Learning to Kneel–Two

imageDoes the grace, mercy and love of God preserve us from suffering the same fate as that visited upon Nadab and Abihu? Do we no longer heed the words of Moses paraphrasing his experience?

Among those who approach me I will show myself holy;

in the sight of all the people I will be honored. (Lev 10:3)

Worshippers read this passage and cannot help but  wonder why God would refuse to be worshipped. The young priests added incense to their censers, lit them and swung them back and forth, spreading the pleasing aroma heavenward.

Only to have it received by Yahweh as the stench of death.

So offensive was the smell to God that he sent fire down the same path that the smoke travelled, instantly killing the priests as one might remove an annoying gnat. So rapid was the response to the impropriety of worship that Aaron, the mouthpiece of Moses, is struck silent.

In our modern worship mindset we ask, why would God be offended at their worship? Why would God be offended at any worship? The passage is silent about God’s reasons, nor are we in a position to demand explanation. God alone sets the standards for worship. We can speculate as to the details of the breach. Perhaps they entered the sanctuary unprepared to worship or came at an inappropriate hour. The fire that lit the censers may have been improperly sourced or unholy. The incense might have been similarly profane.

We don’t know the reasons for God’s offense in the case of the priests, but the encounter must cause us to reflect upon our own worship. Are we equally impious?

The words of Moses are a warning to communities stretching into our own day. We must learn to worship properly so that we may worship properly. 

Grace and peace to you.

image moria

Bricks Without Straw

Ministry that is accompanied by struggle, persecution, and difficulty often leads the pastor to what where God’s plan lies. The Lord calls us to specific ministry objectives big and small and we faithfully follow that call only to discover that the ministry that results is fraught with heartache, disappointment, and struggle, sometimes even failure. I was reminded of this in reading Exodus this morning. Moses and Aaron are called to a ministry of confrontation with Pharaoh and leadership to their people. They carry the Lord’s message to him to release His people and, as a result, Pharaoh increases the pressure on the Hebrews.

The result is predictable, given what we know about human nature:

The Israelite foremen realized they were in trouble when they were told, “You are not to reduce the number of bricks required of you for each day.” When they left Pharaoh, they found Moses and Aaron waiting to meet them, and they said, “May the Lord look upon you and judge you! You have made us a stench to Pharaoh and his officials and have put a sword in their hand to kill us.”  Ex 5:19-21

Leaders in Christ’s church must be willing to remind God’s people that following His plan is a dangerous pursuit and there is always a chance that not all of us are going to come through unscathed. If God calls your church to a specific ministry, no matter how unglamorous, our calling is to lead our people into the fire regardless of the pain, scorn, and fallout that might come our way. To do anything less is to proclaim our lack of trust in the providence of our Father.

You see, we must continue to read on despite the fear of reprisal that a ministry call may generate. When Moses presses Yahweh for understanding, he gets this response:

“Therefore, say to the Israelites: ‘I am the Lord, and I will bring you out from under the yoke of the Egyptians. I will free you from being slaves to them, and I will redeem you with an outstretched arm and with mighty acts of judgment. I will take you as my own people, and I will be your God. Then you will know that I am the Lord your God, who brought you out from under the yoke of the Egyptians. And I will bring you to the land I swore with uplifted hand to give to Abraham, to Isaac and to Jacob. I will give it to you as a possession. I am the Lord.’ ” Ex 6:6-8

We, as followers of the Risen Christ, have the same great promise to undergird everything that the Father calls us to do. Every step of every day may be an incredible struggle as compared to others around us but, in the end, we have the promise of eternal life in the peace of the Lord. We can be faithful to our calling or we can avoid it, God gives us this choice but there is never a promise that either path will be easy.