When the Tabernacle and Priesthood were being instituted the family of Aaron was given the Priesthood. Such a meeting place and ministry were unique. Both were set apart from the everyday and linked to the very character of Yahweh. The ordination for the Priesthood recorded in Leviticus 8 and 9 is a very impressive and symbolic ritual. Aaron and his four sons had detailed instructions to follow. Something possessed Nadab and Abihu, to imagine they had a better way to perform the required sacrificial ritual. 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. They took their censers and kindled a fire using unauthorised elements. It was rejected as ‘strange fire.’ Here was a serious breach of trust, an act of disrespect and a challenge to the authority of the Lord.
Judgement was swift. Fire fell from heaven and they died. 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. The Lord had to impress upon the nation that ministry, worship and God’s character and commands must not be trifled with.
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? Thecontrolled. It is interesting to note that the kings of Israel had similar obligations. (Proverbs 31:4–5) If we consider ourselves as ‘Kings and Priests’ in the service of the Lord God do such restrictions apply today?
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.
Today the ministry of the Church is a far cry to that of the Tabernacle. However there are certain principles which are unchanging in both realms. 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. Familiarity can breed contempt or coarseness with sacred things. A healthy fear of our Lord and a desire to honour His word will be our safeguard. There will be various ways of presenting a message to a wide range of audiences. However, the servant of the Lord has no authority to alter the ‘fire’ which God has entrusted to him or her.
©Ray Hawkins October 29 2017.