I know I’ve mentioned my time at a Vacation Bible School in Alpena, MI before. There were crafts, games, lessons, and singing. One of the most memorable lessons was on how God bridged the gap that sin caused between himself and his creation. It looked something like this.
I grew older, sinned more, and experienced the world and all of its depravity in greater capacities. As I come back to this simple drawing, I am amazed at its complexity and significance. It shows, even more, of the greatness of God’s love for me and the rest of his creation.
In the next chapters of Leviticus, we see God’s great wrath poured out on those who breaks his command. It’s a tough read. But it brings up some questions that we all need to wrestle with. One being, how can God be so loving and so angry at the same time?
S – Scripture: Leviticus 8-10
- 8:24 – “Next Moses presented Aaron’s sons and applied some of the blood to the lobes of their right ears, the thumbs of their right hands, and the big toes of their right feet. He then splattered the rest of the blood against all sides of the altar.”
- 8:34-36 – “‘Everything we have done today was commanded by the LORD in order to purify you, making you right with him. Now stay at the entrance of the Tabernacle day and night for seven days, and do everything the LORD requires. If you fail to do this, you will die, for this is what the LORD has commanded.’ So Aaron and his sons did everything the LORD had commanded through Moses.”
- 9:6-7 – “And Moses said, ‘This is what the LORD has commanded you to do so that the glory of the LORD may appear to you.’ Then Moses said to Aaron, ‘Come to the altar and sacrifice your sin offering and your burnt offering to purify yourself and the people. Then present the offerings of the people to purify them, making them right with the LORD, just as he has commanded.'”
- 9:23-24 – “Then Moses and Aaron went into the Tabernacle, and when they came back out, they blessed the people again, and the glory of the LORD appeared to the whole community. Fire blazed forth from the LORD’s presence and consumed the burnt offering and the fat on the altar. When the people saw this, they shouted with joy and fell face down on the ground.”
- 10:1-3 – “Aaron’s sons Nadab and Abihu put coals of fire in their incense burners and sprinkled incense over them. In this way, they disobeyed the LORD by burning before him the wrong kind of fire, different than he had commanded. So fire blazed forth from the LORD’s presence and burned them up, and they died there before the LORD. Then Moses said to Aaron, ‘This is what the LORD meant when he said, ‘I will display my holiness through those who come near me. I will display my glory before all the people.’ And Aaron was silent.”
- 10:19-20 – “Then Aaron answered Moses, ‘Today my sons presented both their sin offering and their burnt offering to the LORD. And yet this tragedy has happened to me. If I had eaten the people’s sin offering on such a tragic day as this, would the LORD have been pleased?’ And when Moses heard this, he was satisfied.”
O – Observation:
- As the blood of the sacrificial animal was placed on the ears, hands, and feet, I am reminded of how we are to listen and hear God’s promptings on how we can serve others. We are the hands and feet of Jesus.
- The rules and laws that God commanded needed to be followed perfectly. In many cases, like with Aaron’s sons, death was the outcome of the slightest disobedience.
- God would only show his presence after the offerings were made. He would rain down in a fire of glory and consume the sacrifice. The people were in awe and rejoiced in worship.
- What happened to Nadab and Abihu is an example of God’s glory and anger for those who commit sins against him. This shows how those closest to God (who come into his presence) cannot be tainted by sin. The wage for our sin is death. Praise God for Jesus!
- Aaron’s heart was broken for the loss of his sons. Maybe he was angry with God and needed to mourn. Eating a blessing from God was possibly to much for him to handle. Or, maybe he felt that their sin was his fault. Those are just my opinions, trying to read between the lines.
A – Application:
It’s hard to read about God’s terrible wrath on Nadab and Abihu because of the slightest disobedience. His commands needed to be followed perfectly from the greatest to the smallest detail. His anger here is so real and terrifying. I shutter to think if that system were still in place today. I wouldn’t make it, for sure.
How do we reconcile this loving and amazing Father with an angry and powerful God? How can he be just and merciful at the same time? These are tough questions that I’ve had to wrestle with.
To start, let’s look back at the Garden, how God intended the world to be.
Then God said, ‘Let us make human beings in our image, to be like us. They will reign over the fish in the sea, the birds in the sky, the livestock, all the wild animals on the earth, and the small animals that scurry along the ground.’ So God created human beings in his own image. In the image of God he created them; male and female he created them. Then God blessed them and said, ‘Be fruitful and multiply. Fill the earth and govern it. Reign over the fish in the sea, the birds in the sky, and all the animals that scurry along the ground.’ Then God said, ‘Look! I have given you every seed-bearing plant throughout the earth and all the fruit trees for your food. And I have given every green plant as food for all the wild animals, the birds in the sky, and the small animals that scurry along the ground–everything that has life.’ And that is what happened. Then God looked over all he had made, and he saw that it was very good! And evening passed and morning came, marking the sixth day.” Genesis 2:26-31
When I stop and think of how there was nothing, just God’s Spirit hovering over some water, and then there were mountains, oceans, stars, land, animals, and humans, I can’t help but be in awe. We see God’s creativity, power, and mastery in the making of this world and all that is in it. Humans were created in God’s own image, to be in perfect community with him, and live without shame and fear. He was everything to Adam and Eve, and provided all that they needed. As I imagine a world like that, I find myself deeply longing for it. We all do, because that is how it’s supposed to be.
“‘You won’t die!’ the serpent replied to the woman. ‘God knows that your eyes will be opened as soon as you eat it, and you will be like God, knowing both good and evil.’ The woman was convinced. She saw that the tree was beautiful and its fruit looked delicious, and she wanted the wisdom it would give her. So she took some of the fruit and ate it…So the LORD God banished them from the Garden of Eden.” Genesis 3:4-6, 23
“Yes, they knew God, but they wouldn’t worship him as God or even give him thanks. And they began to think up foolish ideas of what God was like. As a result, their minds became dark and confused. Claiming to be wise, they instead became utter fools. And instead of worshiping the glorious, ever-living God, they worshiped idols made to look like mere people and birds and animals and reptiles…They traded the truth about God for a lie. So they worshiped and served the things God created instead of the Creator himself, who is worthy of eternal praise! Amen.” Romans 1:21-23, 25
It happened in the Garden with the Serpent and Eve, in Jesus day, and now. Sin entered the world and we lost the perfect union with God. Doubt of who God is and all that he can do when his timing doesn’t match up with ours, corrupts our thoughts. When we think he may be holding out on us, it begins to change our belief in his plan and purpose for us. We start to believe that he has forgotten our hopes and desires. Then, we try to add to our lives by our own strength. Our worship turns to ourselves, our power and provision. This, for one, is idolatry and can lead to a multitude of other sins.
Soon, we find ourselves separated from God. You see, his righteous anger comes from the fact that he is divine and we no longer are because of sin. We have lost the righteousness that he desired us to always have and to live the life that he wanted for us without sorrow, shame, and pain. He is angry because this isn’t how it was supposed to be and the ones he created and loves are choosing to live a different life than he would have for them.
He has to be just because he is righteous. But then, his love. Oh, his amazing love for us.
“For God loved the world so much that he gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life. God sent his Son into the world not to judge the world, but to save the world through him.” John 3:16-17
“But God showed his great love for us by sending Christ to die for us while we were still sinners. And since we have been made right in God’s sight by the blood of Christ, he will certainly save us from God’s condemnation. For since our friendship with God was restored by the death of his Son while we were still his enemies, we will certainly be saved through the life of his Son. So now we can rejoice in our wonderful new relationship with God because our Lord Jesus Christ has made us friends of God. When Adam sinned, sin entered the world. Adam’s sin brought death, so death spread to everyone, for everyone sinned…But there is a great difference between Adam’s sin and God’s gracious gift. For the sin of this one man, Adam, brought death to many. But even greater is God’s wonderful grace and his gift of forgiveness to many through this other man, Jesus Christ. And the result of God’s gracious gift is very different from the result of that one man’s sin. For Adam’s sin led to condemnation, but God’s free gift leads to our being made right with God, even though we are guilty of many sins.” Romans 5:8-12, 15-16
Amen and praise God! Isn’t that beautiful! And just like that, when we believe that God did all of this for us, we are brought back into a relationship with him. We are placed in the Garden forever, where shame and sorrow cannot follow. We are made new and set free. I pray that you find that today.
God’s anger and wrath are real. The price for our sin is death. But because of his even greater love for us, he saved us. It wasn’t when we followed the rules perfectly, that he saved us either. It was when we were at our worst and darkest. I find so much comfort in that.
This isn’t an easy concept to reconcile or understand. It might be challenging for you and for others that you come in contact with. I still wrestle with it. But that’s okay! If you still have questions, seek God’s answers. Get in the Bible, pray, speak to a mentor. Find the truth. In the process, I know God will bring you closer to himself.
P – Prayer:
God, sometimes you are hard to comprehend. I can’t imagine all that you are. These glimpses into your anger, wrath, and justice are difficult to unpack. But I thank you that your love is greater. I thank you that you can and paid the penalty for my sin so that I could come back to perfect communion with you for eternity. God, I want that for others. I want them to experience your grace. Help me to share that with those around me. Amen.