Poor Aaron. My heart broke for him as I read about his family’s first official duties as priests. Two of his sons got it wrong…they went their own way and burned the incense differently than the way in which the Lord had commanded, with tragic results. The Bible says that fire blazed forth from the Lord’s presence and burned those sons to their deaths.
I had a long post about the possibility of the reasons behind this explosion…that perhaps they put in the incense in the incorrect order, rendering them extremely flammable. But then in looking at other translations I read that the way they disobeyed the Lord had to do with the time that they offered the fire to him. They did it outside of the time that the Lord had commanded (once in the morning, and once in the evening — see Exodus 25).
I don’t know what to do with that.
They disobeyed the Lord. They died. Aaron was not allowed to grieve in the usual way for his sons who had just been burned to death in front of him because he was holy and had been consecrated (he could not leave the Tabernacle).
As parents, we want our children to obey certain rules for their own protection. We teach them to stay on the side of the road, to look both ways before crossing the street, to not take candy from strangers, to keep the commandments, and more. The book Shepherding A Child’s Heart calls obedience to God’s protective rules a “circle of blessing.” Perhaps Aaron’s sons were the ADHD kids when they were little. Maybe they were used to bending the rules, just a little, to make life more interesting. Maybe these sons were the ones who constantly pushed against parental boundaries, testing the waters, seeing how far they could step over the line.
Have you ever done that?
I know I have. Just the other day, I was late for church, of all places, when I glanced at the speedometer and realized I was driving between 5 and 10 miles an hour over the limit. Did I slow down? A little, but not the whole way. I bent the rules for MY purposes because I was running late.
God set very specific rules in place for the priests, requiring obedience. They made modifications that had tragic consequences. They died by fire.
Is that any different from me disregarding the speed limit? If a child had run out in front of me, there could have been very tragic consequences.
The Bible captures Aaron’s response to this tragedy when Moses ordered the two burned bodies to be taken away:
And Aaron was silent.
In IEW, we’d call that a VSS (very short sentence), used to create impact. What was going through Aaron’s head at that moment? Shock? Disbelief? Regret on his parenting skills or lack thereof?
I guess it is a vivid illustration of what happens when we disobey…of what would ultimately happen to us if Jesus had not come to save us from our certain deaths and our ultimate consequences.