This past week I preached a sermon that surveyed Leviticus 10-16. Every summer (July-Aug) our church does a summer sermon series and this year we chose to do a series on selected OT narratives. The reason we chose to do OT narratives is because the normal preaching pastor(s) are currently in the middle of expository sermons through their own respective epistles.
For my first OT narrative I chose to preach through the sin of Nadab and Abihu, but also wanted to put it in the context of Leviticus. Knowing that most NT saints don’t normally turn to Leviticus on a day-to-day basis was part of the motivation for choosing this text. For the sake of brevity, here are a few points from the text that convicted me in my personal study.
Our Depravity: While it is obvious that Nadab and Abihu terribly failed as priests many may have the temptation to self righteously compare themselves to Nadab and Abihu. It’s easy to think that we don’t commit sins like Nadab and Abihu every day and pay the horrific consequences.
The point the text emphasis from Leviticus 11-16:1 is that we are all just as unclean and guilty as Nadab and Abihu. The mention of Nadab and Abihu in Leviticus 16:1 form an inclusion with Leviticus 10 in which the main point is our shared guilt as sinners. Every Old Covenant member would have eventually become uncleanliness from dietary restrictions (Lev 11); childbirth (Lev 12); skin disease (Lev 13-14); or bodily emissions (Lev 15). There is no escape from the universality that our sin not only necessitates atonement, but a priest who is fit to offer the sacrifice for atonement.
Our Need: Despite the horrific reality expressed in Leviticus 11-16:1 regarding our sin, there is a term that is repeated 103 times within the space of these chapters, “priest.” Every time the uncleanliness of mankind is mentioned the solution is constantly pointing the readers to the office of the “priest.”
This need for a priest is highlighted upon reading the contents of Leviticus 16 where the Day of Atonement is described. On this day, the unmistakable highlight are the goat sacrifices that take place to atone for the sins of the nation.
While these sacrifices are important, I believe NT readers should notice that the sacrifices on the Day of Atonement are goats. This is significant since the NT describes Christ’s sacrifice in parallel with the Passover, which sacrificed a Lamb (Jn 1:29; 1 Cor 5:7).
Readers should also notice the overwhelming emphasis on the High Priest and the requirements placed upon him on the Day of Atonement. Moses is clear that the High Priest must be clean (16:1-10) and must even be wearing the proper attire when offering sacrifice (16:4, 23, 24, 26).
For these reasons the context of Leviticus 10-16 scream to the reader the importance of the High Priest’s function in the Old Covenant.
Our Great High Priest: LIving in the NT era we find that we are not bound to find a priest who offers daily sacrifices like those from Aaron’s lineage in the Old Covenant. The New Covenant provides the great High Priest. He Himself has offered Himself as a sacrifice to atone for the sins of His people (Heb 10:11-13). Christ Himself is the purest High Priest who could stand in the presence of God (Heb 5:8; 7:26) who eternally holds the office (Heb 7:24).
As a result, those who have trusted in the work of this great High Priest can rest assured that they have indeed been reconciled to God and made in good standing (Heb 4:14-16; 7:25). The reality of our sinful shortcomings should no longer burden our hearts as if we should seek out some high priest who is fit to offer sacrifices of atonement. Instead, we can look to the great High Priest and find rest and confidence that He intercedes on our behalf.