Partial obedience isn't obedience

Partial Obedience Isn’t Obedience.

Obedience in part is not obedience at all. May God help us to recognize the rebellion in our heart so we can do His will.

Back in the book of Leviticus today and in Leviticus 9, the priestly ministry is inaugurated. Aaron offered a sin offering and a burnt offering for himself before he did it for the people. His sins needed to be atoned for in the sin offering before he could offer a burnt offering and before he could offer the sacrifices of the people.

This makes me think today of the importance of leaders being right with God. When leaders fall, it greatly hurts the people of God.

Expectations of Leaders.

James 3:1 reminds us that there is more expected of those who lead.

“My brothers and sisters, not many of you should become teachers, because we know that we teachers will be judged more strictly.”

Leaders need to have their house in order and direct the affairs of their household according to God’s word. In another words, no hypocrisy, no hidden sins.

Leviticus 10 reveals the consequences of servants in the house of God who grow too casual in their work for the LORD.

Obedience is Doing God’s Work His Way.

Partial obedience isn’t obedience. Aaron’s sons, Nadab and Abihu, forgot their place and thought that they could set the standard for how they served God and serve God their way.

Leviticus 10:1-4

“Aaron’s sons Nadab and Abihu each took his own firepan, put fire in it, placed incense on it, and presented unauthorized fire before the Lord, which he had not commanded them to do. 2 Then fire came from the Lord and consumed them, and they died before the Lord. 3 Moses said to Aaron, ‘This is what the Lord has spoken: I will demonstrate my holiness to those who are near me, and I will reveal my glory before all the people.’ And Aaron remained silent.”

It’s easy when you work for the church to forget that you are really working for God. You are accountable to God for how you serve. Don’t think of serving at the church as just a job, but an awesome privilege.

Obedience of God Over Man.

Sometimes drama in the church caused by people’s sin—jealousy and opinions and offenses—can distract you from what matters most—God’s glory. It is worth the fight to be right before God before you serve Him and His people.

Resist the enemy and he will flee from us.

Simply, don’t forget your place. It is an honor to serve God—on staff or as a volunteer. And when we die to self and our ways and seek to humbly serve, it is beautiful.

But when we don’t . . . the example of Nadab and Abihu speaks the same truth into our culture. From the Easy English Bible Commentary:

“Nadab and Abihu were the oldest of Aaron’s 4 sons. Their names are in 1 Chronicles 6:3. A *censer was a flat pan that carried fire. What they did was not legal. It was wrong, for several possible reasons.

  • They should have put fire into the censers from the altar, Leviticus 16:12. But perhaps they did not take their fire from the altar.
  • Perhaps they tried to enter the most holy place. Only the chief priest could do this. He could only do it once a year on the Day of Atonement, Leviticus chapter 16.
  • Perhaps they decided to do this in order to oppose Moses and Aaron. Perhaps Nadab and Abihu thought that they themselves should be the chief priests.
  • Perhaps Nadab and Abihu had drunk too much wine. So the LORD gave Aaron another rule in verse 9.

We can perhaps understand better the reasons for their deaths because some other people died in a similar manner (Numbers chapter 16). Those people decided, on purpose, to oppose the LORD (Numbers 16:11). Moses warned them severely about their actions. But they still decided to approach the meeting tent, with fire in their censers that God would not accept. Fire came from the LORD and it killed 250 men (Numbers 16:35).

Partial Obedience is Dangerous.

It is very dangerous to oppose God’s work on purpose. Moses had carefully warned Nadab and Abihu that they must obey God completely (Leviticus 8:35). But for some reason, they chose to do something that God did not permit. What they did opposed God’s work at the *meeting tent. That is why their punishment was so severe.”

In the www.gotquestioins.org commentary, it says

“Those who served as priests before the Lord were required to serve Him honorably. If they did not, the consequence was death. In the case of Aaron’s sons, they dishonored the Lord by disobeying His command to only use fire from the brazen altar in the tabernacle (see Leviticus 16:12). The “unauthorized fire” they offered was taken from another source.”

Recognize the Rebellion in Partial Obedience.

Aaron might have seen some of these tendencies in his boys, I am not sure. I have seen this tendency in some of my kids.

One of the things I have worked on with one of my children in particular is the very thing we see in this passage. I ask the child to not do something and he does it anyway. Or I ask him to do it a certain way and he does it his way.

This is rebellion. There is a prideful presumption when we think we can go about doing God’s work our way. And when a child presumes to do things his way, he or she is not under authority.

We need to teach our children to be under authority so they will be blessed. Today we see an anti-parent movement. An anti-establishment and anti-authority. This can happen when there is an abuse of power, but God has authority in place for our protection.

But it is striking to me that these boys should have known better. Their Dad was a priest. But sometimes the PK’s grow too familiar with serving ini the house of God.

Partial Obedience is Nothing New.

Partial obedience isn’t obedience, but Nadab and Abihu were not the only sons of a priest to dishonor God and do things their way.

Hophni and were the two sons of Eli who in the first book of Samuel describes them as the officiating priests at the sanctuary of Shiloh at the time of Hannah. In the biblical narrative, Hophni and Phinehas are criticized for engaging in illicit behavior, such as appropriating the best portion of sacrifices for themselves, and having sexual relations with the sanctuary’s serving women.

Learning by Example is Easier Than Learning By Disobedience.

These judgments serve as examples to those who are wise enough to receive it. We need to humble ourselves and watch ourselves. Be accountable – if we are serving in the church. I would also say that this standard is for everyone. We now have the resident Holy Spirit within us. We are all temples where God dwells within. We need to deal with sin radically or we will suffer consequences. God is still holy.

2 Timothy 3:1-5 (NIV)

“3 But mark this: There will be terrible times in the last days. 2 People will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boastful, proud, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, 3 without love, unforgiving, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not lovers of the good, 4 treacherous, rash, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God— 5 having a form of godliness but denying its power. Have nothing to do with such people.”

Being a Leader is an Awesome Privilege and Duty.

There were times as I served on staff at church that I thought my children, when they were little, would become too familiar with the church setting that they would forget it was not a place they could run wild. There were expectations in the house of God.

Now our expectations don’t compare with the expectations we see here in Leviticus.

Scripture of the Day: Leviticus 11:44-45

“44 For I am the Lord your God. You must consecrate yourselves and be holy, because I am holy. So do not defile yourselves with any of these small animals that scurry along the ground. 45 For I, the Lord, am the one who brought you up from the land of Egypt, that I might be your God. Therefore, you must be holy because I am holy.”

God’s requirements have not changed.

He fulfilled the Law on our behalf but He still expects His people to be Holy. Leviticus 10:10-11 is a reminder to us:

10 You must distinguish between the holy and the common, and the clean and the unclean, 11 and teach the Israelites all the statutes that the Lord has given to them through Moses.”

How about us? Is there anything in our life that is unholy? Do we wink at sin or compromise?

Titus 1:7-14 English Standard Version (ESV)

7 For an overseer,[a] as God’s steward, must be above reproach. He must not be arrogant or quick-tempered or a drunkard or violent or greedy for gain, 8 but hospitable, a lover of good, self-controlled, upright, holy, and disciplined. 9 He must hold firm to the trustworthy word as taught, so that he may be able to give instruction in sound[b] doctrine and also to rebuke those who contradict it.

10 For there are many who are insubordinate, empty talkers and deceivers, especially those of the circumcision party.[c] 11 They must be silenced, since they are upsetting whole families by teaching for shameful gain what they ought not to teach. 12 One of the Cretans,[d] a prophet of their own, said, “Cretans are always liars, evil beasts, lazy gluttons.”[e] 13 This testimony is true. Therefore rebuke them sharply, that they may be sound in the faith, 14 not devoting themselves to Jewish myths and the commands of people who turn away from the truth.


Be holy as I am Holy. 1 Peter 1:15-16 (NIV) “But just as he who called you is holy, so be holy in all you do; 16 for it is written: “Be holy, because I am holy.”

Obedience in part is not obedience at all. May God help us to recognize the rebellion in our heart so we can do His will.

7-Fold One-Year Bible Reading Plan

Day #176: Leviticus 9-12

Scripture of the Day: Leviticus 11:44-45

Listen: https://www.biblegateway.com/audio/mclean/niv/Lev.9

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