. It is not for sweet savour (save as showing who He was in the fat, etc.), but for consumption or destruction of the body of the victim, and not on the brazen altar at all, but far away "outside the camp." Still the place is associated with the brazen altar; for it is where the ashes from it were poured out. It is the sin-offering. It is Christ "made sin" for us, and "bearing our sins." It is the cross as the place where the whole "body of the flesh" (Col. 2) was destroyed - consumed - under the judgment of God, so that the second time the Lord comes into this world it is "without sin" (Heb. 9); that is, with no question of sin at all to settle or to consider, so perfectly has this been done once for all on the cross.

The action of fire in the burnt-offering produces only a sweet savour. The action of fire in the sin-offering consumes, outside of the dwelling-place of God (the camp), all that is contrary (as charged with sin) to His holy presence. These two effects are connected with the action of fire, and both met their fulfilment at the cross. On this basis God seeks worshippers who shall worship Him in spirit and in truth. But it cannot be apart from this action of the fire, nor apart from this remembrance of it; because the incense savour (type of our worship) was only produced by putting the incense on the fire taken from off the altar. Worship in spirit and in truth has for its basis the refusal and judgment of all that I am in myself, and the confession that God has found His eternal satisfaction in the person and work of the Lord Jesus Christ.

Thus everything that prompts to worship save these two is "strange fire:" Neither natural talent, gift, ability, intellect, or educational training will avail here as being only of the first man; and nothing of the first man (that is, which has its origin only in him) can come before God save for judgment. All Christians are on the common ground of worshippers; but self-assertion disappears if we see that Christ is the only object which delights the heart of God, and thus we discern that the place on which we stand is "holy ground." The fire consumes all that is contrary to the mind of God, and brings out before Him the person and work of His beloved Son.

It is important that what people call worship should be tested in the light of this scripture. If the meaning of Leviticus 4 be left out it will be Cain worship. Cain came to God on the ground of his own assumed right to come. This is leaving out the important truth taught in the sin-offering, and it is also a total denial of the fall. Unless God Himself make the way, man has none. In ourselves we have no fitness. We confess it, and we come in all the value of the person and work of Another. God Himself has provided it. Every presentation to God of the person and work of Christ is accepted. We need no more. God has given us this, and can accept nothing in addition to it.

In worship, and when taught of the Spirit, we learn what is pleasing to God. And having learnt this, this chapter goes on to unfold another thing, the need of which presents itself continually to us as we walk amidst a defiling scene, namely, ability to judge between "holy and unholy," and between "unclean and clean." "And the Lord spake unto Aaron, saying, Do not drink wine nor strong drink, thou, nor thy sons with thee, when ye go into the tabernacle of the congregation, lest ye die: it shall be a statute for ever throughout your generations: and that ye may put difference between holy and unholy, and between unclean and clean; and that ye may teach the children of Israel all the statutes which the Lord hath spoken unto them by the hand of Moses." (Lev. 10:8-11.) Who is able to judge between "holy and unholy," and between "unclean and clean," but the soul which has learnt, from the intimacy of communion, and from that highest privilege which communion gives, namely, from worship, what is acceptable to God? Then wine and strong drink, and any thing that moves the natural man, must be refused. In worship nothing is allowed save the fire, which declares my rejection and judgment, and Christ's acceptance. It is not supposed that the wine and strong drink can be tolerated within; but then if I am in the habit of allowing nature to govern me without, if I am in the habit of feeding it, and of not judging it there, I shall find myself without power of forming a judgment in very simple matters. I lose the sense of right and wrong, and I am also a hindrance in the worship of the saints; for what I present is rejected. The soul thus loses the sense of what is holy and unholy, unclean and clean; and in this condition it is also enable to instruct others in "the statutes which the Lord had spoken."

We find that it is only from learning in the Lord's presence what is suitable to Him, that the minor details of daily life are regulated aright. The anxieties of the world, of the family, of the assembly, all bring before us cases in which the priest has to discern and pronounce the mind of the Lord as to what is holy and unholy, unclean and clean, and we can thank Him that He has made this complete provision, so that we should not be confounded, but should have a right judgment when such questions come before us.

It is useless to seek advice about anything from the soul who knows little or nothing of worship. Worship is our highest privilege on earth, and the joy of heaven. In it we draw nigh to God with the consciousness that we delight His heart in so doing, and what can give greater joy to our hearts than this? The manner is indicated in verse 3. This verse should be read and re-read. It is the key to all we have in this chapter. H. C. A.