Leviticus 9-10, Luke 6
Why do you call me “Lord, Lord,” and not do what I tell you? – Luke 6:46 ESV
The worship of God is not to be taken lightly. The privilege of coming into His presence should not be treated frivolously or flippantly. In many ways, we have lost any fear for the Lord. We no longer appreciate His power and holiness. We have become so comfortable in His presence, that we can be tempted to treat Him with disdain and disrespect. But just because God has graciously provided us with access into His presence through the death of His Son, does not give us the right to treat Him any less reverently or respectfully. In the story of Nadab and Abihu we get a glimpse into the seriousness of God’s sanctity or sacredness.
What does this passage reveal about God?
It should be abundantly clear from all that we have read thus far in the book of Leviticus that God was very particular about how He was to be worshiped. He did not leave anything up to man’s interpretation or imagination. For man to be able to come into His presence, sin was going to have to be dealt with, and on God’s terms. The sheer number and variety of sacrifices required by God give ample evidence of the magnitude of man’s sin. Even the priests who would offer the sacrifices on behalf of the people had to be purified and consecrated, and their sins had to be atoned for before they could stand before God. The Tabernacle and everything in it had to be cleansed and consecrated. And when things were done as God had commanded, He faithfully and graciously appeared before the people. “…and the glory of the Lord appeared to all the people, and the fire came out from before the Lord and consumed the burnt offering and the pieces of fat on the altar, and when the people saw it, they shouted and fell on their faces” (Leviticus 6:23-24 ESV). When the people obeyed God’s word and followed His will, they experienced God’s presence and pleasure. But when the disobeyed, they experienced God’s displeasure.
What does this passage reveal about man?
For some reason, Nadab and Abihu, sons of Aaron and members of the priesthood who had been going through eight days of consecration for service to God, decided to do things their way. Rather than stick to God’s prescribed plan, they came up with their own, and offered “strange fire” before God. We don’t know exactly what it is that they did, but we do know that it was not according to God’s will. They “offered unauthorized fire before the Lord, which he had not commanded them” (Leviticus 10:1 ESV). And as a result, “fire came out from before the Lord and consumed them, and they died before the Lord” (Leviticus 10:2 ESV). The same fire that had consumed the burnt offering consumed them. The first fire had been one of acceptance, because the people had faithfully done all that God had required of them. The second fire was one of judgment because Nadab and Abihu had chosen to go off script and ad lib. There is some indication that they may have been drunk when they did this, because God later told Aaron, “Drink no wine or strong drink, you or your sons with you, when you go into the tent of meeting, lest you die” (Leviticus 10:9 ESV). These two men had chosen to treat God with disrespect and paid the price. They underestimated the holiness of God. They had attempted to worship Him according to their own terms and suffered the consequences.
When Jesus appeared on the scene, the laws of Moses were still in effect. The people of Israel were still offering sacrifices in the Temple in an attempt to satisfy the holy requirements of God. They were still living under the pressure of trying to atone for their sins through sacrifice and acts of self-righteousness. But many of them had long since lost their respect for and fear of God. They were simply going through the motions. Many of them saw themselves as righteous because of their adherence to the law. There was a prevailing attitude among the Jews that they were righteous simply because they were descendants of Abraham. They were God’s chosen people, therefore they must be in good standing with God. But Jesus came along and rocked their religious world. Jesus healed on the Sabbath, and angered the religious leaders by His apparent disregard for God’s holy day. He ate with tax collectors and sinners, and according to the Pharisees, made Himself ceremonially unclean. He chose twelve men, commoners who would not have been qualified to serve in any of the religious sects of the day. They were little more than uneducated peasants.
Jesus came to teach a new way of life. He came to offer a new way to have a right relationship with God. He came to raise the bar on righteous behavior. He required a new degree of love. No longer would it be acceptable to offer your sacrifices to God while you hated your brother. And no longer could you choose to whom you would express your love. He taught, “Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you” (Luke 6:27-28 ESV). He spoke of a love that was selfless, not self-serving. He taught about behavior that mirrored that of God Himself. “But love your enemies, and do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return, and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High, for he is kind to the ungrateful and the evil. Be merciful, even as your Father is merciful” (Luke 6:35-36 ESV).
Jesus came to change hearts. The sin of Nadab and Abihu emanated from their hearts. They didn’t truly love, respect, fear and honor God. What was inside came out. Jesus said, “no good tree bears bad fruit, nor again does a bad tree bear good fruit,for each tree is known by its own fruit” (Luke 6:43 ESV). Their fruit was readily evident in their behavior and it was judged by God as unacceptable. Their actions were a byproduct of the condition of their hearts. They disrespected God by disobeying His commands. But Jesus said, “Everyone who comes to me and hears my words and does them, I will show you what he is like” (Luke 6:46-47 ESV). He is like a man who built his house on a solid foundation of rock. So that when the storms of life and the floods of misfortune came, his home remained unshaken and firm. Obedience to God brings the blessings of God. Loving submission to the will of God guarantees the power, provision and pleasure of God.
How would I apply what I’ve read to my own life?
I don’t have to obey God to earn His favor or maintain a right standing with Him. That was taken care of by Christ through His death on the cross. My obedience should be motivated by His love and mercy to me. I should love as He has loved me. I should show mercy as He has shown mercy to me. My behavior toward others should be motivated by His behavior toward me. My actions should be out of appreciation for His gracious actions toward me. There is a degree to which I offer up “unauthorized fire” to God in my life every day. I do things my way. I attempt to live the Christian life on my terms, instead of His. I try to worship God according to my standards, rather than His. And yet, He has called me to love like He loved and live like His Son lived. God has a single standard for holiness – His. I don’t get to come up with my own. His standard of acceptance is His own Son’s sacrificial death on the cross. His blood alone satisfies God. My life is to be lived in obedience to God’s will, not to earn favor and gain acceptance, but out of gratitude for all that He has done for me. I am to worship Him out of gratitude, not some sense of duty or in an attempt to earn brownie points with Him. Willing obedience to God is an expression of love for God in recognition of all that He has done for me.
Father, I am so grateful for the gift of Your Son. Thank You that I can come into Your presence, not because I somehow deserve it, but because Jesus Christ made it possible. Forgive me for the times in which I offer your “unauthorized fire” and attempt to worship You on my terms. Keep me focused on the fact that my efforts are never to be an attempt to earn Your favor, but simply to express my love to You. Amen
Grow Pastor & Minister to Men