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BLOG: Pain, death, and obedience

It was a big ask.

His two sons had been struck dead abruptly and were laying before him. The horror of the moment is hard to imagine and yet it gets harder. Because his brother then told him that neither he, nor his other two sons, were to show any outward sign of grief. The whole thing must have felt surreal, like it was something he was watching happen to somebody else, but certainly not to himself.

He was obedient, however, and he did exactly as he was instructed.

It's a story that's circled the globe and yet it's one we don't stop to consider nearly often enough. Maybe it's because it's found in the Old Testament during those "outdated" chapters in the book of Leviticus (chapter 10). Or maybe it's because thinking too much about it brings into question the fairness of a God who would require such a thing of a father.

But as we look at the Bible as a whole, we can see this isn't the way God generally deals with grieving parents. We can find a contrite King David (2 Samuel 12), prostrate on the ground, begging God to deliver his infant son from the grips of death. And when the answer came as his servant informed him the child had died, the king got up and went to wash, dress and to worship God. Afterwards he asked for food to be brought to him and he ate. A strange response, given the circumstances, and yet it wasn't at the command of God. David had simply felt the enormity of his own sin and begged God to spare others from suffering because of it. When he was denied his request, he knew better than to question the answer, because those days of pre-grieving had brought him to the point of complete surrender.

In other situations where a child, spouse, or loved one was stricken or killed, we don't see an exacting God calling on the survivors to abstain from showing their pain. Not at all. So why was this time with Aaron so different and what is there for us to learn from it?

I read this chapter this week and was struck by it and my mind kept circling back to what that must have been like for Aaron. I couldn't shake it and I think it's because God has allowed the potential for deeply painful circumstances to sit like a wolf at our door here and I'm scared of how I'll respond in my own perceived worst-case scenario. Regardless of the reason for the pondering, God did speak to my heart and answered a few questions.

Nadab and Abihu were highly honored among the children of Israel. They were next in rank only to Moses and Aaron and they'd been permitted, along with the seventy elders, to behold God's glory in the mount. And yet, they'd apparently let all that go to their heads and presumably imagined they were above the law of God because they'd been shown such favor. Later, as a result of dulling their minds with alcohol, they ultimately took strange fire in their censors and God could not allow such a thing to stand.

He was, after all, leading a people who'd long been under a Godless rule, into an experience where they'd understand partial obedience was complete disobedience. He loves with the kind of love that would ultimately nail His own beloved Jesus to a tree in order to bring His forgiveness to completion, and that love compelled Him to not allow leadership to destroy His efforts and ruin His people.

Moses was the mouthpiece but the handling of the whole affair, from the striking down by fire to the command that Aaron and his other sons were not to not rent their clothes, was the decision of God. Man could never be trusted to make such a decision and God took swift action without human assistance.

Aaron was called upon to stand faithful to God, recognizing the sin of his sons, and trusting that God works all things for good in the end. He didn't have to know the whys and wherefores in order to obey. That's not legalism, that's relationship.

The Bible never says Aaron didn't go to God privately as he wrestled through his pain. It only records he wasn't to make a public display. I feel certain God met Aaron with all the compassion he needed to survive the circumstance. But the whole thing got me thinking about how I respond when God asks hard things of me that it seems He's not asking of others.

We're a self-pitying people, aren't we? Always thinking our load is just a little heavier than that of another. The truth is, God distributes the load in the way He knows will be most effective in this cosmic conflict.

We're so short-sighted that we only see the here and now and we fail to consider all He sees that we can't. That's where we get into trouble ... thinking our picture of things is the complete scene.

We have friends right now who are being asked to walk with one of their children through what feels like one overwhelming blow after another. Not even able to catch their breath from one assault of the enemy, they're battered by the next. It's a helpless feeling to watch and pray, knowing you can't tangibly do anything to stop it. God is allowing it, not because He's causing it, but because He has the last word and can use even evil for good.

God hasn't asked our friends not to hurt or to pretend that they're fine. Instead, He's circled them with people who love them and who are praying. But He's trusting them with an incredibly big ask.

And I, for one, am watching and learning.

If I could be there with them today, I would tell them the one thing I know to be true ... God is using them to reach me. They're doing kingdom work by hanging by that thread. If one day the sun dims over my own family in a way similar to what they're experiencing, I will have the record in my mind of how they walked through it and, every single time, it'll point me back to God.

That's how it was with Aaron and so, too, it is in our modern day. God doesn't ask big things of us for fun or because He's bored. He asks because He knows the impact a complete surrender will have on all who hear of it.

If He's asking something big of you, it's because He trusts you to cling when it would be easier to let go. I'm hanging onto that for the moments when I need it.



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