Thursday, March 29, 2007

The fire that came from heaven

Leviticus 9:23-10:3

23 And Moses and Aaron went into the tabernacle of meeting, and came out and blessed the people. Then the glory of the LORD appeared to all the people, 24 and fire came out from before the LORD and consumed the burnt offering and the fat on the altar. When all the people saw it, they shouted and fell on their faces.

1 Then Nadab and Abihu, the sons of Aaron, each took his censer and put fire in it, put incense on it, and offered profane fire before the LORD, which He had not commanded them. 2 So fire went out from the LORD and devoured them, and they died before the LORD. 3 And Moses said to Aaron, “This is what the LORD spoke, saying:

‘By those who come near Me

I must be regarded as holy;

And before all the people

I must be glorified.’”

So Aaron held his peace. (NKJV)

The story of Nadab and Abihu is always an amazing one to me. By modern standards it almost seems whimsical that they were killed for such a seemly harmless mistake. Although some comments on the story have suggested that they were drunk or something like that, it seems that the only problem with their incense mentioned in the text is the profane or strange fire they offered. In Leviticus 6, it was specifically commanded the priests that they were to keep the fire on the altar burning continually.

Leviticus 6:12-13

12 And the fire on the altar shall be kept burning on it; it shall not be put out. And the priest shall burn wood on it every morning, and lay the burnt offering in order on it; and he shall burn on it the fat of the peace offerings. 13 A fire shall always be burning on the altar; it shall never go out.

They were not to take any fire from anywhere else other than the one burning on the altar. The reason for this is related to another topic that is put forth in more clarity in the New Testament: the priests (and we as priests in the New Testament) are only to offer to God what he has begun in us. The sacrifices of the Old Testament foreshadowed the sacrifice of Christ in the New Testament, so it makes sense that the themes developed would be found in both.

God does not accept our works because after the fall, everything we do is tainted by sin. Even our best works are unacceptable in his sight. Because of this, the only acceptable thing we have to offer to God is something He does in us. The righteousness we have does not originate in us--it originates in God, just as the original fire came from heaven. Nadab and Abihu show what God thinks of works that originates in us. This is connected to the passage in Hebrews 4 that talks about entering into God's rest. We are to cease from our own works and instead strive by faith to enter into His rest. The faith by which we grab hold of Jesus Christ is God's own work as much as Christ's sacrifice on the cross is God's work. When we believe in him, we are simply offering God back what he has already done in us; this is just like the fire on the altar that was sent by God from heaven being used to offer the sacrifices. It did not originate with the Israelites striking a match; it came directly from God.

If even our faith does not originate in us and we can't claim to have created it, then how much more should we not be making up new ways to worship God. We need to worship God in the way He has proscribed because Nadab and Abihu show how God views even our best works when we try to do it our own way.

"...being confident of this very thing, that He who has begun a good work in you will complete it until the day of Jesus Christ."


Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Baby Polar Bear

Fox News has a cute story about a baby polar bear cub that was rescued by the zoo and raised. An animal rights activist is up in arms about the bear because he say it should be killed because the mother rejected the young bear. Yes, that's right, the bear should be killed. Of course this prompted a negative reaction from other animal rights activists and people who just generally think the bear is cute. Now myself, I really don't care one way or the other. The bear is cute, but it's an animal. One interesting quote caught my attention though.

He explained that though he thought it was wrong of the zoo to have saved the cub's life, now that the bear can live on his own, it would be equally wrong to kill him.

"If a polar bear mother rejected the baby, then I believe the zoo must follow the instincts of nature," Albrecht said. "In the wild, it would have been left to die."

What's interesting about this comment is that it shows a morality that's based on the idea that "what is, is right." Nature is exalted to a moral law giving status. I guess when you reject Christianity, this is what you're left with. What is, must be what's right. Of course everything in your being is going to cry out against this. I don't think anyone is able to totally erase the image of God in themselves--although many try.

Christianity just makes more sense out of reality than anything else. As a Christian I can firmly say that when Adam's sin brought the curse upon the whole world, there are now things wrong with the world. Christians aren't enslaved to this idea that somehow nature must always be right; we can in good conscience use modern medicine to help save prematurely born babies. We can also in good conscience do lesser things like hand feed a baby polar bear that its mother rejected.

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Elihu's response to Job

I was contemplating Elihu's response to Job for the past few nights. Elihu seems to be the only one of the men that answer's Job that is not rebuked for his answer. The other three friends of Job are rebuked in the end for their responses, probably because they kept telling Job he must have sinned and that is the reason these things befell him. Elihu's answer is different though; he rebukes Job not for some mysterious sin he committed in the past that brought this judgment upon him, but instead he rebukes him for justifying himself instead of God. This is really where the heart of the matter always is though: who's going to be god, you or the Lord.

One of the attributes that Elihu extols though is justice and making judgments between good and evil. Consider Job 34:3-4:

3 For the ear tests words

As the palate tastes food.

4 Let us choose justice for ourselves;

Let us know among ourselves what is good

Notice how making judgments is compared to tasting food. It's something that has to be considered and thought upon--chewed upon a little if you will. We need to be meditating on the Word so that we can accurately identify what is good. Our ears need to be trained to test the words that are constantly brought to their attention--whether they are just or no, and whether they are good or not.

The modern world does not seem to follow anything close to this. Compare the commandment to the recent outcry against the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Peter Pace's comment about Homosexuality being "Immoral." If ever the left's agenda about redefining right and wrong was evident here it is. This was the most tame statement possible about homosexuality. In fact, the general even said he supports the U.S. policy of "don't ask, don't tell" which allows gays to serve in the military as long as they don't do so openly. He wasn't advocating rounding them up, removing them from the military, or otherwise using any kind of graphic "hate-speech." He simply said: "I do not believe the United States is well served by a policy that says it is OK to be immoral in any way," and "I believe homosexual acts between two individuals are immoral and that we should not condone immoral acts." The simplicity of these statements is astounding. That's probably why the press and activists groups hated it so much; someone in power actually making a clear, understandable statement without a whole bunch of exceptions? For goodness sake, it's 2007, haven't all such things been banned yet?

Now, I don't know General Pace's religious convictions, but he's making a decidedly Christian statement in this. God delights in calling evil, evil and good, good. Or as Elihu put it, "Let us know among ourselves what is good." The foolish and wicked delight in doing the opposite. They prefer to call evil, good and good, evil. Some gay advocacy groups are calling "for a full apology from Gen. Pace, 'not his lame statement of 'regret' -- and if he fails to do that, his prompt dismissal.'" (From here) This almost makes me laugh. For them the highest offense is calling their pet sin immoral; heads need to roll if someone actually does that. These individuals are so drunk upon modern relativism that they despise even a hint of truth. They realize deep down that if it is immoral, then they will have to give an account of themselves and their opposition to the truth to the divine judge. Perhaps if they yell loud enough, though, truth will cease to be truth.