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)
I took something away from this passage. First, I have always had difficulty paying a lot of attention to some of the portions of the OT that seem to have little application in our lives. After all, we no longer offer sacrifices, so what good is 10 chapters of sacrificial regulations? Isn’t this kind of pointless? My old boss once explained to me his view on Leviticus, that being a priest was similar to dealing with a nuclear reactor, and that only by following the proper regulations could the nation of Israel benefit from their relationship with God without being destroyed. Nowhere did this make more sense in reading this passage from Leviticus today.
I can’t tell you how many times I have looked at God in possibly the same way that Nadab and Abihu seemed to. They weren’t turned against God. They weren’t shaking their fists at Him. But, they were being careless. They were serving the eternal Creator God, and they were doing so in a haphazard way that did not speak to the concept of being reverent to the Lord. While it would be easy to look at Nadab and Abihu as foolish for being so careless (they may even have been offering the incense drunk, considering God’s speech to Aaron), how many times have we done the same thing? How many times have we treated God carelessly, without respect, without reverence, without loving both His passionate love AND His beautiful order and the seamlessness of His organization of the cosmos? We many times speak of the grace of God, but how often do we speak of the majesty of God, or the splendor of God? How many times do we wax poetic about God’s word to us, and how many times do we delight in the things of God that are, like nuclear power, too dangerous for us to hold foolishly and loosely? Is it real coincidence that the longest chapter in the Bible, Psalm 119, speaks to the rules of God, and the majesty of His organization of morality and life into law? This being the case, why aren’t we more reverent toward the awe-imparting power that is our God?
I would invite anyone who reads this (I realize there’s only like 10 people, it’s ok), to stop for a moment and think about your relationship with God. Where are our hearts? Are they bent on worshipping the true God of heaven, who is gracious and merciful, yet so holy and beyond our understanding that we dare not treat Him with irreverence and disrespect? Or do we look at God through the eyes of Nadab and Abihu, who though they were not against God, were certainly not FOR God in terms of a heart bent on the details. I know I have many times been the last, but I think that there is great power in embracing the true God who is not just our father, but also our righteous and worthy king!
Also, I would invite you to enjoy the treasure that is the OT. In it, we find a continuous picture of both a nation’s struggle with unfaithfulness to their Lord as well as a treasure trove of individuals whom we can identify with in the struggle to consistently be conformed to the image of the living God, who is Christ Jesus. I struggled a lot with reading it because I felt that it had no bearing on my development as a Christian, when in reality, it is an incredible picture of the faithfulness of God and the unfaithfulness of men that makes our need for a savior all the more compelling.