“Then Moses said to Aaron, ‘This is what the Lord has said: “Among those who are near me I will be sanctified, and before all the people I will be glorified.”‘ And Aaron held his peace” (Leviticus 10:3).
WHEN NADAB AND ABIHU DISRESPECTED GOD BY FLOUTING HIS INSTRUCTIONS FOR THE TABERNACLE WORSHIP, THEY PAID FOR IT WITH THEIR LIVES. These men having offered “unauthorized fire before the Lord, which He had not commanded them . . . fire came out from before the Lord and consumed them” (Leviticus 10:1,2). And in the aftermath, God clearly stated the point He wanted the people to take from the event: “Among those who are near me I will be sanctified, and before all the people I will be glorified” (v.3). What does this statement mean, especially the part where God says, “I will be sanctified”? Two interpretations are possible, and both of them involve truths that are clearly taught in the Scriptures:
(1) The NIV words it this way: “Among those who approach me I will show myself holy.” If this is how the Hebrew is to be taken, it means that those who come near God (the priests) will be vessels through whom He will exhibit His holiness. The NLT translates it, “I will display My holiness through those who come near Me.”
(2) But the NKJV renders it: “By those who come near Me I must be regarded as holy.” This means, as the CEV tersely puts it, “I demand respect from my priests.” Today, every Christian is a priest (Revelation 1:6). To come near God is a serious thing. Disrespect and disobedience will not be tolerated in our approach to Him.
As we’ve said, both of these lines of thought are true. Either way, the main point is that God is holy. He must be treated as holy — with deep respect for His commandments — and He will also display His holiness in His dealings with those who come near — even if that means punishing those who play fast and loose with His instructions and “worship” Him presumptuously.
When it comes to God’s plan for our salvation, only He has the right to decide the terms of our forgiveness. In the matter of obeying the gospel, as in all else, it is He who writes the rules and not we. So we need to dispense with the popular notion that we can “love” God with a “positive” (and wholly subjective) theology that pays little attention to the requirements of His holiness.
“Saying yes to God means saying no to things that offend his holiness” (A. Morgan Derham).