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Passage of the Week – November 18, 2012

November 18, 2012

Now Nadab and Abihu, the sons of Aaron, 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. And fire came out from before the Lord and consumed them, and they died before the Lord. Then Moses said to Aaron, “This is what the Lord has said: ‘Among those who are near me I will be sanctified, and before all the people I will be glorified. ’” And Aaron held his peace. – Leviticus 10:1-3 ESV

I would be willing to bet that that there are not many people out there who have ever heard a sermon preached on this verse (granted, I have but I’m funny that way). In some ways it can be understandable why someone would wish to avoid this passage. Here we have the unvarnished wrath of God against people. This is a far cry from the depiction of God as a loving “grandpa-like” figure which has been popular over the years. Let’s take a minute and look through this passage.

The sons of Aaron were designated to be the priests of God and function as intermediaries between the people of Israel and God. It was they who were charged with offering sacrifices and being the representatives of the nation to the Most High God. Not a position to be taken lightly especially given the miracles and blatant examples of the power of God they had witnessed in Egypt and in the wilderness. So Aaron’s sons offered “unauthorized fire” to God (some translations use the word “strange” but I do not find this to be as accurate). On some level we have to wonder what they were thinking. Nowhere had God commanded them to do this and He had not left anything open in how He was to be approached. We could spend all day guessing why they wanted to do this but the bottom line is they rejected how God commanded them to worship and instead developed their own way.

Is this not how we are? Don’t we often want our way rather than His? As I look at my own life I can count many times when I would have preferred to not do things His way and when I didn’t I paid a price. By our own nature we don’t want to do things His way. We want to be in charge. We want to command our own destinies. However, God’s Word has the exact opposite to say on the subject. He is God and we are not.

Aaron’s sons dared to challenge a Holy God and defy His commands. God’s judgement and sentence was swift. Aaron’s sons were dead and before he can even say anything Moses is reminding him that God has every right to tell His people how He is to be worshipped. What objection could he have to that? He was every bit the witness to God’s power and deliverance that his sons were and more. He did the same thing any one of us would do, he kept silent.

Before we buy into experimental and innovative worship let us take a moment to remember this overlooked account in Leviticus. When you worship God be careful you are not emulating the world. Also be careful that you are not choosing a worship “style” just because it is what you like. We should always be asking ourselves two questions: 1) “Is this something God has commanded us to do and not forbidden?” 2) “Will God get the glory for this instead of me?” A negative answer to either of these should give us pause. I am not aware of God recently burning people up who worship him inappropriately (though sometimes I wish He would) but know that is only because His is patient and merciful. Let us also be grateful that our priest is a perfect priest and is sitting at the right hand of God after having redeemed His people.

God bless.

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3 Comments leave one →
  1. January 15, 2013 1:02 pm

    I have heard a handful of sermons on this passage because it is often used in our brotherhood to demonstrate why we should not use mechanical instruments in worship, since God does not ask for them in Christian worship (they are used in Jewish worship in the OT, but we believe the New Testament is our guide for how to live and worship God in the Christian era). I do not feel confident enough based on the lack of a command to use instruments in Christian worship to say someone is sinning by using them, but this story certainly makes me believe we should be careful about doing anything in the worship of God that He has not asked for and that is not part of our covenant (just like Sabbath, sacrfices, festivals, circumcision, etc is not part of our covenant, but shadows pointing to Christ). Not trying to condemn you if your church uses instruments in worship, but wanted to give you something to think about.

  2. Tamara permalink
    June 27, 2013 11:57 pm

    Which version of the bible did you find “unauthorized fire”. I prefer King James and it says strange fire, now consider Strong’s translation(not sure that is the best) but my android loves it.
    1.to be a stranger
    2.foreigner, enemy
    3.loathsome
    4. prostitute,harlot

    def: to turn aside, to be a foreigner, strange, profane’ to commit adultery

    Thank God for Jesus now we can come boldly to the throne of grace to receive mercy and favor in time of need.

    • Knight permalink*
      June 28, 2013 5:33 am

      The translation was ESV. Either “strange” or “unauthorized.” The point is the same.

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