I am continuing to follow a chronological reading plan of the Bible. In doing so, I’d forgotten how the Old Testament often stirs wonder and faith in me. A God who saves from the mouth of lions and from murderous giants. Who brings masses out of captivity. Who gives children to the childless. Who miraculously feeds people with food straight from heaven. Who gave a destiny and purpose to people who had none.
The Old Testament also makes me uncomfortable … often I end up with more questions than answers.
Leviticus Chapter 10 contains one of those uncomfortable passages.
Chapter 9 and all of chapter 10 give more context, but this is a very sobering moment. Two of Aaron’s sons (God’s chosen priests) has just been struck dead for offering the wrong kind of fire at the tabernacle. I am captivated by one phrase …
Again. Aaron’s sons had just died. For what? A mistake? Intentional disobedience? Whatever the motives, the disobedience of offering the wrong fire cost them their lives. Aaron’s sons are dead, and he is silent.
His silence and the fact that it is recorded in scripture is curious to me. What does it mean?
On one hand, it could appear that Aaron had no feelings for his sons … that he considered God fully justified … that Aaron himself believed his sons deserved death for unholy worship. But even at that it seems strange that he didn’t cry out with sadness or grief or for their sins against God, if nothing else.
On the other hand, Aaron may been very angry with God. So angry that he had no words. Did God have no mercy? Couldn’t He have found a different way to teach them a lesson? This seems so harsh … at least in my mind … and, if I’m honest, when I consider my own sins in comparison.
Aaron, however, had little space to talk. He after all was the man who had not so long ago caved to the peer pressure of the masses and made them a golden calf to worship instead of God Himself. People died as a result of his poor leadership and yet, God not only let him live but continued to allow him to serve as priest (God’s representative) to the people.
That’s another question? Why was Aaron allowed to live, but not his sons? One consideration is that at the time of that incident God hadn’t spelled out ways to worship Him. I also remember a pastor saying once that in worshipping the Golden Calf, the people weren’t necessarily seeking a different god, but a visible image of the One who lead them out of the misery of their slavery. Still … it was not what God had asked of them.
Maybe Aaron remains silent because he knew how much grace he’d already been given by God.
Maybe he was learning that he didn’t have a corner on God’s holiness.
Rather that rail against God during this tragedy, maybe Aaron was grasping the idea that God’s ways were different. Maybe … as painful as this must have been (Aaron gives a hint of his grief at the end of chapter 10), maybe he stayed silent because he simply didn’t have the answers.
Which brings up one more question for me. Why should we follow God when some things … serious things … don’t make sense?
I think of God-loving people who have gotten cancer and died leaving behind young children … or those killed in senseless accidents, also leaving young children. I think of innocent lives destroyed through sexual abuse or sex trafficking … even families of believers … people who are seeking to honor and follow God.
I don’t get these things. I don’t get some of the laws of the Old Testament that seem to favor men more than women or that just seem menial and unnecessary but often had serious consequences that followed.
Over the years, I’ve met skeptics who relish these seeming contradictions … the difficulties of measuring a loving God against an evil and confusing world. My skeptic friends sometimes taunted, “See! It’s meaningless. Why follow?”
This brings me to something a friend once said when it came to the Bible itself creating doubts for us. He’d say …
That, I’d answer to skeptics, rings true to me too. There is much I don’t understand … don’t like even. But there is much more that convinces me of God’s love. Of His power. Of His sovereignty. Historically and personally, I am deeply impacted by the life of Jesus Christ … not only what He taught, but what He gave by enduring the Cross.
I trust Him with my salvation … I choose to trust Him with the rest as well.