“Nadab and Abihu, the sons of Aaron, each took their firepans and put coals in them. They placed the incense on top and offered strange [unauthorized, foreign, profane] fire before the Lord, that He had not commanded them.” [Leviticus 10:1-2]
The strange story of Nadab and Abihu, from the Old Testament [Leviticus 10:1-10], has mystified believers for thousands of years. The Bible recounts the ignominious demise of these unworthy sons of Aaron. Their drunken disregard [10:9] for God’s holiness [Leviticus 8:9; cp., Exodus 28:36] and their violation of His commandments concerning the ordained forms of worship [Exodus 30:9], along with their undignified and ill-prepared condition were all an insult of the highest order.
Keep in mind the entire worship system, instituted by God, was designed to teach about the majesty and unapproachable holiness of God. Because they presumed to carelessly and negligently offer, in a desecrated and undignified manner, the worship which God Himself had prescribed, it did not end well for them. The instructions, prohibitions and warnings from God had been intensely reinforced in their training. They had no excuse!
As the eldest sons of Aaron, Nadab, and potentially Abihu, were next in succession to inherit the lofty position of High Priest from their father. Their training had been extensive and thorough in anticipation of their current and future roles [Exodus 28:1; Leviticus 8-10].
But alcoholic drink had clouded their judgment [10:9] and they were in no proper condition to be presenting themselves before their God to fulfil their holy duties of worship in the Holy Place’.
Through their contemptuous disregard for God’s holiness, Nadab and Abihu disqualified themselves as priests and worshipers before God. Tragically, they paid with their lives for defiling themselves with intoxicating drink and violating worship protocol.
By soiling their sacred office through their impure actions, they created a blasphemous chain-reaction of offences. Their unclean state and actions caused the fire, by which they made the offering, to be “unauthorized” [strange, foreign, impure, profane] for the prescribed purpose of worship [Leviticus 10:1; cp Numbers 3:4; 26:61]. The profane fire defiled the offering itself, which in turn made the worship profane, thereby polluting the entire Holy Place in the Tabernacle. The offense was, therefore, extremely egregious and so were the consequences.
The folly of Nadab and Abihu serves as a memorable life lesson respecting God’s majesty and exalted dignity. It is imperative for us to show sincere, deferential reverence for God. Anything less than excellent, heartfelt worship, and obedient conformity to His commandments is unworthy and unacceptable to Him. This is what, also, makes us unworthy and unacceptable.
We know well to offer deference and respect demanded through precise protocol when in the presence of “Her Royal Highness, The Queen.” Therefore, it should come as no surprise to us that Almighty and Infinite God, who is Creator of everything, King of Kings and Lord of All, should receive vastly greater reverence corresponding with His high rank, dignity, power and authority.
Truthfully, a personal offence against the Queen is a very serious matter because of her high estate. This is why any offence against her would rightfully come with serious penalties.
But think about this. An offence against infinite God, is an infinite offence! This is why there is no such thing as a small or minor sin. Every sin is infinitely grave with an infinite consequence, and which requires an infinite remedy.
Mercifully, there is a remedy available through an infinite Saviour!
Today, it is not uncommon for people to show up in church with little preparation for the fact they will soon be coming before God to offer worship and make prayers for help and favours. It seems little thought, or time, is directed toward preparing our hearts and minds for worship.
Typically, people can be seen mingling, shaking hands, laughing, joking, talking about everything under the sun until pastor calls the congregation to order. Immediately, the worship begins as though someone flipped a switch. Familiarity does indeed breed disrespect.
“Worshipers” pick up the hymnal, or maybe we lift our hands and sing loudly but robotically to our God. On ‘auto-pilot’ we mouth the familiar words while our minds wander wherever. We sing songs of our love to God with our hearts elsewhere.
Does it ever occur to us that we might be singing lies to God? Does it occur to us that we may be worshiping from habit without our hearts being fully engaged? [John 4:23]
Sometimes we continue our friendly conversations even after the worship has started, thereby distracting worshipers around us. Without self-awareness, requests for help and blessings are made to the One whom we owe everything, but to whom we have devoted little sincere attention. The words that are mouthed may be correct, but the genuine sentiment in the expressions of love and appreciation are absent.
In the pattern of Nadab and Abihu, we dangerously present our own flippant form of worship, completely clueless of our own affront to God’s dignity and exalted position.
Friends, may we please consider carefully how we might appear to God and amend our worship appropriately. The remedy to keep us out of this undesirable rut is to humble ourselves and intentionally render to God the time He deserves.
After all, who gave us the time? It’s His time, not ours!
And He is entitled to as much time as He desires!
May the unmindful actions of Nadab and Abihu, and the strange fire with which they offered worship, teach us that there is a Supreme Creator who reigns far, far above us. As our Creator, He owns us. He has legitimate claim to every aspect of our being.
Like Jesus said, “Give to Caesar what is Caesar’s and to God what is God’s.” [Mark 12:17]