April 10, 2011
The Strange Fire of
Nadab and Abihu
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Now Nadab and Abihu, the sons of Aaron, took their respective firepans, and after putting fire in them, placed incense on it and offered strange fire before the LORD, which He had not commanded them.
In Leviticus 10, we see the sad story of Nadab and Abihu. Aaron, the brother of Moses, had four sons: Nadab, Abihu, Ithamar and Eleazar (Exodus 6:23). God appointed Aaron and his four sons to the special priestly work of the sanctuary and the altar (Numbers 18:1-7). Because of the amount of work they were to perform as priests, God gave them the tribe of Levi, the father of Aaron, as a gift to Aaron and his sons, dedicated to the LORD, to perform the service for the tent of meeting (Numbers 18:6). The LORD had already laid a special blessing upon Aaron by summoning him and Nadab and Abihu, along with seventy elders, to see the God of Israel with a pavement of sapphire under His feet, as clear as the sky itself (Exodus 24:10).
The Strange Fire of Disobedience. In Leviticus 10:1, we see that Nadab and Abihu offered strange (“זָרָה”) fire to Yahweh. Notice particularly that Yahweh had not commanded that kind of fire introduced by Nadab and Abihu. Yahweh was always very precise about the service in the tabernacle and gave clear ordinances. In this case, the disobedience of Nadab and Abihu had immediate consequence.
The Fire from Yahweh. Immediately upon Nadab and Abihu offering strange fire, fire came out from the presence of the LORD and consumed them. Compare the fire that came out from the LORD in Leviticus 9:24, to consume the burnt offering and the portions on the altar offered at the end of the previous chapter (Leviticus 9:23-24).
The Silence. Aaron witnessed the fire from Yahweh consume two of his sons. Moses explained they died because they had failed to treat Yahweh as holy, and to honor Yahweh before all the people (Leviticus 10:3). You then read these words: “So Aaron, therefore, kept silent.” I cannot fully understand the heartache of watching your sons die before your eyes. And then God commanded silence from the father–no mourning, wailing, or weeping from him.
The Holiness of God. Aaron’s two remaining sons, Ithamar and Eleazar, had apparently witnessed the death of their two brothers, Nadab and Abihu. Now, the dead bodies had been carried away, and Moses said to Aaron and his sons, “‘Do not uncover your heads nor tear your clothes, so that you will not die and that He will not become wrathful against all the congregation. But your kinsmen, the whole house of Israel, shall bewail the burning which the LORD has brought about. You shall not even go out from the doorway of the tent of meeting, or you will die; for the LORD’S anointing oil is upon you.’ So they did according to the word of Moses.” (Leviticus 10:6-7). The father and sons had been anointed with oil and set apart for holy service to Yahweh. Even though Nadab and Abihu died for their disobedience, Moses warned the family not to wail, because Yahweh had acted perfectly and properly in making an example of these disobedient priests. I recall the words of the Lord Jesus: “If anyone comes to Me, and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be My disciple” (Luke 14:26).
So we learn that more about the holiness of God today.
● The holiness of God means that we honor God, and keep His commands, above everything else, and above everyone else, including ourselves.
● The love of God means that Jesus has died to remove our sinful unholiness from our lives. We have died to sin, and now live to righteousness, by faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, Yahweh.
● We disrespect God when we love anyone more than we love Him. We violate His holiness when we get angry over the things that God does in our lives, and when we know He has acted.
Application for Today
When I think about Jesus today, I want to remember His holiness. He lived and was tempted in all the ways I am, yet He was sinless in every respect, and for all times. Because God loves me, Jesus became sin for me, and died that I might gain by grace the holiness of God. Today, I want to live a holy life, redeemed once and for all by the blood of Jesus Christ. Will you see the holiness of God in you and around you today?