“Aaron’s sons Nadab and Abihu put coals of fire in their incense burners and sprinkled incense over it. In this way, they disobeyed the LORD by burning before him a different kind of fire than he had commanded.” – Leviticus 10:1 NLT
It didn’t take long. It seems that immediately after the whole sacrificial system got started, it got messed up by two of the very people who were responsible for it – Nadab and Abihu – the two sons of Aaron. These two guys had been consecrated by Moses as priests to serve with their father in the Tabernacle. But it seems that they were unqualified for their role. They may have been set apart in terms of their role, but they were far from set apart in their hearts. Because we are told they offered “strange fire” on the altar. That word “strange” means foreign of loathsome. They burned something they were not supposed to burn. They disobeyed the specific commands of God and did things their own way. Some believe they may have even been drunk, because a prohibition against drinking immediately follows their punishment (Leviticus 10:9). But irregardless of whether they were drunk or sober, they were disobedient, and the result was their deaths. Moses tells us that fire came out from the presence of God Himself and consumed them. On other words, God Himself killed them. They “died before the Lord” (Leviticus 10:2).
God reminds Moses and all the people, “By those who come near Me I will be treated as holy, And before all the people I will be honored” (Leviticus 10:3 NASB). The crime of these two men was so serious that Aaron and his family were not allowed to go through the normal mourning process. The holiness of God was to trump their heartache and loss. What Nadab and Abihu had done was an affront to the Holy God of Israel. It reminds me of what happened to Ananias and his wife Sapphira in Acts 5. They are the ones who gave money to the church from land they had sold, but lied about how much they had made off of the sale. Their deception resulted in their deaths. And we’re told, “By this time the whole church and, in fact, everyone who heard of these things had a healthy respect for God. They knew God was not to be trifled with” (Acts 5:11 MSG).
God is holy. He is to be honored and respected. He is not to be trifled with. Yet we so often take Him lightly. We do not show Him the honor and respect He deserves. We come before Him flippantly and casually. In many ways we offer our own brand of “strange fire.” We do things our way and on our own terms. And while our actions may not result in physical death, it does often lead to dead-like faith, lacking in power and vitality. God says,”I will be treated as holy.” He demands it. He expects it. Just going through the motions of sacrifice was not enough for Nadab and Abihu. They thought they could do the sacrifice their way and get away with it. They thought they could ignore God’s commands and live to talk about it. But they were wrong. I really believe that these two guys were drunk on the job. Listen to what God tells Aaron: “You and your descendants must never drink wine or any other alcoholic drink before going into the Tabernacle. You are to distinguish between what is holy and what is ordinary, what is ceremonially unclean and what is clean” (Leviticus 10:10-11 NLT). They were impaired by alcohol. They were unable to discern clean from unclean, holy from unholy. They offered to God a sacrifice that was unholy and unclean. They offended a holy God by their ineptitude and died because of it. How often do we let our senses become dulled by the things of this world. We get “drunk” on the ways of the world and then try to offer God sacrifices that are unholy and contaminated by our constant time spent in the world. We are told to offer our bodies as living sacrifices to God, but how often are we unclean because we have allowed ourselves to be made that way by our constant contact with the world. We come before God and attempt to serve Him without even confessing our sins. Paul says, “Therefore I exhort you, brothers and sisters, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a sacrifice – alive, holy, and pleasing to God” (Romans 12:1 NET). We are to be holy and pleasing to God. That requires confession and cleansing. To not do so is to offer “strange fire” before God. It is to take God lightly and offer Him acts of service that are unclean and unholy. God demands holiness. He is serious about it. Are we?
Father, forgive me for the many times I take my times with you for granted and offer you “strange fire.” You are a holy God who demands holy sacrifice from Your people. Help me to take that seriously. Amen
Grow Pastor & Minister to Men