Today’s reading revolves around the principles of the holy and profane, the clean and the unclean. Yes, this is “old news” in the sense that it is from the Mosaic covenant, but there are still things that apply in principle and should cause us to think.
Nadab and Abihu, the older sons of Aaron, went to offer incense to the Lord, but failed to offer it properly by simply failing to use the right fire — a coal from the altar of sacrifice. It was a small thing by human reckoning, but an offense worthy of death by God’s reckoning. Yes, God had specifically commanded that the fire must come from the sacrificial altar, and Nadab and Abihu had disobeyed; but was it a mistake worthy of death?
Knowing that men would not necessarily see the offense plainly, God explained that He must be treated as holy, especially by those who were serving Him in front of the people. If they failed to treat God holy, if they failed to discern the difference between the holy and profane, what would the rest of the people do? It’s a common problem still today.
We fail to discern the holy from the profane in our words. Not only does “God”, “Jesus”, and (ironically) “holy” come up in many unholy conversations among the worldly, but sometimes unholy words pop out from the mouths of God’s holy people!
It was, in principle, the problem of the church in Corinth (1 Cor. 11) in their unworthy practice of the Lord’s Supper. They were treating this meal of communion as if it were just another meal shared among a common club meeting. Jesus’ body wasn’t being discerned; early arrivers (some believe them to be the rich, who could arrive at their leisure, as opposed to the slave who must work until no longer required by his master) were not waiting on others and leaving little or nothing for others, begging the question, “Where’s the communion?” It was a failure to discern the holy from the profane. And don’t religious folks still fail to discern holy things ourselves when times of worship are expected to be little more than common entertainment with rocking bands, great storytellers, and virtual pyrotechnics; rather than the pattern given for New Testament worship?
We even fail to discern common contracts and agreements from holy covenants. Somehow we’ve merge the two, the chief difference in most people’s minds being the more archaic word “covenant”. All, according to common understanding, are disposable, terms dictated by men, and open to modification afterward — just like any other contract. But God’s covenants are not disposable, not crafted by men, and not open for modification; we’ve misunderstood to a shocking degree, because we’ve failed to discern between the profane and the holy.
What ways do you think we confuse the two?
See you tomorrow, Lord willing.