When God gave Moses the instructions for the Tabernacle, He also gave him orders to set apart a special group of people called the Priests. They were responsible to help the Israelites maintain a faithful relationship with God. Their work was to lead the people in worship and assist them in offering sacrifices for their sins. Aaron, Moses’ brother, was chosen as the High Priest. His four sons were placed under his authority to help him serve. The descendants of Levi were soon added to the priesthood (see #53), and were placed in charge of moving the Tabernacle and everything in it (see #55). God also gave Moses instructions on how to make the garments that Aaron and his sons should wear to bring dignity and honor to the priesthood and distinguish them from the rest of the Hebrews. After the Tabernacle was completely set up, everyone gathered for a special ceremony to install the High Priest and his sons and set them apart as the spiritual leaders of Israel. Moses conducted the ceremony. He dedicated the Tabernacle, offered sacrifices, and anointed the new priests. This celebration lasted for seven days. On the eighth day, it was time for Aaron and his sons to take over these responsibilities. After preparing one more sacrifice on the bronze altar in the courtyard, Moses and Aaron went inside the Tabernacle together. When they came out, the glory of the Lord appeared and fire came down from heaven. It consumed the sacrifice on the altar. In doing this, God was demonstrating that He was pleased with everything they had done. However, it wasn’t long before they did something that did not please Him! Each of the priests had been given a special brass bowl called a censer that was to be used to transport “holy” fire from the bronze altar in the courtyard to the incense altar inside the Tabernacle. But instead of using embers from the “holy” fire that God had just started, Aaron’s two oldest sons, Nadab and Abihu, filled their censors with coals from a different fire. This was in direct disobedience to God’s instructions. Because they chose to offer “unholy” fire in God’s holy presence, the fire consumed them. They were both killed instantly! God sent this message through Moses: “Everyone who comes into my presence must respect that I am holy—no sin can enter my presence. My holiness must be honored.” Aaron and his younger sons, Eleazar and Ithamar, continued performing the duties of the priesthood for the Israelites. Just over one year after they left Egypt, God’s cloud that had protected them during their escape, guided them on their journey to Mount Sinai, and now hovered over the Tabernacle, began to move. The Israelites were finally ready to continue the journey to their Promised Land.
Do you have a healthy respect for God’s holiness? Or do you sometimes try to get away with things that He calls sin? Such actions lead to guilt and hinder our fellowship with Him. Living within His standards frees us up from regret and the consequences attached to making sinful choices.