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Leviticus 10:1. Strange fire. Having, as some rabbins think, from the 9th verse, drank too freely at the feast, they inconsiderately took fire from the boiler, instead of taking it from off the altar, pure as it fell from heaven. Or they might have been foolishly afraid to approach the sacred altar. It might be a sin of ignorance, which cost them their life. Ministers should fear to do the Lord’s work in an unsanctified manner.
Leviticus 10:9. Do not drink wine. Ministers should be careful to preserve their physical powers in a proper temperament for the work of God, and to bring to the sanctuary all their faculties fresh and vigorous, calm and collected. Refreshments will be seasonable when the work is done: intoxication is nowhere so loathsome as in the pulpit.
Leviticus 10:14. In a clean place. The Septuagint reads, in the holy place.
The Lord had graciously accepted the sacrifices of his people by fire, filled the tabernacle with glory, and anointed the priesthood with oil; but here a sad check shed a sable gloom on the first day of the glorious service. Nadab and Abihu, elated with the sacerdotal honours, fell victims to their folly and presumption. They burnt incense with strange fire, and in a moment the LORD destroyed them by fire. So he often permits the proud to be destroyed by pride, the irascible to fall by anger, and the voluptuous to perish by pleasure. Let us revere his judgments, because of the equity by which they are inflicted.
The Lord wisely made an example of the first offenders for the prevention of future crimes. On this principle the first blasphemer, and the first sabbathbreaker were stoned. And in the new-testament church, after the descent of the Spirit of truth, Ananias and Sapphira, the first liars, fell down dead at the feet of St. Peter. Nor were they, if we except the first lustre of the dispensation, greater sinners than others in like cases. But they fell that others might fear, and to teach the guilty that punishment for evil deeds is merely delayed.
Nadab and Abihu having fallen victims to divine justice, we see that no mourning must be made for them. Whatever interior sentiments the calamity might excite, no exterior sorrow was allowed in the Lord’s anointed. Aaron might keep all these things, and ponder them in his heart, but he must own the error of his sons; he must glorify the divine justice, and allow that the punishment was intended to vindicate the purity of the sanctuary. All Israel would see it was the Lord’s hand. Aaron would be taught humility, and all would fear to invade the duties of his office.
We learn also, that no liberties must be taken with the revelation, the worship, and the commandments of God. He has established a simple but perfect code of discipline in his church; he has afforded us a plenary revelation of his will, and it is safer to keep than to amend the institutions of the Lord.
We are farther taught, that the Lord’s work must be done in the Lord’s spirit. He has baptised us with the Holy Ghost, has kindled the altar of the heart with heavenly fire, and we must preach love in the spirit of love, holding the mystery of faith in a pure conscience, and never make the religion of Christ subservient to our humours or our interest.
From this extraordinary visitation, we may also learn, that the Lord’s judgments are far more wise and equitable than the weak and fond decisions of men. Had the Elders of Israel sat on the case, it is probable they would have pleaded mercy from the inexperience of the men, or that they were much younger than their father; but God viewed their crime as a presumptuous contempt of the highest of his precepts. The whole of the Leviticum being a shadow of the gospel, it was a crime against the divine order established for the salvation of man; and if they who despised Moses’ law died without mercy, “how shall we escape if we neglect so great salvation?”
But whatever may be the state of the people, ministers must be holy. God will be sanctified in them that draw nigh to him: no gross breaches of his precepts, no drunkenness, no besetting sin, no habitual lukewarmness can be excused in them. Their hearts must be kindled with the fire of the Lord, and they must glorify his name before all the people.
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Sutcliffe, Joseph. "Commentary on Leviticus 10". Sutcliffe's Commentary on the Old and New Testaments. https://www.studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 23 / Ordinary 28