Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, let us be thankful, and so worship God acceptably with reverence and awe, for our God is a consuming fire. Hebrews 12:28–29.
God had a plan for the Nation of Israel. It included very specific worship and ministry requirements. When the Tabernacle and Priesthood were being instituted the family of Aaron was given the Priesthood. At the outset it was stressed such a venue and ministry was unique. It was set apart from the everyday and linked to the very character of Yahweh. The ordination for the Priesthood begins in Leviticus 8 and 9 in a very impressive and symbolic manner. Aaron and his four sons had detailed instructions to follow.
The sons of Aaron, Nadab, Abihu, Eleazar and Ithamar had the wonder of being ordained to ministry. This was the culmination of an encounter with God on Mount Horeb. Had it been too much for Nadab and Abihu’s egos? Something possessed Nadab and Abihu to imagine they knew better than that which Yahweh had outlined. Leviticus 10:1 says they offered unauthorised fire before the Lord. Their self will changed celebration into lamentations. God struck them down. Why? Because what they were offering did not measure up to the nature of God. He is described in Scripture as a 'consuming fire.' Therefore the fire of worship and ministry must be that which matches His character. How is that possible? Only by obeying His directions.
Leviticus 10:9 sees the Lord add to the ordination requirement, ‘you and your sons are not to drink wine or other fermented drink whenever you go into the tent of meeting, or you will die.’ Does this give us a clue to what caused Nadab and Abihu to act so irresponsibly? The Lord required those who worship Him and, more so those who minister before Him, to be clear headed and self controlled. It is interesting to note that the kings of Israel had similar obligations. (Proverbs31:4–5) If we consider ourselves as ‘kings and priests’ of the Lord God do such restrictions apply today? If not, why not?
It would appear as though they had chosen to enter into the precincts of the Tabernacle to do their own thing. They would worship or serve God as they thought best. Here was a serious breach of trust, an act of disrespect and a challenge to the authority of the Lord. They had been redeemed and commissioned for His purposes. Their death was to be a testimony to the danger of abusing the grace and glory of God. Why? ‘You shall not misuse the name of the Lord your God, for the Lord will not hold anyone guiltless who misuses his name.’ Exodus 20:7. Are we in this era down playing God's word on morality, marriage and the uniqueness of salvation and acceptance with God through the cross? Are so many in church leadership possessed with a mindset similar to Nadad and Abihu?
Leviticus 10:10–11: ‘You must distinguish between the holy and the common, between the unclean and the clean, and you must teach the Israelites all the decrees the Lord has given them through Moses.’ The history of Israel details the conflict between His holiness and the tendency of the nation to drag it down. Leviticus 21:6.says, ‘They (priests) must be holy to their God and must not profane the name of their God. Because they present the offerings made to the Lord by fire, the food of their God, they are to be holy.’ Malachi’s account of the moral and religious attitude of the priests and people of his day makes depressing reading. ‘You profane it (God’s Name) by saying of the Lord’s table, ‘It is defiled’, and of its food, ‘it is contemptible.’ And you say,’ What a burden!’ and you sniff at it contemptuously.’ Malachi 1:12–13. God is patient but does not hold off forever intervening in such situations with severe and righteous discipline.
We are living in a period of time when the spirit of Nadad and Abihu is news headlines. Greed and sexual misconduct abound, child abuse and acceptance of relationships condemned in scripture is rampant to highlight but a few. Then we wonder why worship is unsatisfying and attendances declining.
Ministers of the Gospel are to uphold the holiness of the Eternal God, the integrity of the Cross and the uniqueness of the person and work of Jesus Christ. All disciples of Christ are under the same calling. Familiarity, unfortunately, can breed contempt or coarseness with sacred things. Wanting to be popular within a culture can seduce ministers and people to be silent about unpopular teachings. A healthy fear of our Lord is our only safeguard. In our presentations we have latitude of method but we have no room to move in regards to the message of the Cross, the morality He demands or the mission to which we are called. Culture has its challenges to making the Bible relevant. Regardless of the cultural environment Christ Jesus’ servants live in, the Gospel and the Glory of God must remain unchanged. Hebrews 12:10: ‘Make every effort to live in peace with all men and to be holy; without holiness no-one will see the Lord.’
Reflection: What is the quality of the ‘fire’ that burns within my being? Is what I’m saying, doing and living acceptable to the Lord God I am called upon to honour and proclaim?
Request: I do not want my ministry and lifestyle to take your Name in vain. May the fire that burns within be what you have started and maintained by your Holy Spirit. Amen.