from Jessica Patton
Often when I read the parable of the sower in Mark 4, I picture in my head an old-fashioned farmer, a bag of seed slung carelessly across his chest, with a weather-beaten hat on his head. He’s ambling around, happy to be outside, scattering handfuls of seed wherever. And eventually some things grow, and everyone is happy, even if we’re a little sad not all of the seed has sprouted.
But then I turn to passages like Leviticus 10, and my mental picture of Jesus as just an easy-going farmer disintegrates. In Leviticus 8, Aaron and his sons are consecrated as priests. The Israelites are in the desert, the glory of God is dwelling in the tabernacle (Exodus 40) and now the priests must begin their ministry. God gives specific instructions for the ceremony, and Moses and Aaron obey. At the end of Leviticus 9, “the glory of the LORD appeared to all the people, and fire came out from before the LORD and consumed the burnt offering. When all the people saw it, they shouted and fell on their faces.” This is a huge - and surely fear-inducing - day.
And yet… immediately after this, two of Aaron’s sons make an incense offering to the Lord that He did not require and “fire went out from the LORD and devoured them, and they died before the LORD.” (v 2) God just burned them up?!? For making an offering? What just happened here?!?
God tells us in verse 3: “By those who come near Me I must be regarded as holy.” God is sinless, pure, righteous and thus must be set apart from us sinful, willful, prideful people. As we pray weekly, we cannot presume to come to Him trusting in our own righteousness, doing what we think will make Him happy or doing what we feel are good things. It is only by God’s grace through Jesus that He has “forgiven the iniquity” of His people, “covered all their sin” and taken away His wrath (Ps. 85.2-3).
My view of God can sometimes be so familiar as to lack a good dose of healthy fear. If I’m honest, this is probably because I lead a life of privilege and relative material ease: I don’t feel the need for God’s consuming fire to devour unrighteousness or injustice on a daily basis. And it’s also because I find digging deeply into God’s holiness to be unsettling - the Bible is full of some scary stuff, today’s reading being a case in point. And, since I’m putting it all out here, it’s probably also because I do not properly assess the severity of my sins...I don’t do anything “that bad” too often, right? Oh Lord, have mercy.
Yet we do serve a holy God. Yes, He is merciful and yes, He does scatter the seed of His word widely, inviting all to come to Him, but He is also an all-consuming fire. May we all know Him as He truly is in order to recognize our desperate need for His mercy and grace.
I am wife to Brian and mother to Ayelet, Oliver and Zayne. I am thrilled it is finally warm enough to ride my motorcycle again, and cannot wait for all the daffodils to start blooming.