Parsha Shemini - Wayyiqra/Leviticus 9:1 - 11:47
In Parshat Shemini, we see the return of the Shchina, the Presence of YAHUAH.
It may be hard to see the real sequence of events, so just to recap:
After the Exodus from Egypt, Yisrael experienced the awesome revelation of YAHUAH at Sinai. However, as they awaited Moshe’s return, they sinned with the golden calf. YAH planned to destroy the entire nation, but Moshe interceded. YAHUAH relented, but said He would send a Messenger along with them. Moshe interceded again, and YAH said that His Presence would go with them. The people then built and erected the Mishkan (Tabernacle); the priests took part in their 7-day dedication ceremony; and on the 8th day, the esteem of YAHUAH returned.
YAHUAH had forgiven Yisrael for their sin, and as promised, He returned to once again dwell with His people. The people saw the esteem of Elohim and fell on their faces (Wayy. 9:23-24).
This had to be a most joyous occasion for their sin had been forgiven. Yet, we see them not jumping for joy but crying aloud and falling on their faces.
The people feared YAHUAH!
They knew YAH had forgiven them, but they also knew that He could have easily wiped them out completely.
The very next incident ensured that they feared YAHUAH.
Nadab and Abihu, Aharon’s sons, the priests, brought strange fire before YAHUAH, and fire came out from before Him and consumed them. They did what YAHUAH had not commanded, and they died as a consequence (Wayy. 10:1-3).
On the day Yisra'el should’ve experienced their greatest elation and joy, they cried aloud, fell on their faces, and witnessed the tragedy of two of its leaders.
What we see here is that YAH is teaching us to not take His forgiveness for granted.
YAHUAH is to be feared!
Yisrael did what YAH had not commanded in worshiping the golden calf, so they too should have died as a consequence. But in His great compassion, He forgave them and spared their lives. The deaths of Nadab and Abihu were a reminder of what should have been their outcome.
YAHUAH is a compassionate, loving, and patient Elohim and is great in kindness!
Yet, He is to be feared!
It may seem like Nadab and Abihu weren’t given an opportunity to repent for their sin, but looking back in the Scriptures, we see a hint that perhaps this wasn’t their first misstep.
In Shemoth/Exodus 24, when Moshe ascended Sinai, YAH told him to come up with Aharon, Nadab, Abihu, and 70 of the elders, and they were to bow themselves at a distance.
Then, in verse 10 it says:
"and they saw the Elohim of Yisra’el, and under His feet like a paved work of sapphire stone, and like the heavens for brightness." (Shem/Ex. 24:10)
"Yet He did not stretch out His hand against the chiefs of the children of Yisra’el!" (vs. 11)
Apparently, YAH was prepared to strike them!
But why? What did they do?
YAHUAH told them to bow down from a distance; yet, they looked and saw the Elohim of Yisrael. When they were supposed to bow and not look on the Esteem, they looked instead.
Perhaps, it was curiosity. Perhaps, it was brazenness.
Nevertheless, they did what YAHUAH had not commanded.
This was the first time Nadab and Abihu did what YAHUAH had not commanded, but in this instance, they were spared.
Now again, in Wayyiqra 10, for a second time, they were before the Presence of Elohim doing what YAHUAH had not commanded!
Did they not learn? Did they not change? Did they forget that they were forgiven - their lives spared - before?
If they had truly remembered that YAHUAH had spared them before for doing the same thing - coming before Him not as commanded - they would not have repeated their mistake. They would have feared YAH!
Learning the Lesson
Contrast their behavior with Aharon. He too saw the Esteem of YAHUAH at Sinai. Did he learn? Did he repent and change?
In Wayyiqra 9, when Moshe gave Aharon the instructions for the offerings at the dedication ceremony, he says:
Wayy/Lev. 9:7 And Mosheh said to Aharon, “Go to the altar, and prepare your sin offering and your burnt offering, and make atonement for yourself and for the people. And make the offering of the people, and make atonement for them, as יהוה has commanded.”
He seems to repeat himself: Go...and make atonement.
Then again: make the offering.
And again: make atonement for them.
Why did Moshe have to repeat himself?
Perhaps, it was because Aharon hesitated. Moshe had to encourage him, prod him a little, to step forward.
It may be because of his humility, and it may also be because he learned his lesson from Sinai.
Aharon knew he couldn’t go before Elohim in just any manner. YAHUAH spared him before, so he was extra careful this time around. He did not take YAH’s forgiveness for granted. He feared YAH!
YAHUAH is to be feared!
Taking Him for Granted
The reason we don't fear YAHUAH like we should is because we take His kindness and His forgiveness for granted.
When we pray for forgiveness, and He does forgive us - i.e. He doesn’t strike us - we start to assume that we’ll automatically be forgiven every time. All we have to do is say a prayer, and all will be well. We don’t have to be so careful with our deeds because YAH will forgive us.
Or, we begin to think that what we did wasn’t even deserving of punishment. Because of His kindness and patience, we don’t always experience the brunt of His displeasure, and what we do experience may be delayed as He gives us time to repent. So, when we’re not punished immediately, we think we didn't really do anything wrong. We didn't sin, and we're just fine as we are.
The result of these incorrect ways of thinking is complacency and unrepentance.
When we take YAH's forgiveness for granted - meaning we start to think there isn’t going to be any real consequences - then our repentance becomes incomplete, insincere, or lacking altogether (non-existent). We continue in our sins, not seeking to change our ways.
How long will YAHUAH endure with this mindset and behavior?
Don’t Take Him for Granted
YAHUAH is a righteous Elohim, a true Judge, and He will punish wrongdoing. There will be consequences for our actions. Maybe not right away, but it will come.
If we repent - completely and sincerely - then He will forgive. But we must be careful not to take His kindness and compassion for granted.
For if we do, our repentance will not be true, and then for sure, the consequences will come.
YAHUAH is to be feared!
Do what’s right, and don't take Him for granted.
“And now, Yisra’el, what is יהוה your Elohim asking of you, but to fear יהוה your Elohim, to walk in all His ways and to love Him, and to serve יהוה your Elohim with all your heart and with all your being," (Deb/Deut. 10:12)
“Walk after יהוה your Elohim and fear Him, and guard His commands and obey His voice, and serve Him and cling to Him." (Deb/Deut. 13:4)