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A sad breach is made in the family of Aaron, in the death of Nadab and Abihu, his two eldest sons, who both are struck dead by fire from the LORD, for offering strange fire before the LORD. This chapter relates the awful event, as also the composure of Aaron's mind under this painful providence: the relation of the funeral: orders issued for the regulation of the priests' conduct in future: the law concerning the eating of holy things is also added, and the excuse of Aaron in the transgression of it.
What this strange fire was, which the sons of Aaron offered, is not said. But as it was so great a sin, as to produce instant death, we may humbly inquire, while we pray for grace to stand in awe and sin not. Is it not probable, that the sin of those young men was breaking in upon the province of Aaron, who, as the type of JESUS, was the only minister in the service of sacrifices? Lev_9:8; Lev_9:15; Lev_9:24 . If this be a right conjecture, what is it to offer strange fire before the LORD, but to offer anything of our own, and not with an eye to JESUS, when we come before the LORD? In Exodus 30:9 , mention is made of the prohibition of strange incense being offered before the LORD. And as incense is generally understood to have reference to the merits of CHRIST, why may not the sacred fire be supposed to have reference also to the person or oblation of the LORD JESUS? I Reader! let both the sin and punishment of those young men have this effect upon our minds, and may the perusal of it be sanctified to our souls, that death is our due also by reason of sin, void of an interest in JESUS. Who can stand, except in his righteousness, before that GOD who is a consuming fire? Hebrews 12:29 .
Reader! observe what effect grace had upon the mind of Moses. No doubt the awful event struck terror and dismay in every beholder, but while some trembled Moses adored. It is sweet in our afflictions to eye the LORD'S appointment, and depend upon it, as long as we are enabled to keep in view divine wisdom, we shall never despond by human sufferings. Observe also the pious frame of Aaron's mind. No doubt his soul was convulsed with agony. It must have been visible in his very looks: yet Aaron held his peace. Dear LORD! grant both to him that writes, and to him that reads, grace, in all our lesser sorrows, to bend in holy submission to thy will. Psalms 39:9 . Observe also, how GOD enjoins a sanctification of soul in all that approach him. Exodus 19:22
Observe the funeral ceremony, how little is said of it. Compare Acts 5:6-10 . with Acts 8:2 . Reader! pause over the striking difference, and then attend to what the HOLY GHOST hath caused to be left on record of the blessedness of those that die in the LORD. Revelation 14:13 .
Observe the workings of grace. Nature dared not complain: the deed was the LORD'S, and that was enough to prove the rectitude of it. This stopped the mouth of Eli, 1 Samuel 3:18 . The same consideration was urged to Job. Job 8:4 . Reader! the best way to ascertain the real regard we have to the LORD, is not only to acquiesce in things when all is smooth and even, but when the LORD'S will thwarts our will. Then to desire GOD'S glory, though in the accomplishment of it everything looks black around us; this is grace, and grace in blessed exercise. That was a precious frame of mind in Nehemiah 9:32-33 .
Some have thought from this precept, that the sin of Aaron's sons was drunkenness. It is possible that Nadab and Abihu might have been intoxicated at the time they offered the strange fire. But then, though this horrid state of drunkenness might have been in some degree instrumental to the commission of the sin for which GOD smote them, certain it is, that this was not the sin itself. For it is expressly said, that the offering of strange fire was the crime. Reader! pause over the account, and think how awful it must be in any, and how infinitely more so in ministers, to be given to wine, wherein is excess. And what a daring act of impiety in a state of this kind, to rush into the divine presence. LORD! keep the souls of men by thy grace from such presumptuous sins; Luke 21:34 .
We have reason to lament over our own ignorance in the perusal of those scriptures, because after all our knowledge we discern so little concerning them. But if our conscious ignorance leads the heart to GOD for his instruction, then will these scriptures be blessed to us. No doubt the several distinctions made in these verses, between the most holy and the holy, have some precious meaning. Reader! recollect what Paul hath said concerning the whole of them, that they are the shadow, but the body is of CHRIST. It will be a well rewarded enquiry, if the Reader should find JESUS pointed out in those scriptures, Hebrews 10:1-12 .
Jeremiah 15:19 .
The goat was the sin-offering for the people. Leviticus 9:15 . And by the priest eating of it within the holy place, the instruction intended to be conveyed was, that the priest, as a type of the ever-blessed JESUS, did thereby bear the iniquity of the congregation. Reader! do not overlook thy High Priest here. 2 Corinthians 5:21 . Aaron's grief made him fear, that if he had eaten the sin-offering as usual, he should have hindered the acceptance. Observe how sparingly and humbly he speaks of his trials. Such things have befallen me. The prophet Hosea in after ages was taught to say, that the bread of mourners should be polluted, and not suffered to be brought into the house of the LORD. Hosea 9:4 . It should seem from the acquiescence of Moses in the reasoning of Aaron, that his excuse was admitted. Psalms 103:13-14 .
Who that reads this Chapter, and beholds the awful monuments here held forth to view, in the sons of Aaron struck dead before the LORD, but must feel himself constrained to cry out with the men of Bethshemesh upon another occasion, Who is able to stand before this Holy LORD GOD! 1 Samuel 6:20 . Were these the very men whom the LORD admitted into the nearer view of himself in the holy Mount? Were these the same Nadab and Abihu, who went up by the LORD'S own command with Moses and Aaron to Sinai, and saw the GOD of Israel? Yes. Oh! learn, my soul, from hence, that the more highly favoured thou art from divine manifestations, the more humbly do thou walk with thy GOD. May the LORD in mercy grant, that neither gifts, nor graces, nor abilities, nor talents, nor station, nor character, may become snares to presumption. Dearest and ever-blessed JESUS! my eyes are up unto thee with an humble supplication, that no incense but thine, no fire but of thy kindling, may ever be found in my poor offerings. May all my approaches be under the blessed leadings of thine HOLY SPIRIT. Prevent it blessed GOD, that ever I should kindle a fire or compass myself about with sparks. But may I come to thee, thou great High Priest of my profession! May the golden altar of thy nature, be the only hallowed sanctuary of my oblation; thy blood and righteousness the only sacrifice wherein I put my trust; thy precious offering of infinite and endless value, the only propitiation to justify my soul; and thy robe of salvation the only covering I desire to appear in before GOD. Thus clothed I shall not be found naked. And thus secured in thy righteousness, I shall neither approach nor make an offering presumptuously: but receiving a kingdom that cannot be moved, I shall have grace whereby I may serve GOD acceptably, with reverence and godly fear.
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Hawker, Robert, D.D. "Commentary on Leviticus 10". "Hawker's Poor Man's Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 13 / Ordinary 18