Playing With Strange Fire – Nadab and Abihu, two of Aaron’s sons and Moses’ nephews, grab their censers and begin spreading the incense. As they gave their offering, a strange fire came from the Lord, but this fire “devoured” Nadab and Abihu. I want us to see today the Lord is very serious and very specific about OFFERING AND SACRIFICE. We cannot play games with our offerings and sacrifices.
Offering and Sacrifice
By Pastor Delbert Young
Playing With Strange Fire
Playing With Strange Fire
Scriptures: Leviticus 9:24-10:2, Leviticus 10:3, Revelation 1:5-6, Hebrews 4:16, 2 Corinthians 5:20, Romans 12:1, Leviticus 10:5, Exodus 28:40, Leviticus 10:1, Psalms 66:13-20
We are taking a look at OFFERING AND SACRIFICE. Our goal is to make us more aware of our OFFERING AND SACRIFICE we give the Lord. Our study is about what and how he EXPECTS US to OFFER AND SACRIFICE to him.
Today, let’s look at an offering going awry and see how many of us are PLAYING WITH STRANGE FIRE.
Leviticus 9:24 – 10:2 FIRE CAME OUT FROM THE PRESENCE OF THE LORD and consumed the burnt offering and the fat portions on the altar. And when all the people saw it, they shouted for joy and fell face down. AND [conjunction] 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.
WOW! Two young men attempted to give an offering to the Lord and ended up dead! Why did this happen? I mean, wow, they were just trying to worship and offer to the Lord! Wouldn’t a warning from the Lord have been sufficient? Well, I guess the Lord did warn them. He commanded them not, but why did the Lord need to kill them? They were at least attempting to give an offering, right?
I want us to see today the Lord is very serious and very specific about OFFERING AND SACRIFICE. We cannot play games with our OFFERING AND SACRIFICE. It’s like PLAYING WITH STRANGE FIRE. Strange fire? Isn’t fire, well, fire? Obviously, it is not, at least no more so than an offering is an offering.
What a dramatic scene! Put yourself in it and imagine. God rescued and delivered you from slavery using all the plagues of Egypt. You remember smearing the lamb’s blood on your doorposts. God himself took you through the Red Sea on dry land and then he destroyed the Egyptian army. You saw it happen. God led you through the wilderness guided by a pillar of cloud by day and a pillar of fire by night. God miraculously provided food and drink for you every day. God spoke to Moses giving the commandments and laws of worship. You saw the face of Moses glow from being in God’s presence. Last week, you watched as something new began. God ordained Aaron, and his four sons, Nadab, Abihu, Eleazar, and Ithamar as priests. The nation never before had priests. Now, there you were with your family and all the people at the dedication of the Tabernacle in the wilderness. You never had a place to worship before. It was so exciting and dramatic watching the slaughter of the OFFERINGS AND SACRIFICES. Moses said the Lord would appear and everyone was expectant. Then you watched in astonishment as God accepted the OFFERING AND SACRIFICE with fire coming from the Tabernacle. You did what everyone else did, the only reasonable thing to do. You fell on your face and worshiped God. You were so excited and joyful as your family, children, friends were all on their faces worshiping and experiencing this wonderful service with you. You were in awe, weeping, laughing, shouting. You had the “goose bumps” and knew you were in the presence of God. AND [conjunction] Nadab and Abihu, two of Aaron’s sons also Moses’ nephews, grab their censers and begin doing something. You thought it seemed strange and didn’t look right. As they gave their offering, another fire came from the Lord, but this time the fire “devoured” Nadab and Abihu. You watched in horror as they turned into smoke and ashes crumbling to the ground.
What a swing of emotions – from shouting and joy to silence and fear! One fire accepted the OFFERING AND SACRIFICE. Another fire “devoured” two young men. You knew Nadab and Abihu were NOT novices concerning the things of God. They saw and experienced all the wonders from Egypt until now, just as everyone else. Once, Nadab and Abihu went with Moses, Aaron, and the leadership (elders) for a special encounter with God where they saw God (Exo 24:9-10). Now, suddenly, they were cremated. Why did it happen? The reason is they were PLAYING WITH STRANGE FIRE and it was a very strange thing.
Have you ever had strange things happen in your life? From out of nowhere, WHOM, something strange consumed you! Let’s mention a few strange things devouring people: strange fire divorce, strange fire debt, strange fire occupational problems, strange fire marital problems, strange fire family problems, strange fire children issues, strange fire illness, etc. Strange things you never thought would happen to you. Maybe you know someone experiencing something strange consuming and devouring them today? Could their strange devouring situation be related to how they did/do OFFERING AND SACRIFICE? We probably would never link a devouring situation with OFFERING AND SACRIFICE, but it definitely linked for Nadab and Abihu. Nadab and Abihu were priests serving God, yet the way they did their OFFERING AND SACRIFICE was PLAYING WITH STRANGE FIRE.
Probably no passage in the entire book of Leviticus has been/is preached more than this passage. When you research it to see what preachers, “theologians,” and commentaries say strange fire was/is, you get nearly every answer imaginable. Usually it is whatever the preacher is against like rock-and-roll music, the charismatic movement, speaking in tongues, you name it. One article I read said it was using multi-media, screens, drums, guitars, keyboards, etc. in worship services. The article said we must only use what the scriptures verify (which, as everyone knows, is Baptist hymnals). The reason we come up with so many ideas about strange fire is Moses did not explain and develop exactly what it was as he authored Leviticus and neither did God explain. Everyone wants to figure out exactly what the strange fire was, but obviously, it is not what the Lord God wants us to learn from this story. So what does the Lord want us to learn and apply from the passage? Let’s read the next verse.
Leviticus 10:3 Moses then said to Aaron, “THIS IS WHAT the LORD spoke of when he said: “‘AMONG THOSE WHO APPROACH ME I WILL SHOW MYSELF HOLY; in the sight of all the people I WILL BE HONORED.'” Aaron remained silent.
When we bring a sacrifice and an offering we must see the Lord as holy must come honor to the Lord. It’s not the size or amount of the sacrifice and offering. It must include honor to the Lord.
Aaron knew this command and did not question what happened. Nadab and Abihu did not SHOW God HOLY nor HONOR God with their OFFERING AND SACRIFICE. Moses said here is the deal. This is the explanation for what just happened. When we approach God, our OFFERING AND SACRIFICE must show him HOLY. We must do OFFERING AND SACRIFICE in a way that HONORS him. When you think about it, slice it and dice it, your OFFERING AND SACRIFICE literally “will show” how you feel about God. It shows the Lord is holy to you and you honor him. Or, it shows you are playing the church game and PLAYING WITH STRANGE FIRE.
We may never figure out exactly what it was Nadab and Abihu did, but this we know. IT DID NOT SHOW THE LORD GOD AS HOLY AND IT DID NOT HONOR HIM! Through their OFFERING AND SACRIFICE, they made God common, not showing him as holy. Through their OFFERING AND SACRIFICE, they disrespected the Lord God. How is your OFFERING AND SACRIFICE? We need to admit for many people, their OFFERING AND SACRIFICE does not show God as holy and perfect, nor show they honor him. Then they wonder why strange things consume them.
Nadab and Abihu were priest unto God. God gave them special access to him. They served God as his “go between” to reach people and to show and help people reach God. Their purpose was to show God as holy and to show them how to honor him. They were to do this by showing the correct way of OFFERING AND SACRIFICE. In the New Testament, you are God’s priests.
Revelation 1:5-6 and from Jesus Christ, who is the faithful witness, the firstborn from the dead, and the ruler of the kings of the earth. To him who loves us and has freed us from our sins BY HIS BLOOD, and HAS MADE US TO BE A KINGDOM AND PRIESTS TO SERVE HIS GOD AND FATHER – to him be glory and power for ever and ever! Amen.
The blood of Jesus Christ not only frees you from sin, it has made you priests to serve God. The kingdom of God is a kingdom of priests. If you are in it then you are a priest. Jesus Christ is the High Priest (Heb 2:17; 3:1, etc.), but we are his priests. We are the ones now with special access to God.
Hebrews 4:16 Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need.
We are Christ’s ambassadors who communicate God’s appeal to people and show people how to come to God.
2 Corinthians 5:20 WE ARE THEREFORE CHRIST’S AMBASSADORS, as though God were making his appeal through us. We implore you on Christ’s behalf: Be reconciled to God.
In the New Covenant, you are the priests. You have special access. You are the ambassadors. In the New Testament, we do not offer and sacrifice animals. What do we OFFER AND SACRIFICE?
Romans 12:1 Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God’s mercy, to OFFER YOUR BODIES AS LIVING SACRIFICES, holy and pleasing to God – this is your spiritual act of worship.
Here is the point. Does your OFFERING AND SACRIFICE cause people to see the Lord as HOLY and give him HONOR? Or, is your OFFERING AND SACRIFICE like Nadabs and Abhius, which brought God low and dishonored God? Is it strange fire?
Leviticus 10:5 So they came and carried them, STILL IN THEIR TUNICS, outside the camp, as Moses ordered.
Isn’t this interesting? I want to say something in light of what happened this past week concerning a popular pastor. I ate lunch last Wednesday with another pastor in Atlanta and, as preachers do, we shared our “revelations” in light of current events. I shared this point Judy, my wife, said to me. Strangely, fire from the Lord devoured Nadab and Abihu, but did not burn their tunics. It seems they carried them away as a bag of ashes still in their tunics. The tunics represent the honor and dignity of the priesthood.
Exodus 28:40 Make tunics, sashes and headbands for Aaron’s sons, to give them dignity and honor.
The Lord God devoured the priests. He did not devour the dignity and honor of the priesthood. The Lord deals with his preachers (priests) and, at the same time, he saves and continues to build his church. As we will see shortly, his church/work ALWAYS goes on after every Nadab and Abihu are gone.
(NIV) Leviticus 10:1 Aaron’s sons Nadab and Abihu took their censers, put fire in them and added incense; and they offered unauthorized fire before the LORD, CONTRARY TO HIS COMMAND.
Nadab and Abihu’s sin was not a sin of ignorance. It was a sin of presumption. They assumed they could offer what they wanted, any way they wanted and there be no consequences even though it was contrary to his command. As the remainder of the chapter shows, HIS COMMAND was not to Nadab and Abihu only. HIS COMMAND applied to EVERYONE who would give OFFERING AND SACRIFICE.
The Lord tells us all the same thing concerning OFFERING AND SACRIFICE. He does not tell you one thing and me another. I cannot go running off with my censer, offering what I want, when I want, any way I want, while you do it the way he says do it and expect him to bless me, hear my prayer, and help me out of strange trouble the same as he does you.
Psalms 66:13-20 I will go into thy house with burnt offerings: I will pay thee my vows, Which my lips have uttered, and my mouth hath spoken, WHEN I WAS IN TROUBLE. I will offer unto thee burnt sacrifices of fatlings, with THE INCENSE OF RAMS; I will offer bullocks with goats. SELAH. Come and hear, all ye that fear God, and I WILL DECLARE WHAT HE HATH DONE FOR MY SOUL. I cried unto him with my mouth, and he was extolled with my tongue. If I regard iniquity in my heart, the Lord will not hear me: But verily God hath heard me; he hath attended to the voice of my prayer. Blessed be God, which hath not turned away my prayer, nor his mercy from me.
David found himself in a time of strange trouble. He went to worship correctly with OFFERING AND SACRIFICE. David said you would not believe how God moved in his life. He answered his prayer and had mercy on him. David said SELAH – pause and think about this. David said he did his OFFERING AND SACRIFICE as incense and God moved on his life blessing him. How contrary this is to Nadab and Abihu. Their offering of incense brought them great trouble. David’s OFFERING AND SACRIFICE delivered him from trouble and brought God’s blessings.
The Lord does not ask a lot from us, but what he does ask is serious to him. It’s not a game to him. Your OFFERING AND SACRIFICE will show the Lord God if he is HOLY to you and if you HONOR him. Or, it will show you are just PLAYING WITH STRANGE FIRE.
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