VaYiqra (Leviticus) 16:1–18:30 & 19:1–20:27
Our weekly reading brings us to two very interesting portions, “After the Death” and “Holy Ones” (this is the parasha according to the diaspora, and differs slightly from what we read in Israel). The first parasha focuses on events that happened after the death of Aaron’s two sons, and introduces us to Yom Kippur, which is the holiest day for the people of Israel, the Day of Atonement.
Now the LORD spoke to Moses after the death of the two sons of Aaron, when they had approached the presence of the LORD and died. And the LORD said to Moses, “Tell your brother Aaron that he shall not enter at any time into the holy place inside the veil, before the mercy seat which is on the ark, lest he die; for I will appear in the cloud over the mercy seat. Aaron shall enter the holy place with this: with a bull for a sin offering and a ram for a burnt offering. He shall put on the holy linen tunic, and the linen undergarments shall be next to his body, and he shall be girded with the linen sash, and attired with the linen turban (these are holy garments). Then he shall bathe his body in water and put them on. And he shall take from the congregation of the sons of Israel two male goats for a sin offering and one ram for a burnt offering. Then Aaron shall offer the bull for the sin offering which is for himself, that he may make atonement for himself and for his household.” Leviticus 16:1–6
Verse 1 is very interesting as it speaks of the death of the two sons of Aaron when they had “approached” the Lord and died, because they offered a “strange fire” before Him. This is recorded in Leviticus 10:1–2:
Now Nadav and Avihu, the sons of Aaron, took their respective firepans, and after putting fire in them, placed incense on it and offered strange fire before the LORD, which He had not commanded them. And fire came out from the presence of the LORD and consumed them, and they died before the LORD.
I’d like to draw your attention to a slight but very important distinction between the verses Leviticus 10:1 and 16:1. In English, the words that describe what Nadav and Avihu did carry very different meanings: “offered” versus “approached/drew near”. In the Hebrew, however, the words used to describe their action are more similar in meaning. In chapter 10:1, the word is “וַיַּקְרִ֜יבוּ” (VaYakrivu) and in Chapter 16:1 “בְּקָרְבָתָ֥ם” (BeKorvatam). This is significant because it reveals that offering a sacrifice draws us nearer to the Lord.
The reality is that Nadav and Avihu, offered a sacrifice that the Lord did not require. They were trying to draw near to the Lord in the manner of their choosing, and not in the manner that He had commanded; they ended up losing their lives as a result. It is a sobering reminder that the byproduct of disobedience is always death!
As we read on in Leviticus 16, we see that God instructs Aaron the High Priest not to repeat the same mistakes of his sons, and not to enter the Holy Ark in an unworthy way, otherwise he would die as well. He then instructed Aaron to offer a sacrifice for himself, his household, and as we read in 16:24, for the entire household of Israel as an atonement for their sins.
I see an amazing connection here to the work of our Messiah!
For every high priest taken from among men is appointed on behalf of men in things pertaining to God, in order to offer both gifts and sacrifices for sins; he can deal gently with the ignorant and misguided, since he himself also is beset with weakness; and because of it he is obligated to offer sacrifice for sins, as for the people, so also for himself. And no one takes the honor to himself, but receives it when he is called by God, even as Aaron was. So also Messiah did not glorify Himself so as to become a high priest, but He who said to Him, “THOU ART MY SON, TODAY I HAVE BEGOTTEN THEE”; just as He says also in another passage, “THOU ART A PRIEST FOREVER ACCORDING TO THE ORDER OF MELCHIZEDEK.” Hebrews 5:1–6
And the former priests, on the one hand, existed in greater numbers, because they were prevented by death from continuing, but He, on the other hand, because He abides forever, holds His priesthood permanently. Hence, also, He is able to save forever those who draw near to God through Him, since He always lives to make intercession for them. For it was fitting that we should have such a high priest, holy, innocent, undefiled, separated from sinners and exalted above the heavens; who does not need daily, like those high priests, to offer up sacrifices, first for His own sins, and then for the sinsof the people, because this He did once for all when He offered up Himself. For the Law appoints men as high priests who are weak, but the word of the oath, which came after the Law, appoints a Son, made perfect forever. Hebrews 7:23–27
My dear friends, God is the same yesterday, today and forever, in the same way that He only accepted offering and atonement that He required back in the days of Moses and Aaron, so it is today. There is only one way, and that is through Yeshua; He is the way, the truth and the life, and no one can get to the Father but through Him.
This article originally appeared on Hope for Israel, April 25, 2018, and reposted with permission.