Leviticus 10:1-7 - Strange Fire
God takes worship seriously. Do you?
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Read Leviticus 10:1-7
Aaron’s sons Nadab and Abihu took their censers, put fire in them and added incense; and they offered unauthorized fire before the Lord, contrary to his command. 2 So fire came out from the presence of the Lord and consumed them, and they died before the Lord. 3 Moses then said to Aaron, “This is what the Lord spoke of when he said:
“ ‘Among those who approach me
I will be proved holy;
in the sight of all the people
I will be honored.’ ”
Aaron remained silent.
4 Moses summoned Mishael and Elzaphan, sons of Aaron’s uncle Uzziel, and said to them, “Come here; carry your cousins outside the camp, away from the front of the sanctuary.” 5 So they came and carried them, still in their tunics, outside the camp, as Moses ordered.
6 Then Moses said to Aaron and his sons Eleazar and Ithamar, “Do not let your hair become unkempt and do not tear your clothes, or you will die and the Lord will be angry with the whole community. But your relatives, all the Israelites, may mourn for those the Lord has destroyed by fire. 7 Do not leave the entrance to the tent of meeting or you will die, because the Lord’s anointing oil is on you.” So they did as Moses said.
Listen to passage & devotional:
Heidelberg Catechism Q&A 96
Q. What is God’s will for us
in the second commandment?
A. That we in no way make
any image of God
nor worship him in any other way
than he has commanded
in his Word.
Just as God gives the Law to the people in the book of Leviticus, He also gives them directions on worship practices. He informs the priests as to what they are to wear. He outlines various festivals that the people are to celebrate. He tells them to make burnt, grain, fellowship, sin, and guilt offerings.
Not just anyone could make these offerings. Only the priests were to make these offerings on behalf of the people, and they are to be done in a very specific way - the way God had explicitly commanded.
Aaron (Moses’ brother) and his sons were ordained as priests for the people of Israel. They had begun to lead the people of Israel in worship. Unfortunately, rather quickly after being ordained as priests, Aaron’s sons Nadab and Abihu make a critical error: they offered unauthorized fire before the LORD - meaning they had taken their coals from a different source than what God had commanded.
As one commentator put it, Nadab and Abihu did not do something God had prohibited, they were punished because they had did not do exactly what God had commanded.
God burned up Nadab and Abihu for offering unauthorized fire before him. At first glance, this seems like an incredibly harsh punishment. Nadab and Abihu were worshiping God after all, so why does it matter if they used fire incorrectly?
It was not that they used it incorrectly, it is that they went against the command of the Lord. They were worshipping God in a way different from how He had commanded in His Word.
The Lord had given the people of Israel explicit instructions on worship practices. He had set the priests over them to lead them in worship. When God gave these commands to the people of Israel, He did so to shape them into His people. He had chosen them, and set them apart. As such, they were to live differently from those around them.
They were to worship the Lord alone, and they were to worship Him exactly as He had instructed them. Nadab and Abihu were careless as worship leaders, offering unauthorized fire before the LORD, contrary to His command. As such, they were leading the people falsely in worship; they were leading people to worship God in a way that was contrary to His commands.
Worship is about God. We worship God because He is holy, just, merciful, and so much more. When we worship the Lord, our worship practices must be based on His command, on how God wants to be worshiped. There is a general pattern that we follow to ensure we are worshiping God based on what we read in scripture: Approach, Word, Response.
The Approach to God is the first part of the worship service where we come before the Lord with singing, prayer, and scripture reading. We lift the name of the Lord, as we come before our holy God.
The Word is where we hear from God’s Word, the Bible. Not only is scripture read, but a sermon is given. This is the central part of our worship service because God is central to our lives. We want to hear from God, and be shaped by Him. The Lord’s Supper and baptism are a part of the Word portion of worship.
We end with the Response. We have heard from God, and now we are responding to the Lord as we sing a doxology and leave the worship service to go serve the Lord faithfully.
As the people of God, we do not add things to our worship hoping to please God, nor do we take things away to save on time. We worship God as He wants to be worshiped.
ACKNOWLEDGE WHO GOD IS: Our Father, who is worthy of praise;
ALIGN YOUR LIFE WITH GOD'S WILL: May I worship you as you want to be worshiped, not doing what is pleasing in my sight, but is pleasing to yours;
ASK GOD FOR WHAT YOU NEED:
Read the New Testament in a year, a chapter a day - 2 Corinthians 5