Once again, in today’s chapters we’ve got more details of sacred rites involving sacrifice – this time not just about the instructions, but about them being carried out. Often in Christian discussion we talk about the ‘Levitical priesthood’ as the whole pattern of priesthood that begins here, with its offering of sacrifices and its role of standing between the people and God.
The risks of standing in the middle
Standing between God and his people isn’t always a wonderful place to be, privilege though it is. Behind the priest’s job of offering sacrifice comes a responsibility to offer the world’s need to God and to interpret God’s will to the world. From this point up to the death and resurrection of Jesus, and the sending of the Holy Spirit, if people wanted to bring their lives into close contact with God – for forgiveness, thanksgiving, cleansing, blessing, etc… they needed a priest to be the link.
For that to work, the priests had to do things God’s way – otherwise the whole link between God and humanity would be distorted and broken. So when Aaron’s sons decided to improvise, it all went badly wrong, and they were killed on the spot.
I’m not too keen on the whole ‘priesthood as butchery’ stuff, but I’m even less enthusiastic about the prospect of being struck dead if I get it wrong.
Who is this all about?
On the other hand, at the risk of getting about 1400 years or a few months of readings ahead of ourselves, as a priest in the Church of England I’m not doing the same job as Aaron’s sons were meant to be doing. That job is for the royal priesthood which is the whole church together. I have a role in that church, but I don’t personally stand between God and the world. We all do that together, with Jesus as our head and High Priest.
So this passage is a warning to all of us – how do we as a church keep our life in line with God’s instructions? And how are we doing at being the link between God and the world?
Yet again, Leviticus reminds us that worship is a serious business – that God is real and ‘other’.