“Now Nadab and Abihu, the sons of Aaron, each took his censer and put fire in it and laid incense on it and offered unauthorized fire before the Lord, which he had not commanded them. And fire came out from before the Lord and consumed them, and they died before the Lord. Then Moses said to Aaron, ‘This is what the Lord has said: ‘Among those who are near me I will be sanctified, and before all the people I will be glorified.’ And Aaron held his peace”(Leviticus 10:1-3 ESV).
The children of Israel had just been given the Ten Commandments, having been severely punished for their idolatry with the golden calf. They had constructed the tent of meeting, made the altar with all of its utensils, and woven all of the priestly garments. Moses had clearly explained the different kinds of offerings that the people were to offer to the Lord and manner in which the priests were to handle them. If you have ever read the book of Leviticus, then you are aware of just how detailed these instructions were. God had made the priestly duties abundantly clear.The priests had undergone and elaborate ceremony of ordination.
Aaron, the High Priest, had performed the requisite sacrifices and blessed the people, who watched with great fear and reverence as God sent fire from His presence and consumed the burnt offering. Enter Nadab and Abihu.
Nadab and Abihu were Aaron’s sons. We’re not told how old they were at the time, but it’s fairly obvious that they weren’t very serious about their new occupations. Apparently they hadn’t been paying attention to all of the miracles beginning with the plagues in Egypt, through their divine deliverance, and culminating in God’s fire consuming the burnt offering. These guys had seen a lot. I’m not sure how thrilled I would have been to be chosen as a priest, responsible for carrying out the abundance of laws, but I’m fairly certain that I would have taken the job description fairly seriously.
God had given a specific recipe for the incense that the priests were to use in ministering to the Lord (Exodus 30:22 and following). We’re told that Nadab and Abihu had their own special blend of incense and we’re offering it up to the Lord. Just as He had done with the sacrifice, God sent fire and killed them.
I’m not sure the last time someone was consumed by fire sent directly from God. Maybe we think that God has grown soft because of grace, that He isn’t all that concerned with how we worship as long as we worship. Maybe we take God for granted, assuming that since we are “saved” that’s all that really matters. Could it be that we have too casual a relationship with God?
Aaron had just lost two of his four sons. I can imagine the state of shock that he must have been in. Scripture says that Moses prophesied to Aaron, and really all the people, when this happened. “This is what the Lord has said: ‘Among those who are near me I will be sanctified, and before all the people I will be glorified.'” Aaron got the message and didn’t fight with God.
I wonder if I sanctify and glorify God with my life. Do you? I encourage you to mindfully consider this. I certainly will!