1. Good Worship (chapter 9)
2. Bad Worship (chapter 10)

In his great book, "The Holiness of God," R. C. Sproul writes, "A recent survey of people who used to be church members revealed that the main reason they stopped going to church was that they found it boring. It is difficult for many people to find worship a thrilling and moving experience." [1]

He then contrasted this feeling of people in the pew with the reality of what took place when the Lord appeared to Isaiah the prophet. The Lord was high and exalted in His temple (Isaiah 6:1). The train of His robe filled the temple (Isaiah 6:1). The seraphim, these creatures with six wings, were above the Lord, calling to one another, "Holy, holy, holy is the LORD of hosts; The whole earth is full of his glory!" (Isaiah 6:3). The foundations shook at the voice of the LORD (Isaiah 6:4). The temple was filled with smoke" (Isaiah 6:4).

So awesome was the scene that Isaiah said, "Woe is me! For I am lost;" (Isaiah 6:5). Such could hardly be a boring place, when you see the glory of the Lord! Well could he have said with Jacob, "How awesome is this place! This is none other than the house of God, and this is the gate of heaven" (Genesis 28:17).

R. C. Sproul continues, "People do not normally feel that way in church. There is no sense of awe, no sense of being in the presence of One who makes us tremble. People in awe never complain that church is boring." [2]

Well, this morning, as we come to the Scriptures, we come to one of those texts that bring us into the presence of God. It's one of those texts that can hardly be described as "boring." We will see the holiness of God (Leviticus 10:1-3). We will see fire from heaven (Leviticus 9:24; 10:2). We will see death at the hand of God (Leviticus 10:2). We will hear several death threats for wrong behavior (Leviticus 10:9). We will see fear and trembling (Leviticus 9:24; 10:3). May we catch the awe of God this morning.

This morning, we will be in Leviticus, chapter 9 and 10. Last week we looked at chapter 8, which described the ordination of the first priests: Aaron and his sons. We saw how Moses washed Aaron and his sons. He had dressed them with the priestly garments. He had anointed them with oil and offered sacrifices for them. He had sprinkled the blood of the sacrifices on their garments, and applied it to their ears and their thumbs and their big toes. And he had consecrated them as priests. And now, in chapter 9, the focus turns from Moses and his activity to Aaron and his sacrifices.

In terms of an outline this morning, I have two points. One for each chapter. Good Worship (chapter 9) and Bad Worship (chapter 10). That's what we see in these two chapters. In chapter 9, we see Aaron offering to God his first sacrifices, and they are received by the LORD. In chapter 10, we will see two of Aaron's sons, Nadab and Abihu, offering to God their first sacrifices, and they are rejected by the LORD.

And there are things for us to learn from these two points. The biggest is this: not all worship to the LORD is gladly received by Him. We tend to think that anybody showing up in church, singing a few songs, listening to a message, leaving with a smile is pleasing to the LORD. We hear the cry to, "Believe what you believe, as long as you believe it sincerely!" This worship is not pleasing to the LORD. This cry is simply not true. There are many who seek to worship the LORD, but their worship is in vain, as God hates their worship.

To Judah, the LORDsays, ...

Isaiah 1:13-15
Bring no more vain offerings;
incense is an abomination to me.
New moon and Sabbath and the calling of convocations—
I cannot endure iniquity and solemn assembly.
Your new moons and your appointed feasts
my soul hates;
they have become a burden to me;
I am weary of bearing them.
When you spread out your hands,
I will hide my eyes from you;
even though you make many prayers,
I will not listen;
your hands are full of blood.

Catch the significance of these words. Judah is coming before the LORD, just as the Lord had directed. They brought the burnt offering and the grain offering and the peace offering and the sin offering and the guilt offering (which we have looked at in the first 7 chapters). The best we can tell, they offered them exactly in accordance with God's directions, as God nowhere reproves them for what they did in the act of worship.

Furthermore, they were celebrating the feasts and festivals according to the LORD's instructions. We will look at this more when we get to Leviticus, chapter 23. They were praying to the LORD (Isaiah 1:15). They were fervent in their prayers, spreading out their hands before the LORD (Isaiah 1:15).

And yet, God says, "My soul hates" your feasts and your sacrifices (Isaiah 1:13). He says, "I am weary of bearing them" (Isaiah 1:14). He says, "I will not listen [to your prayers]" (Isaiah 1:15). Because there is such a thing as "bad worship." In the case of Judah, they were living sinful lives, and coming to God, thinking that God would receive them. But, God said, "No. ... I will hide my eyes from you" (Isaiah 1:15).

That's why Psalm 24 says this, ...

Psalm 24:3-4
Who shall ascend the hill of the LORD?
And who shall stand in his holy place?
He who has clean hands and a pure heart,
who does not lift up his soul to what is false
and does not swear deceitfully.

It's pure people with pure hearts who can come before the Lord. And of course, such is impossible for us without the righteousness of Christ. We need His righteousness to approach the Lord. We need His Spirit to give us a right heart in worshiping the Lord.

There are many pitfalls in worship. You can live a sinful life and seek to worship the Lord, and you will be rejected. You can worship the Lord in ignorance, and you will be rejected. You can worship with a cold heart, and you will be rejected.

This was the case with the Jews of Jesus' day. Jesus applied Isaiah's words to them, "This people honors me with their lips, But their heart is far from me. In vain do they worship me" (Matthew 15:8-9a). In other words, you can say the right things. But, worship of the Lord is more than mere words and formulas. It also involves the heart. John MacArthur wrote of the various ways in which the worship of God is bad. He writes, ...

"The Samaritan style of worship was done in ignorance. ... The Jews ... had the truth but lacked the spirit. ... Enthusiastic heresy is heat without light. Barren orthodoxy is light without heat. ...

Worshiping with enthusiasm is not enough. On the other hand, there are those who hold firmly to sound doctrine but have lost their spirit of enthusiasm. They know the truth but can't get excited about it. Maybe some of them go to your church. The Father seeks both enthusiasm and orthodoxy, spirit and truth." [3]

And so, this morning as we look at Good Worship (chapter 9) and Bad Worship (chapter 10), it will do us well to examine our hearts and our lives in order to make sure that the Lord is receiving our worship.

So, as you come on Sunday mornings, do you come with a right heart? Or, are Sunday mornings a dread for you? Do you come with expectancy? Or, do you drift in late, casually coming to God? Do you come with clean hands? Or is your life marked with impurity? Do you come by faith in Jesus? Or do you come by way of your own merits? These are the types of things that make the difference between good worship and bad worship. Let's look at our first point. It comes in chapter 9.

1. Good Worship (chapter 9)

We read in verse 1, ...

Leviticus 9:1
On the eighth day Moses called Aaron and his sons and the elders of Israel,

I trust that you will remember from last week that Aaron and his sons were told to remain "at the entrance of the tent of meeting ... day and night for seven days" (Leviticus 8:35). This was the time needed to complete their ordination as priests. And so important was this, that they were given a death threat if they failed to do so, "... so that you might not die" (Leviticus 8:35). Well, we come to chapter 9 and find them all alive. So, we know that they remained "at the entrance of the tent of meeting" all week. Let's pick it up in verse 2, ...

Leviticus 9:2-5
and [Moses] said to Aaron, "Take for yourself a bull calf for a sin offering and a ram for a burnt offering, both without blemish, and offer them before the LORD. And say to the people of Israel, 'Take a male goat for a sin offering, and a calf and a lamb, both a year old without blemish, for a burnt offering, and an ox and a ram for peace offerings, to sacrifice before the LORD, and a grain offering mixed with oil, for today the LORD will appear to you.'" And they brought what Moses commanded in front of the tent of meeting, and all the congregation drew near and stood before the LORD.

Here we see Moses giving instructions for Aaron's first sacrifices. He's going to offer a sin offering, a burnt offering, a peace offering, and a grain offering. These are four of the five offerings prescribed in Leviticus 1-5. The only one missing is the "guilt" offering, which isn't surprising, as it deals with specific offenses. But, these sacrifices weren't intended for specific offenses that need a payment in return (which is what the guilt offering is about). Rather, according to Gordon Wenhem, "the purpose of these sacrifices was not to atone for specific sins, but for the general sinfulness of the nation, to dedicate the whole people to the worship of God according to his appointed means, and to pray for God's blessing on them." [4]

In verse 6, Moses tells us the purpose of these sacrifices, ...

Leviticus 9:6
And Moses said, "This is the thing that the LORD commanded you to do, that the glory of the LORD may appear to you."

In other words, perform these sacrifices, and the glory of the LORD will come and you will see it! It would make me eager to do these sacrifices, that's for sure. And indeed, at the end of the chapter, we will see the appearance of the glory of the LORD!

But, let's work our way through the details of the chapter. And if you have been with us for the past few months, these details will be very familiar to you, as Aaron simply carries out what was commanded in chapters 1-7. He will take the animals and kill them. He will take their blood and sprinkle it and pour it out as God commanded. He will burn the correct portions of the sacrifices upon the altar. He will burn other portions outside the camp. In fact, if anything characterizes the sacrifices that Aaron performs here, it is this: they were done in exact accordance with the law.

Let's read about it. Verse 7, ...

Leviticus 9:7
Then Moses said to Aaron, "Draw near to the altar and offer your sin offering and your burnt offering and make atonement for yourself and for the people, and bring the offering of the people and make atonement for them, as the LORD has commanded."

This is Moses' instructions to Aaron, giving the order of the sacrifices. Sin offering, then burnt offering. For yourself, then for the people. Verse 8, ...

Leviticus 9:8-14
So Aaron drew near to the altar and killed the calf of the sin offering, which was for himself. And the sons of Aaron presented the blood to him, and he dipped his finger in the blood and put it on the horns of the altar and poured out the blood at the base of the altar. But the fat and the kidneys and the long lobe of the liver from the sin offering he burned on the altar, as the Lord commanded Moses. The flesh and the skin he burned up with fire outside the camp.

Then he killed the burnt offering, and Aaron's sons handed him the blood, and he threw it against the sides of the altar. And they handed the burnt offering to him, piece by piece, and the head, and he burned them on the altar. And he washed the entrails and the legs and burned them with the burnt offering on the altar.

These offerings were for himself. It's what the high priests always did on the Day of Atonement (which we will look at when we get to chapter 16). Before the priest could atone for the sins of the people, he had to first deal with his own sins Because, as Hebrews 7:28 says, "the law appoints men as high priests who are weak." That is, priests are sinful. They need atonement for their own sins, so that they can make sacrifice for the sins of the people: And in verse 15, Aaron deals with the sins of the people.

Leviticus 9:15-21
Then he presented the people's offering and took the goat of the sin offering that was for the people and killed it and offered it as a sin offering, like the first one.
And he presented the burnt offering and offered it according to the rule.
And he presented the grain offering, took a handful of it, and burned it on the altar, besides the burnt offering of the morning.

Then he killed the ox and the ram, the sacrifice of peace offerings for the people. And Aaron's sons handed him the blood, and he threw it against the sides of the altar.
But the fat pieces of the ox and of the ram, the fat tail and that which covers the entrails and the kidneys and the long lobe of the liver—
they put the fat pieces on the breasts, and he burned the fat pieces on the altar,
but the breasts and the right thigh Aaron waved for a wave offering before the LORD, as Moses commanded.

And now, the sacrifices were completed. The ordination ceremony was over. All that remained was a blessing upon the people.

Leviticus 9:22
Then Aaron lifted up his hands toward the people and blessed them, and he came down from offering the sin offering and the burnt offering and the peace offerings.

This blessing may well have been the blessing given to the priests in Numbers 6. This is how the LORD instructed Aaron and his sons to bless the people of Israel.

Numbers 6:24-26
The LORD bless you and keep you;
the LORD make his face to shine upon you and be gracious to you;
the LORD lift up his countenance upon you and give you peace.

Oh, how Israel would have loved to receive this blessing. This would have been a great day for Israel, when their ritualized worship was beginning and when the blessing of God was coming upon them. Don't you want to be blessed of the LORD? The Israelites received some of the greatest confirmation the world has ever known!

Leviticus 9:23-24
And Moses and Aaron went into the tent of meeting, and when they came out they blessed the people, and the glory of the LORD appeared to all the people. And fire came out from before the LORD and consumed the burnt offering and the pieces of fat on the altar, and when all the people saw it, they shouted and fell on their faces.

Can you imagine the scene? The priests are blessing the people, and fire comes and consumes everything upon the altar. It was a sign that God had, indeed, received their sacrifice with favor!

I talked last week about how not all of Israel could have witnessed the ordination of Aaron and his sons ceremony, as the tent of meeting was simply too small to contain the millions in the nation at the time. But, all Israel would have seen the fire come down from heaven! Fire from heaven could be seen from miles around the camp! The whole congregation would have been able to witness what had happened. And indeed, they did!

Leviticus 9:24
And fire came out from before the LORD and consumed the burnt offering and the pieces of fat on the altar, and when all the people saw it, they shouted and fell on their faces.

And their reaction was one of reverence for the LORD. They "shouted and fell on their faces." Perhaps this was a shout of shock! I mean, it's not every day that you see fire coming down from the skies to the earth. Perhaps it was a shout of fear, as they "fell on their faces." Such is the worship of God! There's an element of shock! There's an element of fear.

And as fearful as these things were, things were good. Aaron had done everything according to plan. God had received their worship. And the people responded in awe, bowing low to the ground to worship this God who brought them up from the land of Egypt.

Is there any reverence in your own worship of God? In many ways, reverence for God is the way to a right heart, clean hands, and faith. When you have a reverence for God, you know that you must worship Him with purity. You know that you are undone before Him without a mediator. You know that you have no other hope in the world. And when you have these things, worship is sweet to the soul.

Well, as good as things were with Aaron and Israel, things go horribly wrong with Aaron's sons. We see this in our second point. We have seen the Good Worship (chapter 9). Let's turn our attention now to the ...

2. Bad Worship (chapter 10)

The climax takes place in the first three verses:

Leviticus 10:1
Now Nadab and Abihu, the sons of Aaron, each took his censer and put fire in it and laid incense on it and offered unauthorized fire before the LORD, which he had not commanded them.

You have to realize that Nadab and Abihu had front-row seats in all of Israel's dealings with the LORD. They were with Moses and Aaron and the seventy elders who came up to the LORD on Mount Sinai (Exodus 24:1). Although Moses was the only one who would come near to the LORD, Nadab and Abihu were as close as anyone else was.

They receive the ceremonial washings. They received the priestly garments. They were anointed with oil. The blood of the sacrifices was applied to them! They ate of the priestly portion of the offerings! And they saw the fire come down from heaven and consume the offerings upon the altar. They were close enough to witness it all.

And yet, for some reason, when they came to the LORD this day (and we can only assume that it's still the ordination day), they brought "unauthorized fire before the LORD, which he had not commanded them." This goes so contrary to everything in the past two chapters. Last week, I pointed out seven times in which we read that everything was done "as the LORD commanded Moses." [5]

And in chapter 9, there are five similar statements.

Leviticus 9:5-7
And they brought what Moses commanded in front of the tent of meeting, and all the congregation drew near and stood before the LORD. And Moses said, "This is the thing that the LORD commanded you to do, that the glory of the LORD may appear to you." Then Moses said to Aaron, "Draw near to the altar and offer your sin offering and your burnt offering and make atonement for yourself and for the people, and bring the offering of the people and make atonement for them, as the LORD has commanded."

Leviticus 9:10
But the fat and the kidneys and the long lobe of the liver from the sin offering he burned on the altar, as the Lord commanded Moses.

Leviticus 9:21
but the breasts and the right thigh Aaron waved for a wave offering before the LORD, as Moses commanded.

There is no sense of deviation at all. And now, the two oldest of Aaron's sons come offering their incense for the first time. And they offered, "unauthorized fire before the LORD, which he had not commanded them." The contrast could hardly be more clear. Moses and Aaron were careful to do according to all that God had commanded them. And there was great blessing as the fire came from heaven and consumed the sacrifices. But, Nadab and Abihu deviated. And we read in verse 2, ...

Leviticus 10:2
And fire came out from before the Lord and consumed them, and they died before the LORD.

God takes the worship of Him very seriously. These two men offer up this "unauthorized fire," and God kills them on the spot. No trial. No appeal. No second chances. They disobeyed. And they were destroyed. Verse 3, ...

Leviticus 10:3
Then Moses said to Aaron, "This is what the LORD has said: 'Among those who are near me I will be sanctified, and before all the people I will be glorified.'" And Aaron held his peace.

When the fire came from heaven and consumed the sacrifice upon the altar, there was shouting and falling on faces in worship. When the fire came from heaven and struck Nadab and Abihu dead, there was silence. From the start, the LORD was sending a clear message to Israel. "You will treat me as holy, or you will pay the consequences."

Korah, Dathan and Abirim refused to treat the LORD as holy and died as a result (Numbers 16). Uzzah touched the ark of God, contrary to God's strict instructions (Numbers 4:15) and died on the spot (1 Samuel 6:1-7). When Ananias and Sapphira lied to the Holy Spirit, they died on the spot. "And great fear came upon the whole church and upon all who heard of these things" (Acts 5:11). This is why Nadab and Abihu lost their lives as well. They didn't treat God as holy.

G. Campbell Morgan rightly pointed out, "A disobedient priesthood means a corrupted nation, and a corrupted nation means a wronged world." [6] In other words, if you mess up the priesthood, the whole nation will go astray. And the purpose of Israel upon this earth was to be God's people to bring light to the nations. How they needed to get it right! The gospel of God was at stake! Salvation and blessing the world was at stake!

And God stepped in to teach the people about how He is to be approached. He is to be approached with honor and purity. Verse 3 again, ...

Leviticus 10:3
Then Moses said to Aaron, "This is what the LORD has said: 'Among those who are near me I will be sanctified, and before all the people I will be glorified.'"

This leads us back to the theme of Leviticus. "You shall be holy, for I, the LORD your God, am holy." And when you approach a holy God, you must approach Him in purity. When you approach a holy God, you must approach Him with reverence and honor.

I fear that there is too much flippancy in the church of Christ today. Too many are coming before God, thinking that anything is OK! If Nadab and Abihu teach us anything it is this: God wants for us to come to Him in purity and righteousness and obedience and honor. And for those who don't, a death sentence awaits.

Look in verse 4 at how serious the LORD is about these things.

Leviticus 10:4-7
And Moses called Mishael and Elzaphan, the sons of Uzziel the uncle of Aaron, and said to them, "Come near; carry your brothers away from the front of the sanctuary and out of the camp." So they came near and carried them in their coats out of the camp, as Moses had said. And Moses said to Aaron and to Eleazar and Ithamar his sons, "Do not let the hair of your heads hang loose, and do not tear your clothes, lest you die, and wrath come upon all the congregation; but let your brothers, the whole house of Israel, bewail the burning that the Lord has kindled. And do not go outside the entrance of the tent of meeting, lest you die, for the anointing oil of the Lord is upon you." And they did according to the word of Moses.

In Leviticus 21 we are told that priests could not go near the dead, lest they be defiled. Nadab and Abihu were carried away by Aaron's cousins (see Exodus 6:16ff), close relatives, who could take away their bodies, garments and all. Aaron and his sons, Eleazar and Ithamar, were prohibited to mourn (verse 6). They were prohibited to leave the tent of meeting (verse 7).

It all makes a point. They were not to question the ways of God. They were not to show the normal signs of mourning, like tearing their clothes or letting their hair hang loose, as if some terrible misfortune had come upon them. They were the priests! They were representatives of the Most High! They were to support Him and His actions.

God had every right to kill Nadab and Abihu. They did what the LORD had never commanded (verse 1). They sought to worship the LORD as they saw fit, rather than the way in which God commanded. And God struck them dead.

And God has every right to do with us as well. As John Bradford said of the group of prisoners that were being led off to execution, "There but for the grace of God, goes John Bradford." But, by the grace of God, we all would face the fate of Nadab and Abihu. God was perfectly just in putting them to death. What we don't realize is that our continued life is by the mercy of God.

Now, many have sought to understand what this "unauthorized fire" was. Some translations say, "strange fire." Perhaps it was as simple as the recipe which Nadab and Abihu used to concoct their incense. Exodus 30, verses 9-10 speak about how unauthorized fire was not to be offered to the LORD.

Some have argued that Nadab and Abihu were drunk (i.e. Leviticus 10:9-11). Thereby explaining verses 8-10, ...

Leviticus 10:8-11
And the LORD spoke to Aaron, saying, "Drink no wine or strong drink, you or your sons with you, when you go into the tent of meeting, lest you die. It shall be a statute forever throughout your generations. You are to distinguish between the holy and the common, and between the unclean and the clean, and you are to teach the people of Israel all the statutes that the LORD has spoken to them by Moses."

Aaron and his sons and all future priests were not to drink alcohol. They needed discernment to distinguish between the clean and unclean. Alcohol may inhibit that ability. Some say that this was the error with Nadab and Abihu, that they were drunk and not thinking straight.

Some have argued that Nadab and Abihu came with a hard heart (i.e. Leviticus 10:16-20). Thereby explaining verses 12-20. Because, Eleazar and Ithamar didn't do everything correctly on their first attempt either. Look at verse 12, ...

Leviticus 10:12-15
Moses spoke to Aaron and to Eleazar and Ithamar, his surviving sons: "Take the grain offering that is left of the LORD's food offerings, and eat it unleavened beside the altar, for it is most holy. You shall eat it in a holy place, because it is your due and your sons' due, from the Lord's food offerings, for so I am commanded. But the breast that is waved and the thigh that is contributed you shall eat in a clean place, you and your sons and your daughters with you, for they are given as your due and your sons' due from the sacrifices of the peace offerings of the people of Israel. The thigh that is contributed and the breast that is waved they shall bring with the food offerings of the fat pieces to wave for a wave offering before the LORD, and it shall be yours and your sons' with you as a due forever, as the LORD has commanded."

Part of the grain offering was to be eaten by the priests. Part of the peace offering was to be eaten by the priests. Part of the sin offering was to be eaten by the priests. But, there was a problem. Verse 16, ...

Leviticus 10:16-20
Now Moses diligently inquired about the goat of the sin offering, and behold, it was burned up! And he was angry with Eleazar and Ithamar, the surviving sons of Aaron, saying, "Why have you not eaten the sin offering in the place of the sanctuary, since it is a thing most holy and has been given to you that you may bear the iniquity of the congregation, to make atonement for them before the Lord? Behold, its blood was not brought into the inner part of the sanctuary. You certainly ought to have eaten it in the sanctuary, as I commanded." And Aaron said to Moses, "Behold, today they have offered their sin offering and their burnt offering before the LORD, and yet such things as these have happened to me! If I had eaten the sin offering today, would the LORD have approved?" And when Moses heard that, he approved.

Somehow, there was a mis-understanding. Somehow, Eleazar and Ithamar didn't eat. But, grace was shown, because of the circumstances surrounding the events of the day. And they were not consumed.

You get the sense that they were coming to the LORD in sincerity. Some say that verses 12-20 are placed here because such was not the case with Nadab and Abihu. Their "strange fire" was a result of their hard hearts, and in other words they knew full well what they were doing.

In the end, we don't exactly know what this "unauthorized fire" was. Like other things in the Bible, I think that God has intentionally kept it from us, lest we focus our attention upon the one thing that they missed, and not realizing our guilt in other areas of our lives as well.

So, when you come before the LORD in worship, whether it's corporate worship here at the church, whether it's family worship in your home, whether it's private worship in your closet, how do you come? Do you come to the LORD with reverence? Do you come to Him with a sense of awe? Or, have things become so familiar to you that you have lost your awe. The fact that you haven't seen anybody struck dead by fire from heaven, has that led you into a false sense of security? Any time that you are not struck dead in your sin, like Nadab and Abihu, is a display of the mercy of God!

We have received so much mercy that it has become common for us. We have come to accept it. But, if ever our worship will be acceptable before the LORD, it will only be as we have a pure priest. That's why I have entitled my message this morning, "We Need a Pure Priest (part 2)."

Last week we saw (in part 1), how Aaron and his sons needed to be consecrated before they would ever be allowed to offer sacrifices. This week we see how important it is for our priests to be pure, and offer up pure sacrifices. And of course, the only pure priest that has ever walked the planet is the Lord, Jesus Christ.

This sermon was delivered to Rock Valley Bible Church on January 11, 2015 by Steve Brandon.
For more information see www.rvbc.cc.

[1] The Holiness of God, p. 25 - https://books.google.com/books?id=_BuVCGSQtjcC&pg=PA25

[2] Sproul, Ibid, p. 99 - https://books.google.com/books?id=_BuVCGSQtjcC&pg=PA99

[3] John MacArthur, "The Ultimate Priority," pp. 115-116.

[4] Gordon J. Wenham, "The New International Commentary on the Old Testament, The Book of Leviticus," p. 149.

[5] Leviticus 8:9, 13, 17, 21, 29, 34, 36.

[6] http://gcampbellmorgan.com/sermons/11.html