SUNDAY SCHOOL LESSON 11 - Lev. 9:15-24; 10:1-3 - SET APART
INTRODUCTION: Last week in Lev. 1:1-3; 2:1-3; and 3:1-5, we were introduced to the sacrificial system that formed part of the Israelite's Covenant with God. We learned that the sacrificial system was needed as a means of allowing a sinful people to draw nearer (atonement) to a holy God. We studied three different types of sacrifices that all foreshadowed the ultimate sacrifice of Christ on the cross under a New Covenant available to all people for all time: (1) The Burnt Offering, where the male animal was entirely burned-up, symbolized total self-surrender to God and foreshadowed the total self-surrender of Christ on the cross as the ultimate atonement for all sin at all times; (2) The Grain Offering, representing the work of our hands, symbolized thanksgiving for God's provision and foreshadowed the God's provision of eternal salvation through Christ, who came down from heaven as the bread of life; and (3) The Peace Offering, a fellowship meal between the offering family, the officiating priest, and God, symbolized being at peace with God and foreshadowed the self-sacrifice of Christ on the cross in order to establish peace between God and man.
This week, we fast-forward to Lev. 9:15-24 and 10:1-3, where we observe Aaron and his sons (after their consecration in 8:1-9:1-14), as they begin their priestly duties and put the Levitical system into practice by offering four sacrifices on behalf of all of Israel: a sin offering (v. 15 [presented as a type of burnt offering]), a burnt offering (v. 16), a grain offering (v. 17), and a peace offering (v. 18). And we will see the "passing of the torch" ceremony between Moses and Aaron in vv. 22-24. Then in 10:1-3, we will see the fatal consequences of what happens when priests fail to follow instructions.
Note-Sin and Guilt Offerings: (1) A Sin Offering was a mandatory action to confess and atone for unintentional sins (i.e., violation of a Commandment) that symbolized cleansing from the defilement of sin. The offering itself is completely burned-up and the character of the sacrifice required depends upon the rank and wealth of the offender, from a bull for a high priest to a dove or pigeon for a poor person. In addition to confession, like a Burnt Offering it symbolizes the complete self-surrender of the offering person for offense committed (Lev. 4 and 5). (2) A Guilt Offering was a mandatory sacrifice of an unblemished ram to atone for specific unintentional sins. The specific offenses, "breach of faith" and "sins in any of the holy things," are specified 6:1-7. The fat and entrails are burned as an offering to God, and the priest may keep the rest. The offender is also required to make restitution and pay a 20% fine, which apparently depended on a measure of damages. Besides atonement to God for the offense itself, the purpose of this offering is the restore relationships caused by the offender's financial abuse. The 20% fine is akin to the idea of punitive damages.
Read Lev. 9:15-17 - AARON PRESENTED THE PEOPLE'S OFFERING
15 Then he presented the people's offering, and took the goat of the sin offering which was for the people, and slaughtered it and offered it for sin, like the first. 16 He also presented the burnt offering, and offered it according to the ordinance. 17 Next he presented the grain offering, and filled his hand with some of it and offered it up in smoke on the altar, besides the burnt offering of the morning.
v. 15a: "Then he presented the people's offering" - Notice the order of these offerings. The adverb "Then" refers back to vv. 8-14, where by Moses' command, Aaron made all five types of offerings as his own personal atonement to God before he was worthy to act on behalf of the people. As one commentator remarked, "We must first deal with our own sins before we can completely dedicate ourselves to the Lord." -Warren Wiersbe.
v. 15b: "and took the goat of the sin offering which was for the people, and slaughtered it and offered it for sin, like the first" - As mentioned above, the purpose of the sin offering was to atone for unintentional sins-i.e., violations of commandments-in this instance it represented a cleansing of the entire nation of Israel; and as burnt offering, it also symbolized a complete self-surrender of all the people to God.
v. 16: "He also presented the burnt offering, and offered it according to the ordinance" - According to 9:2, the offering was a bull calf and male lamb without blemish, and Aaron offered it "according to the ordinance" (Lev. 1). What's readily apparent here is that Aaron has learned his lesson well from the golden calf episode (i.e., fortunate to be alive) and is performing the offerings with precision. Again, this offering reemphasizes the nation's unqualified surrender to the Lord as their God.
v. 17: "Next he presented the grain offering, and filled his hand with some of it and offered it up in smoke on the altar, besides the burnt offering of the morning" - You'll recall that this offering consisted of fine flour, mixed with oil and frankincense. It represented the work of the hands and symbolized thanksgiving for God's provision. Notice the handful burnt on the altar, with the smoke arising as a pleasing aroma to the Lord.
Read Lev. 9:18-21 - HE OFFERED THEM UP IN THE SMOKE ON THE ALTAR
18 Then he slaughtered the ox and the ram, the sacrifice of peace offerings which was for the people; and Aaron's sons brought the blood to him, and he sprinkled it around on the altar. 19 As for the portions of fat from the ox and from the ram, the fat tail, the fat covering, the kidneys, and the lobe of the liver, 20 they now placed the portions of fat on the breasts; and he offered them up in smoke on the altar. 21 But the breasts and the right thigh Aaron presented as a wave offering before the LORD, just as Moses had commanded.
v. 18a: "Then he slaughtered the ox and the ram, the sacrifice of peace offerings which was for the people" - You'll recall that the peace offering is in the nature of a fellowship meal between those offering, the priests, and God, and symbolized being at peace with God. The text doesn't reveal how it was shared-obviously not with several million people.
v. 18b: "and Aaron's sons brought the blood to him, and he sprinkled it around on the altar" - Notice that the blood was separated and sprinkled-seven times-around the altar, which was a core part of the ritual. The blood represents the life and ultimately points to the shed blood of Jesus Christ on the cross.
vv. 19-20: "As for the portions of fat from the ox and from the ram, the fat tail, the fat covering, the kidneys, and the lobe of the liver, 20 they now placed the portions of fat on the breasts; and he offered them up in smoke on the altar" - You'll recall from last week that the fatty portions, along with the liver and kidneys, represented the choicest parts of the animal and were reserved to God as the One most worthy of honor. Notice that it was to be burned and "offered up"-placed on the altar where previous offerings were still smoldering. Remember this detail for future reference.
v. 21: "But the breasts and the right thigh Aaron presented as a wave offering before the LORD, just as Moses had commanded" - The "wave offering" was a ritual where the offered items-the breast and right thigh of the animal in this instance-were symbolically waved in front of the Lord who, in effect, waived them so they could be eaten by the priests (cf. Lev. 7:30-32).
Read Lev. 9:22-24 - THE GLORY OF THE LORD APPEARED
22 Then Aaron lifted up his hands toward the people and blessed them, and he stepped down after making the sin offering, the burnt offering, and the peace offerings. 23 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. 24 Then fire went out from 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 face downward.
Note: We should pay careful attention to the order of events in the next three verses.
v. 22: "Then Aaron lifted up his hands toward the people and blessed them, and he stepped down after making the sin offering, the burnt offering, and the peace offerings" - This was Aaron's first action as the Levitical High Priest and, in effect, was the activation of the entire priesthood. He gave the blessing from the elevated standing place beside the altar where he hade made the four offering mentioned, then after making the blessing, he stepped down.
v. 23a: "And Moses and Aaron went into the tent of meeting" - We are seeing history unfold here: Moses enters the Tabernacle for the last time and Aaron enters it for the first time. It is kind of like a changing of the guard, with Moses passing his role of responsibility over the Tabernacle to Aaron.
v. 23b: "When they came out and blessed the people" - Coming out of the Tabernacle, standing near the door, Moses and Aaron unite in blessing the people to show the harmony between them.
v. 23c: "the glory of the LORD appeared to all the people" - As in Ex. 40:34, the pillar of cloud enveloped the Tabernacle and a blinding white light filled the interior, signifying God's presence.
v. 24a: "Then fire went out from the LORD and consumed the burnt offering and the portions of fat on the altar - The various sacrifices on the altar were still smoldering in the wood fire, and it would have taken all night for them to completely burn up, when, all of a sudden, a miraculous bolt of fire shot out of the Tabernacle and instantly incinerated everything on the altar. This signified that everything done to inaugurate the Levitical priesthood had met with God's approval. A similar instance of an all-consuming heavenly fire occurred when Solomon dedicated his Temple in 757 B.C. (2 Chron. 7:1)
v. 24b: "and when all the people saw it, they shouted and fell face downward - Try to imagine being there as a spectator to all these events, when it suddenly ends with a mind-bending display of the presence of God: to shout fall on your face is a normal reaction to the glory of One True and Living God. To sum up everything in this chapter, Moses has followed God's instructions down to the minutest details, Aaron has been installed as High Priest, God's has shown his approval with His Glory, and the people have seen beyond doubt that all of this is God's plan, and not man's plan.
Read Lev. 10:1-3 - THE SIN OF NAHAB AND ABIHU
Now Nadab and Abihu, the sons of Aaron, took their respective firepans, and after putting fire in them, placed incense on the fire and offered strange fire before the LORD, which He had not commanded them. 2 And fire came out from the presence of the LORD and consumed them, and they died before the LORD. 3 Then Moses said to Aaron, "It is what the Lord spoke, saying, 'By those who come near Me I will be treated as holy, And before all the people I will be honored.'" So Aaron, therefore, kept silent.
v. 1: "Now Nadab and Abihu, the sons of Aaron, took their respective firepans, and after putting fire in them, placed incense on the fire and offered strange fire before the LORD, which He had not commanded them" - "Nadab and Abihu" were the eldest two of Aaron's four sons. The "firepans" were flat-bottomed pans used to carry burning coals to a fire. There have been four interpretations of what constituted the "strange fire" that violated the command of God: (1) The coals were not taken from the altar as required by Lev. 16:12; (2) the fire was offered at the wrong time of day (see Ex. 30:7-9 in reference to times of incense burning); (3) they attempted to go into the most holy place, which was restricted to the High Priest on the Day of Atonement under Lev. 16:12-13; or (4) they we intoxicated in violation of Lev. 10:9. In any event, it's apparent that Nahab and Abihu both knew or had reason to know that they were using an unauthorized procedure.
v. 2: "And fire came out from the presence of the LORD and consumed them, and they died before the LORD" - Both men were instantly stuck dead at the door of the tabernacle by the same bolt of miraculous fire that had entirely consumed the sacrifice previouly in 9:24. "Fire" is often a symbol of God's presence, His glory, or His judgment, and all three manifestations are applicable here.
v. 3a: "Then Moses said to Aaron, "It is what the LORD spoke, saying, 'By those who come near Me I will be treated as holy, And before all the people I will be honored.'" - Here, quoting Lev. 10:3, Moses is stating the truth that God will be kept holy either by obedience or by punishment of those come near Him (i.e., priests), and because the priests have greater privileges, they will likewise be subject to greater consequences for their infractions of the Law.
v. 3b: So Aaron, therefore, kept silent" - Although Aaron and his sons held a special place in the Israelite community, they had no special privileges to act independently of God. If God had allowed the sons of Aaron to disobey the Law without consequence, they would most likely have carelessly neglected the whole Law afterward. Thus, Aaron saw the big picture and remained silent.
APPLICATION-Doing things, whether large or small, God's way rather than our way.
PRAYER: God, our Father in heaven, we come before You this morning with thankful hearts, praising You for the love, mercy, and grace You constantly show toward us as individual Christian believers and as a Church. We thank You that we have the freedom and the opportunity to assemble as a class to study, learn, and apply the fundamental truths of Your holy Word. We thank you especially, Dear God, that unlike the ancient Israelites in today's lesson, You've granted us the privilege to approach Your Holy Throne at any time because of the once and for all sacrifice that your Son Jesus made for us on the cross. And I ask, Father, that You will use this time of study and learning to encourage and convict every one of us as Your witnesses-to share this truth with the lost people of this community who are all around us. And I ask all these things in the name of Jesus Christ, our precious Lord and Redeemer, AMEN.