The Bible tells us the Old Testament teaches us how God dealt with His people before Christ. It teaches us how through patience and with the comfort of the scriptures we might have hope of eternity with God. It also warns, or admonishes, us to examine the Old Testament examples to see how they pleased or displeased God and why.
"For whatsoever things were written aforetime were written for our learning, that we through patience and comfort of the scriptures might have hope." (Romans 15:4 KJV)
"Now all these things happened unto them for examples: and they are written for our admonition, upon whom the ends of the world are come." (1 Corinthians 10:11 KJV)
The passage we are considering today comes from the Old Testament book of Leviticus, Leviticus 9:22-10:7. Leviticus is mostly a guidebook for the priests, who could only come from the tribe of Levi, who served under the Law of Moses. It mostly outlines priestly rituals. It covers the who, what, where, when and why of the priest's duties and service to God.
Leviticus contains the story of two of Aaron's sons, Nadab and Abihu. Aaron, Moses' brother, was God's chosen High Priest. His sons and other priests served under Aaron. The story of Nadab and Abihu provides a valuable lesson for us as Christians.
Eight days after Aaron and his sons had been consecrated by God as priests a sacrifice was prepared to show the glory of God. Aaron blessed the people and fire came out from the Lord and consumed the fat on the alter. The glory of the Lord was so powerful the people shouted and fell on their faces when they saw it.
The next verse, Leviticus 10:1, says that Nadab and Abihu offered strange fire before the Lord that He commanded them not. The next verse, Leviticus 10:2 says that fire went out from the Lord and devoured them and they died before the Lord.
People have offered a number of reasons as to why they were destroyed. Leviticus 10:1-2 says exactly why they lost their lives - they did something other than what God commanded.
"And Nadab and Abihu, the sons of Aaron, took either of them his censer, and put fire therein, and put incense thereon, and offered strange fire before the LORD, which he commanded them not.
And there went out fire from the LORD, and devoured them, and they died before the LORD." (Leviticus 10:1-2 KJV)
In Leviticus 10:3 Moses says those who approach God must glorify Him. He must be treated as special, set apart, respected. The actions of Nadab and Abihu did not respect or honor God. If they had respected God they would have used the fire He commanded.
Since the example of Nadab and Abihu's use of uncommanded fire serves as a warning, or admonition (1 Corinthians 10:11), what warnings can we take from the account?
When we worship God we must do only what He has commanded. We cannot do what feels right to us. If we do, we are saying we don't consider God holy enough to respect His wishes. If we do not respect Him enough to do what He says we cannot glorify or set Him apart. (Leviticus 10:3 KJV)
When we ignore the commands of God we set ourselves up to worship as we see fit without regard for God. When we worship as we see fit rather that what God commands, or authorizes, our worship becomes vain and spiritually deadly.
"But in vain they do worship me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men." (Matthew 15:9 KJV)
"Howbeit in vain do they worship me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men." (Mark 7:7 KJV)
Which all are to perish with the using;) after the commandments and doctrines of men?" (Colossians 2:22 KJV)
Not giving heed to Jewish fables, and commandments of men, that turn from the truth." (Titus 1:14 KJV)
The story of Nadab and Abihu warns us to do exactly what God commands in our worship. No more, no less. Every thing we do in worship should be directly commanded in God's word. If a practice is not anchored in Scripture it is "strange fire" and not authorized by God. If a practice is commanded by God and we add to it, or take away from it, it displeases God.
"Ye shall not add unto the word which I command you, neither shall ye diminish ought from it, that ye may keep the commandments of the LORD your God which I command you." (Deuteronomy 4:2 KJV)
"What thing soever I command you, observe to do it: thou shalt not add thereto, nor diminish from it. (Deuteronomy 12:32 KJV)
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