‘Sanctified’ means recognized as holy, set apart from the commonplace; treating spiritual situations with all reverence. Far above all other considerations, this must be our spirit when we approach God. Today’s Leviticus reading shows us the dramatic and disastrous result of failing to do this.

Think of the atmosphere at the tabernacle in the manifestation of the presence of God when “the glory of the LORD appeared to all the people. And fire came out from before the LORD and consumed the burnt offerings …” (9:23,24). The effect of this should have created reverence and humility. This should have been their feeling in worship from then on, and initially it was! “They shouted and fell on their faces” (verse 24).

Aaron had four sons who were involved in assisting their father. Today’s chapter tells us how tragedy overwhelmed two of them. It seems that their position of importance went to their heads! Nadab and Abihu “each took his censer and put fire in it and laid incense on it and offered unauthorized fire before the LORD which he had not commanded them” (10:1). The result was terrifying for they “died before the LORD” as fire from him “consumed them” (verse 2). Moses then says to Aaron, “Among those who are near me I will be sanctified, and before all the people I will be glorified” (verse 3).

There is a vital lesson here for everyone who seeks to serve God: it applies to followers of Jesus just as much as to Israelites. Examples of failure come to mind. One is the practice of christening babies instead of baptizing them when they grow to understanding – christening is not even hinted at in Scripture. Baptism is expressed as “an appeal to God for a good conscience” (1 Peter 3:21). The eunuch was told by Philip he could be baptised “if you believe with all your heart” (Acts 8:37).

Baptism brings a person into a state of sanctification. When Paul addressed the Ephesian elders (Acts 20:17-38) he said, “now I commend you to God and the word of his grace, which is able to build you up and to give you the inheritance among all those who are sanctified” (verse 32). God’s word builds us up, it constantly reminds believers they are sanctified.

A final point: baptism gives believers responsibility, as we read in 2 Corinthians, to encourage others through the example of Christ in us, “for we are the aroma of Christ to God among those who are being saved … a fragrance from life to life” (2:15,16). Christ, “through us spreads the fragrance of the knowledge of him everywhere” (verse 14). What “fragrance” can we spread today?