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Strange Fire Offered
After the ordination of the priesthood and the bringing of the first offerings and the joy that it has given, an anticlimax follows immediately in this chapter. In the last verse of the previous chapter fire descends upon the altar and all fall on their faces to worship. Here the same fire descends and kills the two oldest sons of Aaron. Thus, on Pentecost the Spirit comes down to testify of the acceptance of the offering of Christ by God, showing Himself as “tongues as of fire” (Acts 2:2-Leviticus :). A little later the Spirit is a Spirit of judgment for Ananias and Sapphira, who worship God with the strange fire of their corrupt hearts (Acts 5:5; Acts 5:10).
It concerns the two most chosen men of the earth: from the chosen people, the chosen tribe, the chosen family, of which the eldest son is the successor of his father as high priest. They occupy the highest position. They have been privileged to climb up to the LORD with Moses (Exodus 24:1). It is precisely their privileged position that makes their offence so serious. God wants to be treated as holy in those who come near Him (Ezekiel 9:6; 1 Peter 4:17). The transgression of what God has commanded always has serious consequences, especially for those who are supposed to know His commandments. This is also experienced by David when, against the LORD’s commandment, he has the ark transported on a chariot (2 Samuel 6:3-1 Samuel :).
What is happening here reflects a principle that we have already noted. This principle is that man always almost immediately corrupts what God gives him in goodness. We see here a repetition of what Adam does when he enjoys all that God has created for him. Within a short time, he forfeited its blessing by disobedience to God’s commandment. We also see it with Noah, who is given authority over a cleansed earth. He is not capable of authority over himself. Later in case of the kingship we see the same thing. And also the church has not remained in the blessings it initially enjoys, but becomes unfaithful and connects with the world.
What is wrong with Nadab and Abihu is not that they do what God has forbidden, but that they do what He has not commanded them to do. They do not violate any particular commandment, but act as they see fit. According to the norms of the world, they do not revolt against God. They want to serve God. But they do so in a way that is different from what God has made known about it. They use their own fire, not the fire that God has sent down on the altar.
The conduct of Nadab and Abihu speaks of the introduction of strange, self-created elements in worship. They can be elements from Jewish worship, or practical elements, but it is strange fire, it does not belong in the service God wishes. It is the religion of the flesh. In Christianity, this was soon the case. The priesthood in Christianity is spiritually dead by strange fire. Whoever wants to remain free from it, will have to be subjected to the searching of God’s Word (Leviticus 8:35).
Aaron keeps silent. It is a telling reaction. God’s intervention does not evoke any resistance in him. He acknowledges with his silence that there is nothing to excuse. We can learn this from Aaron’s attitude: if God judges, it suits us to remain silent. The elders do the same when Nehemiah is angry with them because of their behavior (Nehemiah 5:8).
Reaction of Moses
Moses takes action. This event must not endanger the priesthood. Aaron and his sons may have the thought: The priesthood is too risky; we are not starting with it. God does not want that. He wants the priesthood to be maintained and that failing priests be dealt with in accordance with His holiness. The remaining brothers are not allowed to touch their brothers. When they do, they become defiled and unfit for the priesthood. They also are not allowed to show any signs of mourning.
Two of Aaron’s nephews, Mishael and Elzaphan, are ordered to carry away the dead bodies. In the family line they are further away from the killed priests and will not so quickly in their emotion come to a wrong action. It is important, for example, that in the case of discipline, we should not be guided by certain feelings of connection to persons who have done something that should be disciplined. These may be literal family ties, but also people who have meant a lot to us spiritually.
All close ties should not play a role in things God has judged. If we allow these ties to play a role, then our own priestly service ‘dies’. That is why it is wise, in a disciplinary case, for the immediate family to keep their distance. If close relatives do interfere, there is a great danger that they will become unfit to perform priestly services, and God does not want that.
That does not mean that we are called upon to be insensitive. The people may mourn. As ordinary members of God’s people, we will experience the death of a priest as sorrowful. But the priesthood must not be omitted “for the LORD’s anointing oil is upon you”. God desires that we approach Him with true hearts as priests to worship Him (Hebrews 10:19-Song of Solomon :).
No Wine or Strong Drink for Priests
The ban on the use of wine or strong drink follows immediately on bringing foreign fire. This gives substance to the idea that Nadab and Abihu may have come to their actions by using wine or strong drink. Wine and strong drink fog the mind. Israelites are allowed to use it, but Aaron and his sons, the priests, are not. When entering in the presence of God, worldly influences should not play a role. Otherwise our view of the distinction between holy and unholy, between what is of God and what is not of Him, fades. The call in Ephesians 5 is in line with this (Ephesians 5:18).
The natural blessings, of which wine is a picture, come from God. They are good. But they should not play a role in worship. It is like the honey that should not be present in the grain offering (Leviticus 2:11). Natural things easily extinguish the working of the Spirit. Wine and strong drink can be seen in the use of compelling music or pompous rhetoric. They fog the thoughts and easily distract from the goal of glorifying God.
What Is for the Priests
After the negative, what the priests are not allowed to take – wine and strong drink – now comes the positive, which the priests are allowed to take. They may eat of the grain offering (Leviticus 10:12-1 Chronicles :), of the peace offering (Leviticus 10:14-Ezra :) and of the sin offering (Leviticus 10:16-Proverbs :). Priestly service cannot consist solely of abstaining from things. It is a (negative) condition, but not enough. To be able to offer, we must feed on what we offer.
Eating is having fellowship in the most intimate way. Eating takes place in “a holy place” (Leviticus 10:13), that is, in the presence of God, before His face, in His presence. The priests eat the grain offering. For us it means that we ‘eat’ from the Lord Jesus as the perfect Man on earth, where He is perfect to the glory of God. We also ‘eat’, together with God’s people, of the strength and love with which the Lord Jesus accomplished the work, respectively the thigh and the breast of the peace offering.
Eating the Sin Offering
The sin offering is also food for the priest. Eleazar and Ithamar seem to have been negligent here. They had to eat from it, but did not. Not only did the two eldest sons fail, but Aaron and the two remaining sons also failed. The eldest sons acted in their own will. This is not the case with Aaron and the other sons; they act out of weakness. Their excuse is therefore accepted by Moses.
A priest should not only burn another person’s sin offering on the altar. In some cases he also has to eat from it. For us, this means that a spiritually-minded believer, someone who does priestly service, should not only lead a fellow believer to confession of guilt. In addition, he must also eat from the sin offering, that is to say, he must spiritually empathize with what the Lord Jesus had to suffer for that sin, what it cost him to bear the punishment for it.
Aaron and his sons burned the sin offering, but did not eat it. It indicates the weakness that is also found in us. It is also often easier for us to point out a sin to someone than to penetrate the feelings of the Lord Jesus and to identify ourselves, as it were, with that sin. Aaron admits his weakness. God has understanding and indulgence for this (cf. Hebrews 5:1-Exodus :), which is never the case with sin.
Kingcomments on the Whole Bible © 2021 Author: G. de Koning. All rights reserved. Used with the permission of the author
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de Koning, Ger. Commentaar op Leviticus 10". "Kingcomments on the Whole Bible". https://www.studylight.org/
the Third Week after Epiphany