I love studying Leviticus. I can understand why Leviticus was the first book studied by Jewish children. I grieve that Leviticus is most likely the least read book by the Church. How can I have any understanding of Hebrews or what Jesus means when He says that He came to fulfill the Law and the Prophets (Matt 5:17) if I do not know the Law (and the Prophets)?
In Leviticus 9 God accepts Aaron’s offering, initiating the Priesthood. In Leviticus 10, the first day on the job, Nadab and Abihu, Aaron’s sons, “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” (10:1-2 ESV).
While I have spent much time studying Leviticus 9 and 10, I never considered the significance of Nadab and Abihu’s appearance in Exodus until yesterday.
“Then [God] said to Moses, ‘Come up to the LORD, you and Aaron, Nadab, and Abihu, and seventy of the elders of Israel, and worship from afar…” Moses came and told the people all the words of the LORD and all the rules. And all the people answered with one voice and said, “All the words that the LORD has spoken we will do.” And Moses wrote down all the words of the LORD. He rose early in the morning and built an altar at the foot of the mountain, and twelve pillars, according to the twelve tribes of Israel. And he sent young men of the people of Israel, who offered burnt offerings and sacrificed peace offerings of oxen to the LORD. And Moses took half of the blood and put it in basins, and half of the blood he threw against the altar. Then he took the Book of the Covenant and read it in the hearing of the people. And they said, ‘All that the LORD has spoken we will do, and we will be obedient.’ And Moses took the blood and threw it on the people and said, ‘Behold the blood of the covenant that the LORD has made with you in accordance with all these words'” (Ex 24:1, 3-8).
Some scholars think it stands to reason that these 73 men (including Nadab and Abihu) were the people on which Moses threw the blood, as there would have been thousands of people at this Covenant confirmation.
“Then Moses and Aaron, Nadab, and Abihu, and seventy of the elders of Israel went up, and they saw the God of Israel” (v 9). Nadab and Abihu were invited by God personally to partake in one of the most significant events in the life of Israel.
When I think about Nadab and Abihu in light of their role in the Covenant confirmation and in participating in the initiation of the Priesthood where “fire came out from before the LORD and consumed the burnt offering and the pieces of fat on the altar, and when all the people saw it, they shouted and fell on their faces” (Lev 9:24) makes their sin of offering strange fire even more egregious and tragic.
Nadab and Abihu were hand selected by God to participate in the Covenant confirmation. God chose them to be priests to the people of Israel. After all Nadab and Abihu had witnessed it only makes sense that “fire came out from before the LORD and consumed them, and they died before the LORD” (Lev 10:2). The fire that consumed the burnt offering is the same fire that consumed Nadab and Abihu.
While the Lord does NOT play favorites, He does have intimates (NT example would be Peter, James and John). Nadab and Abihu did not adhere to God’s just decrees and as such were put to death. This is not harsh, extreme or severe. Sin has consequences. God uses this sin as an object lesson of what happens when one does not worship Holy God in a manner that He requires. Following and obeying Him pleases Him.
For those who are in a position of leadership, it is paramount to lead and teach people in a manner that is Biblically sound, glorifying the Lord. Familiarity can breed contempt, even with God. We cannot approach God any way we choose. God is Holy. May our worship, leading, teaching etc. be a pleasing aroma to our Holy God.
Father God, thank You that You are both Holy and Just. Lord God, help us to not take You for granted. Help us to not fear You but to revere You. Lord God make us sensitive to how to approach You in this season in life. For the one who is hurting, may they be honest with You about their feelings and experiences. For those who are joyful, may the bring their praises before You. For the one who is doubting, may they allow You to speak to their doubts. Lord God, thank You that life in Christ is NOT cookie-cutter (even though that is what it seems like we want sometimes). Thank You that You know each one of us personally. Lord God, for those who are starting to backslide in their faith because of not meeting in a Church building, I ask that You will send someone to encourage that person and to point their gaze and focus back on Jesus and Your Word today. Thank You Lord for this reader. Amen.