Let us turn to Aaron’s Family next. He had four sons: Nadab, Abihu, Eleazer and Ithamar. In Leviticus, Chapters 8 and 9 we have a most interesting account, and a most solemn one, of the consecration of Aaron and his four sons. They were brought into the nearest place to God of any in Israel; no other young men possessed the privileges that were given of them.
Not only on their Father’s side were they sons of the High Priest, but on their mother’s side they were nephews of the Prince of Judah, the kingly tribe.
The ninth chapter of Leviticus ends with the glorious culmination of the whole eight days of consecration ceremonies “And there came a fire out from before the Lord, and consumed upon the altar the burnt offering and the fat; which when all the people saw, they shouted, and fell on their faces.”
How fearfully sad then to find in the very first verses of the next chapter that Ndab and Abihu venture to offer to the Lord “strange fire”. And what was the result? “Fire went out from the Lord and devoured them, and they died before the Lord.” Their act may have been due to intoxication, judging from the ninth verse of the tenth chapter; but of this we cannot be sure. What a speedy and awful judgment on those in the place of greatest privilege, who venture to approach God in their own way! How terrible to see the eldest son, the one in line for the wondrous office of High Priest, cut off in a moment! But the greater the privilege the greater the responsibility.
“And Aaron held his peace.” A father’s heart goes out to Aaron in keenest sympathy, realizing a little of the agony of that moment. And while he opened not his mouth, did not his mind’s eye turn back about one year only, and did he not see himself making the golden calf, and even making the people naked in their horrible feasting before it? What an example to set before his sons! Was it any wonder that they should be careless as to the glory of God when they had seen their own father transgress so terribly! It does not lighten the stroke to know that I am in part, or altogether, responsible for my children’s sin and punishment. Like Aaron we can but bow in broken-hearted submission, and “hold our peace.”
But there is comfort as well as warning in Aaron’s family. How beautiful to see Eleazer his son step into his father’s place at his death! And as we follow Eleazer’s pathway from that time on through the Book of Joshua, and see his son Phinehas growing up to walk in the steps of his Father and Grandfather, it cheers and comforts the heart. (See Joshua 22.) And indeed he honor of the priesthood, through these two sons, Eleazer and Ithamar, continued as long as the priesthood “after the order of Aaron” lasted. Now, another Great High Priest, after the order of Melchisedec, and not after the order of Aaron, has arisen; and in Him there is no failure.
It was Grace, pure Grace that gave to Aaron this high honor, and this joy and blessing in his sons and grandson, even in spite of his grievous sin and failure. Thanks be to God, we have the same God, and the same Grace, on which we may count, in spite of all our failure!