By Collin Ross
As a boy, one of my favorite summertime activities was to go “creeking” with my friends. Just behind my childhood house lay a creek that ran throughout the neighborhood. During the summer months, the waterline became low, revealing rocks, logs, and sandbars, making it possible to traverse the creek without getting your shoes wet. And so, we’d set out on a journey to see how far we could make it without leaving the creek bed.
The fun came in deciding your route through the creek. There was always an easy path to take. Still, my friends and I enjoyed being as creative as possible and arguing over whose path was the “right” one—laughing hysterically when someone who took a “wrong” path inevitably fell headlong into the water.
I found myself thinking about those days after reading the tragic story of Nadab and Abihu. If Leviticus is a book explaining the “right” way to approach God, then this story must be an example of the “wrong” way. And yet, I believe there is more here than just a warning to be heard.
God is passionate about living with His people. It is His great desire to share His holiness, goodness, and justice. But because our lives are plagued by sin, wickedness, and injustice, it is dangerous for us to draw near to the holy God. This danger is surely demonstrated by the fate of Nadab and Abihu, who attempted to draw near to God on their terms. The Lord’s explanation for what happened to Aaron’s sons highlights the gravity of being in God’s presence: “I will demonstrate my holiness to those who are near me, and I will reveal my glory before all the people” (Leviticus 10:3).
You see, knowing the obstacle that was their sin, in His compassion, God provided for Israel a way to safely enjoy the goodness of His presence. But importantly, the way to draw near to God was provided and openly disclosed by God Himself. Israel didn’t have to search out a path to God. Rather, in love, it was gifted to them.
This is what Nadab and Abihu ignored, but we know that they are not alone. There is a universal human desire to craft our own creative pathway to God. We imagine paths to God that are based on personal morality, specific spiritual practices, or our favorite social issues. But there is one and only one way to draw near to God, and we don’t need to search it out because He came looking for us. The way into the good presence of the holy God is through Jesus Christ alone.
So the next time you are tempted to believe that you have to muscle your way into God’s blessings by your good works or biblical knowledge, remember the compassion that lines this tragic story: the way into the joy of God’s presence has been gifted to you in Jesus Christ. Alleluia!