Day 12: Nadab and Abihu — a strong lesson.
’’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.’’ Lev. 10:1 – 2
Additional reading: Gen. 19: 24; Exo. 24: 1, 9; 30: 9; Num. 11:1; 3: 2 – 4; Lev. 16:12; Rev. 20: 9
What a way to begin a ministry! Just yesterday, I pointed out that the presence of God at the ordination ceremony of Aaron and his sons with the total consummation of the sacrifice as performed by Aaron the high priest and his sons was an indication that God accepted not only the offering, but that it was properly done. So what went wrong here?
This is what the bible says of this event: ’’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 [zur … a primitive root; to turn aside (especially for lodging); hence to be a foreigner, strange, profane; especially (active participle) to commit adultery:- another, another man, come from another place, strange thing…] fire before the LORD, which he commanded them not. And there went out fire from the LORD, and devoured [akal … a primitive root; to eat (literally or figuratively):- at all, burn up, consume, devour…] them, and they died before the LORD.’’
What the bible says is very clear: Nadab and Abuhu, sons of Aaron the high priest took censer one for the other. In each censer, they put incense and offered it before the LORD. If this statement had ended this way, the actions of these young priests would have been justified. All they did was to offer incense before the LORD. At least this was part of worship. But this was not the case. They did the right thing in the wrong way, i.e. they worshipped God they way He had not detailed them to. So, what exactly did they do?
Nadab and Abuhu sons of Aaron the high priest took censer one for the other. In each censer, they put incense and offered strange — profane — fire before the LORD. The word profane means to treat something holy with lack of respect. Strange also means to come from another place — foreign — and by implication, the incense (the coals used) were brought in from an unauthorised place.
It is very important to understand that God gave strict instructions to them concerning altar fire and worship, i.e. where exactly to get the coals of fire meant for His worship: ‘‘…he will fill an incense burner with burning coals from the altar that stands before the LORD. Then he will take two handfuls of fragrant powdered incense and will carry the burner and the incense behind the inner curtain.’’ (Lev. 16:12 NLT). ‘‘He shall take a censer full of burning coals of fire from off the [bronze] altar before the Lord, and his two hands full of sweet incense beaten small, and bring it within the veil [into the Holy of holies]…’’ (AMP). Therefore, in very simple terms, coals meant for worship of the LORD were to be taken from the bronze altar that was before the LORD. Instead of obeying this, these sons of Aaron chose to bring theirs from another place, which was not approved by God.
Apart from this, it was only the high priest in the person of Aaron that was fit to perform this role: ‘‘Every morning when Aaron comes to take care of the lamps, he is to burn sweet – smelling incense on it. He must do the same when he lights the lamps in the evening. This offering of incense is to continue without interruption for all time to come. Do not offer on this altar any forbidden incense, any animal offering, or any grain offering, and do not pour out any wine offering on it.’’ (Exo. 30: 7 – 9 GNB). This was clear enough; only Aaron was authorized to burn incense to the LORD. They were also warned not to offer any ‘forbidden incense.’ These instructions were totally disregarded by two sons of Aaron — they flagrantly abused God and His holy things. This is what is called profanity — disrespect for God and His holy things.
Against the backdrop of their actions, the bible says; ‘‘And there went out fire from the LORD, and devoured them, and they died before the LORD.’’ They were devoured [akal … a primitive root; to eat (literally or figuratively):- at all, burn up, consume, devour…] by God instantly. They were completely burnt up (consumed) by fire that came out from God. Read this: ‘‘That same day, Nadab and Abihu, Aaron’s sons, took their censers, put hot coals and incense in them, and offered ‘‘strange’’ fire to God—something God had not commanded. Fire blazed out from GOD and consumed them—they died in GOD’s presence.’’ (MSG).
Get this right; this sin was not committed a week or a month after their ordination. It happened the very day they were ordained priests. Aaron as the father must have been shocked to his bones seeing his two sons dying the same day, the very day they were ordained! Was God to blame? Was God too hard on these young priests?
The fact is this; as ordained priests called to teach and uphold God’s laws with the highest moral standard and lead God’s congregation in true worship, they were expected to live by example as we all are. Unfortunately, they did not. So, God had one option, which was to slay them so that it would be an example to others — that God and all that pertains to Him must be regarded with utmost respect and honour. It will interest you to know that many scholars hold the view that Nadab and Abihu were drunk at the time they performed this unlawful act.
Therefore, Moses did not fail to tell Aaron: ‘‘Then Moses told Aaron that this was exactly what the LORD had meant when he said: ‘I demand respect from my priests, and I will be praised by everyone!’ Aaron was speechless.’’ (V 3 CEV). ‘‘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 honoured. And Aaron said nothing.’’ (AMP).
We bring shame on God and the entire church when those called to uphold God’s righteousness go their own way, thus, despising God through their acts. God did not spare those sons of Aaron because as priests, they were to lead Israel in true worship and uphold holy living in the camp. Rather than do this, they became bad examples to the congregation and they were judged instantly. This should be a warning and an example to us all that God does not compromise on His words and standard and that indeed judgement will start from all those in positions of authority, that judgement will start from within the camp ( 1Pet. 4:17; Matt. 25: 14 – 30).
Meditation: Do I serve God according to His will and standard or I serve Him in my will and standard?
Prayer: As long as I am, let Your will be my guiding light in all I do.