As believers we are called to be holy. We sing about it and talk about pursuing it. But when push comes to shove, holiness is serious business and we need to make sure we are ready.
In latter portions of Exodus we read about the preparations being made for the tabernacle and the priestly garments and the laws begin to be spelled out. In early Leviticus the laws continue to give very detailed instructions.
We come to Leviticus 8 and Aaron and his sons are being consecrated as priests. And finally in chapter 9 their priestly ministry begins. By chapter 10 (yes, still on the first day of ministry), two of Aaron’s sons are making up their own rules already and God sends holy fire and strikes them dead in front of everyone.
I’ve read this many times over the course of my life and honestly had always felt that God might have overreacted. It’s really not that big a deal is it?
Actually it is. These people had been given the high honor of the office of priest. They were to mediate between God and man. I’d say that’s a pretty important job! In verse 3 it says, “Then Moses said to Aaron, This is what the Lord meant when He said, I [and My will, not their own] will be acknowledged as hallowed by those who come near Me, and before all the people I will be honored. And Aaron said nothing.” I also loved the footnote in the AMP for this verse too:
Perhaps few believers have ever identified themselves with Nadab and Abihu, and yet few, if any, of us have not done exactly what they did in principle. Their sin, which God took so seriously and which proved fatal to them, was not a mere matter of failing to obey the letter of God’s law for priests. Their inexcusable folly was in trying to please the Lord their way instead of His way. …
They, like ourselves, had acted like the child of a great painter who attempted to work on his father’s priceless canvas instead of on the tablet assigned to him. They, like the child, were banished from the father’s presence. And every believer does well to recognize the importance of being entirely surrendered to “God’s will; nothing more; nothing less; nothing else; at any cost.” And that does not mean first making an unholy alliance in marriage, or in business, or in thought, and then adjusting it to God’s will. Remember Nadab and Abihu, who “offered strange and unholy fire before the Lord.” It does not pay.
The big message here is obedience. We don’t know for sure if these guys got all prideful because here they’re doing the God thing and God’s glory fell and the onlookers were so overwhelmed they “shouted and fell on their faces” (Lev 9:24b). Did they get all heady in that moment and want to add more to the show? Or did they forget what came next? We aren’t told. All we know is they were disobedient and that behavior was not going to be tolerated.
So what does this mean for us? Modern day believers who in 1 Peter 2:9 are described as “a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God”. We need to be obedient to God’s word – whether logos or rhema – obedient. Not concerned with the thoughts of others or anything else that would seek to distract us, but to be wholly devoted to Him.
And that’s not because we think He’s going to zap us, it’s because if we desire to bring Him pleasure, a good way to start is by not doing things that bring displeasure (like disobedience) and by doing things that bring Him pleasure (radical obedience).
God help us. Help us to please You. Help us to be obedient. Help us to understand what You’ve asked us to do! We desire to please You. We want to obey. We trust You and we are honored to accept the role You have for us… chosen, royal priesthood, set apart, holy… belonging to You. Thank You, God.
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