The book of Leviticus can be kind of a tedious read for those who are looking for cute Bible stories. Not only is there a whole lot of blood and gore in the sacrificial laws, but those laws get repeated over and over again. First, the regulations for each type of sacrifice are laid down by God in excruciating detail (Lev. 1-5). Then, the ordination ceremony for Aaron and his sons is given, using many of the exact same types of sacrifices that were just explained (Lev. 6:8-7:38). Now they are explained again. Then comes the actual performing of the ordination, and each one of the commanded rites is once again described as each part is completed in absolutely precise obedience to what has been commanded (Lev. 8-9). Why is there so much repetition of the same commands over and over again? Is this some kind of ancient and outdated writing style, or is there a real reason for all of this? Why does God use up so much space in His precious Word repeating things in such detail? Why not rather write the command in detail, but then simply summarize the obedience to that command by saying, "and they did it"?
The fact is that God has a very important reason for having all of this repeated over and over. He wants us to know that He expects total, complete, and precise obedience on our part to all of His commands. Nowhere can this be seen more clearly than at the intersection of Leviticus chapters 9 and 10.
Leviticus chapter 9 ends the long series of repeated commands as Moses and Aaron walk through all that God has told them to do in the consecration of Aaron and his sons. There is not one movement or ounce of blood that is out of place in this ceremony, and at the conclusion of it, God appears in glory before the people of Israel and a column of fire comes out from before Yahweh and consumes all the burnt offerings and pieces of fat on the altar. This is the kind of thing that every human being longs to experience: nearness to the visible glory of Almighty God.
Then the next chapter immediately begins with two of Aaron's sons, Nadab and Abihu, doing something that was not commanded. They each grab their censer, put fire and incense in it, and offer unauthorized fire before the Lord "which He had not commanded them" (Leviticus 10:1).
Now, if we pause right there to examine the scene, we will find these two boys doing something that doesn't seem all that bad to us. They are not - like their father before them - making some kind of idol-calf out of gold. They did not turn and sacrifice a human baby on the altar or anything. No, what they did is something that many of us might have wanted to do. They are in the midst of an awesome display of the majesty of God! Joy, excitement, and adrenaline are all running high here. They just want to offer some additional display of their devotion to this great God. So they get their censers ready...
BOOM!! "And fire came out from before the LORD and consumed them, and they died before the LORD" (Leviticus 10:2). If we imagine the good intentions of the boys' hearts, we are shocked...how could God do this to these young men?
Thus the reason for the tedious repetition of God's commands. God doesn't want our creative interpretation of what He has told us to do. He demands our utter and precise obedience. This lesson is stressed over and over in the Bible. King Saul learned this lesson the hard way (1 Samuel 15). Uzzah learned this lesson the hard way (2 Samuel 6). King Uzziah learned this lesson the hard way (2 Chronicles 26).
In each of these and many other cases in the Scriptures, those who are affected don't like God's wrath very much when it is directed toward them. But they learn a valuable lesson: we do not worship and serve One who is like man. The One True God of the Bible is the real deal. He is perfect and awesome and holy and absolutely powerful and He expects an absolute on-your-face kind of obedience to all of His commands. When we reinterpret what He has demanded in order to suit us, we are placing our own will above His, and He will not tolerate such insubordination. May we learn to have the kind of heart and spirit that longs to hear and obey God's commands in absolute precision that we may walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to Him (Colossians 1:9-10).