By Joshua Spurlock
The ceremony was meticulously done, as one sacrifice after another was completed flawlessly. The grandeur of the Kohanim (Priests) and the Mishkan (Tabernacle) must have been a sight to behold.
Yet the most awe-inspiring moment came at the end, as fire from HaShem (the LORD) consumed the sacrifice on the altar. Everyone watching fell to their faces in worship (Cf. Vayikra / Leviticus 9). Two sons of the Kohen Gadol (High Priest), however, didn’t stay.
In a tragic decision, Nadav (Nadab) and Avihu (Abihu) offered “strange fire” to HaShem, which He had not commanded. Their error was short-lived. The same fire from HaShem that had consumed the sacrifice on the altar consumed them as well (Vayikra / Leviticus 10:1-2).
We must keep in mind the same G-d that unleashed this wrath also demonstrated His mercy and patience with Bnei Yisrael (the Children of Israel) time and again, so we can be sure His wrath doesn’t stem from capriciousness or a short-temper. It comes, rather, from His holiness. He is both kind and terrifying at the same time.
As Shaul (Paul) says,
“Note then the kindness and the severity of God [Elohim]…”
– Romans 11:22a, ESV
HaShem is G-d, and there’s a specific Way that He prescribes for us to interact with Him. It does not include doing just anything that comes to mind. It’s certainly not doing what the nations around you are doing. Heed carefully the warning in Parashat Re’eh.
“When the LORD your God [Elokekha] cuts off before you the nations whom you go in to dispossess, and you dispossess them and dwell in their land, take care that you be not ensnared to follow them, after they have been destroyed before you, and that you do not inquire about their gods, saying, ‘How did these nations serve their gods?—that I also may do the same.’ You shall not worship the LORD your God [Elokekha] in that way, for every abominable thing that the LORD hates they have done for their gods, for they even burn their sons and their daughters in the fire to their gods. Everything that I command you, you shall be careful to do. You shall not add to it or take from it.”
– Devarim (Deuteronomy) 12:29-32, ESV
What does this mean for us today?
Clearly the idolatrous human sacrifices that were common to the nations of Kena’an [Caanan] which Yisrael (Israel) disposed are wrong, but are there other things that the “nations” are doing for their idols that we should avoid?
The ‘Boyfriend’ Pop Culture
While there are many things the nations do to serve their “gods”, so called, one very serious problem sometimes found among the assemblies of the Lord Yeshua HaMashiakh (Jesus the Christ) is romantic hero worship.
Time and again in religious music, sermons, and sometimes even faulty Bible translations, HaShem is described as a buddy, a playful lover, or a gentle, grandfatherly figure, who would never do anything but “spoil” the grand-children. Some people are planning to run up to Him in Heaven at last and to give Him a big hug.
In short, this false view of G-d portrays Him as a divine Justin Bieber, or any other pop musician, athlete or movie star that is adored by millions, but makes no demands of righteousness. This incorrect view of G-d certainly would never expect Him to judge our sin. While HaShem is close to us and cares more about us than we can even imagine (Yeshayahu / Isaiah 49:15-16), He is also awesome and just.
HaShem is our Heavenly Father, and the spirit of sonship in us cries to Him, ‘Abba (Father; Cf. Romans 8:15)’. But He is also ever holy and worthy of our utmost respect.
The writer of Ivrim (Hebrews) compared the mighty scene at Mount Sinai, with its fire and thunder and overwhelming sounds, to how we should view HaShem now. The author doesn’t compare them to make it appear that HaShem’s standards and holiness have diminished. On the contrary!
“See that you do not refuse him who is speaking. For if they did not escape when they refused him who warned them on earth [HaAretz], much less will we escape if we reject him who warns from heaven [HaShamayim]. At that time his voice shook the earth [HaAretz], but now he has promised, ‘Yet once more I will shake not only the earth but also the heavens.’ This phrase, ‘Yet once more,’ indicates the removal of things that are shaken—that is, things that have been made—in order that the things that cannot be shaken may remain. Therefore let us be grateful for receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, and thus let us offer to God [Elohim] acceptable worship, with reverence and awe, for our God [Eloheinu] is a consuming fire.”
– Ivrim (Hebrews) 12:25-29, ESV
Did you see that description of HaShem? It is not as daddy or a doting boyfriend. It is as a “consuming fire.” HaShem is holy and awesome, and we should treat Him that way at all times.
In this regard, there is much we can learn from Jewish custom. We should not take HaShem’s Name in vain, and that is why “HaShem” (Hb. “The Name”) or “LORD” is used instead of the four-letter name of G-d in your typical English Bible.
This follows the pattern established by the Jewish scholars who translated the Jewish Scriptures into the Greek Septuagint. Where the name of HaShem appears in the Hebrew, they wrote the circumlocution koo’-ree-os (which means Lord) in the Greek, a custom which was apparently upheld by the first-century disciples of the Lord Yeshua.
In general, the righteous maintain a perspective of HaShem’s kingship. He is to be treated with the utmost respect, with even greater honor than your friends or family. While intense, direct conversation with HaShem is evident throughout the Psalms and His passionate love for His people on display in Shir HaShirim (Song of Solomon), our view of His holiness and righteous expectations of us should never be set aside.
Hear Khavakuk HaNavi (the Prophet Habakkuk) contrast the idols of the world with HaShem:
“Woe to him who says to a wooden thing, Awake; to a silent stone, Arise! Can this teach? Behold, it is overlaid with gold and silver, and there is no breath at all in it. But the LORD is in his holy temple; let all the earth keep silence before him.”
– Khavakuk (Habakkuk) 2:19-20, ESV
He is HaShem, worthy of reverent awe, holy worship, and complete obedience. Which brings us to another idolatrous practice pervasive among the nations around us.
Not According to Your Eyes
In much of today’s world, the predominant attitude is one of independence and self-confidence. It is an attitude of personal autonomy. And the guide trusted most of all is the human heart. What “feels right” is said to matter most. This attitude, however, is deception and foolishness.
As Yirmeyahu HaNavi (the Prophet Jeremiah) says,
“The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it?”
– Yermiyahu 17:9, ESV
And as the proverb says,
“There is a way that seems right to a man, but its end is the way to death.”
– Mishlei (Proverbs) 14:12, ESV
In other words, if your own heart is your leader, then you are destined for heartache and destruction. HaShem knows that we have a tendency to allow our fickle hearts to ruin lives, so He warns us not to follow our hearts!
As Moshe (Moses) says,
“You shall not do according to all that we are doing here today, everyone doing whatever is right in his own eyes… Be careful to obey all these words that I command you, that it may go well with you and with your children after you forever, when you do what is good and right in the sight of the LORD your God [Elokekha].”
– Devarim (Deuteronomy) 12:8,28, ESV
In fact, HaShem sees so much danger in doing what merely looks and feels good to us, He gave us the tassels on our four-cornered garments (I.e. a tallit), called Tzitzit, to be an ever present reminder for us of His mitzvot.
“And it shall be a tassel for you to look at and remember all the commandments of the LORD, to do them, not to follow after your own heart and your own eyes, which you are inclined to whore after. So you shall remember and do all my commandments, and be holy to your God [Elokekhem].”
– Bamidbar (Numbers) 15:39-40, ESV
The truth is not whatever our heart says it is, but what HaShem says it is in His Word. This should influence our attitudes about worship. We should keep in His nature when we worship HaShem, remembering His awesomeness and holiness.
As our Lord Yeshua said to the woman of Shomron (Samaria),
“You worship what you do not know; we worship what we know, for salvation is from the Jews [Yehudim]. But the hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father [HaAv] in spirit [ruakh] and truth [emet], for the Father [HaAv] is seeking such people to worship him. God [Elohim] is spirit [ruakh], and those who worship him must worship in spirit [ruakh] and truth [emet].”
– Yokhannan (John) 4:22-24, ESV
Beyond that, we should also be very careful about “hearing from G-d” and what we trust as we worship. This method of seeking HaShem’s will for our lives could turn into trusting what we feel and not what He has already said.
HaShem actually has a stern warning for those who parlay their own thoughts as words from Him.
“Thus says the Lord GOD [Adonai HASHEM], Woe to the foolish prophets who follow their own spirit, and have seen nothing! …They have seen false visions and lying divinations. They say, ‘Declares the LORD,’ when the LORD has not sent them, and yet they expect him to fulfill their word.”
– Yekhezkel (Ezekiel) 13:3,6, ESV
This is not to say that HaShem doesn’t speak to His people, even today. But what He says to us always lines up with what He said in His Word. Parashat Re’eh actually goes so far as to say that even if a navi does wonders or signs, if his words don’t line up with HaShem’s words, he is to be rejected.
“If a prophet [navi] or a dreamer of dreams arises among you and gives you a sign or a wonder, and the sign or wonder that he tells you comes to pass, and if he says, ‘Let us go after other gods,’ which you have not known, ‘and let us serve them,’ you shall not listen to the words of that prophet or that dreamer of dreams.”
– Devarim (Deuteronomy) 13:1-3a, ESV
Furthermore, HaShem has explicitly ruled out speaking to the dead, relying on omens, and fortunetellers as actions forbidden to His people (Devarim / Deuteronomy 18:10-12). These are some of the ways the nations around you are trying to figure out G-d’s will, which we are commanded not to do.
So in searching out HaShem’s will for your life through prayer and/or fasting, be sure to also search His Scriptures. He will never contradict what He has already said.
“You shall not add to the word that I command you, nor take from it, that you may keep the commandments of the LORD your God [Elokekhem] that I command you.”
– Devarim (Deuteronomy) 4:2, ESV
And as Mashiakh Yeshua, the Lord of All, says,
“For truly, I say to you, until heaven [HaShamayim] and earth [HaAretz] pass away, not an iota, not a dot, will pass from the Law [Torah] until all is accomplished. Therefore whoever relaxes one of the least of these commandments [mitzvot] and teaches others to do the same will be called least in the kingdom of heaven [Malkhut HaShamayim], but whoever does them and teaches them will be called great in the kingdom of heaven [Malkhut HaShamayim].”
– Mattityahu (Matthew) 5:18-19, ESV
Worship G-d His Way
HaShem is holy, awesome, and majestic. There is a correct way to approach, interact with, and worship HaShem. The nations of the world may have found many ways to honor their own idols, but whether that’s through human sacrifice or modern hero worship, the crowds are definitely not the ones to follow.
“When you come into the land that the LORD your God [Elokekha] is giving you, you shall not learn to follow the abominable practices of those nations.”
– Devarim (Deteronomy) 18:9, ESV
As you seek and worship HaShem, may you honor Him the way He deserves and worship HaShem in the ways that He requires. Don’t do what the nations around you are doing. Do, rather, what Your Heavenly Father has commanded, in the grace and power of His Ruakh through our Lord Yeshua HaMashiakh.