Shemini / Parah
For the week of March 29, 2008 / 22 Adar II 5768
Torah: Vayikra / Leviticus 9:1 - 11:47;
Bemidbar / Numbers 19:1-22
Haftarah: Ezekiel 36:16-38
Now Nadab and Abihu, the sons of Aaron, each took his censer and put fire in it and laid incense on it and offered unauthorized fire before the LORD, which he had not commanded them. And fire came out from before the LORD and consumed them, and they died before the LORD. (Vayikra / Leviticus 10:1,2; ESV)
I recently read a biography of David Livingstone, the great explorer and missionary to Africa of the 19th century. Livingstone was an extreme risk taker. He was the original "to go where no man has gone before" kind of guy. The fascinating thing about Livingstone was his natural (or supernatural) survival skills. He was truly made for risk. Though it might be more correct to say, "made for adventure." His ability, however derived, to courageously face danger effectively equipped him for his calling to open up Africa to the bringing of the Good News.
It seems to me that there are many people that possess within themselves something similar to Livingstone that allows them not to be intimidated by danger. So they freely and often take risks. These risks might be for some great cause like that which motivated Livingstone or people who do search and rescue operations. But this same thing that enables these people to engage in important, essential risky tasks also allows them to take foolish risks that may result in disaster for themselves and others.
Take Aaron's sons, Nadab and Abihu, for example. For some reason they had no hesitation in approaching the God of the Universe in an unauthorized way, which cost them their lives. It is important to note that these two men had already experienced the reality of God, so their actions did not stem from complete ignorance. They had seen what God had done in sending the plagues to deliver the people of Israel from Egypt as well as his other mighty acts. They were even part of the group that fellowshipped with God on Mt. Sinai (Shemot / Exodus 24:9-11). Perhaps it was that experience that contributed to the lack of caution which led to their deaths. Regardless of the reason, they were not reasonably cautious in making sure to approach God in a prescribed way and, as a result, they died.
I may be wrong, but I get the impression that risk taking is on the rise. I am not necessarily referring to people who are true adventurers in the vein of David Livingstone, but simply risk taking. The emergence of extreme sports, survival camping, and street racing, are signs of this. In addition there is also a rise in risky moral behavior. More and more people are taking risks with death.
This is also evident among Bible believers. By this I don't mean that followers of Yeshua are engaged in extreme sports more than ever. That might be, but more and more people who claim to be followers of God in Yeshua are taking risks similar to Nadab and Abihu. Referring to God as a buddy, being ignorant of the Scriptures, and acting morally irresponsible are like Nadab and Abihu's offering: - unauthorized! No matter how much you worship, no matter how spiritual you might seem, conducting yourself in ways that have not been authorized by God may cost you your life.
That's a risk you can't afford to take.
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