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The Fall of Nadab and Abihu
Chapter 9 Leviticus 10
An woeful Incident . . . The nature of their Sin . . . Self-indulgence . . . Will-worship . . . Holy fire . . . Early corruptions of the Gospel . . . The fate of usurpers and corrupters . . . Natural affection with respect to the Lost . . . Christ's intercessions NOT hindered by Apostasies . . . Christ Jesus is still the ONLY High-Priest and Saviour.
This chapter comes in as an event in the general current of this book. It gives an account of a disaster during the foundation of this ancient ritual. It is not without consequence or importance.
When we last saw the Tabernacle, it was gay and glorious with the displays of a reconciled God, and a delighted, adoring people. In this chapter, we see something entirely different . . . gloom and sadness. The joyous shout of Israel yesterday, had become a moan to-day . . . for such is human life . . . an endless change of light and dark, joy and sorrow, birth and funerals. Our heart thumps with delight but it also throbs with grief at times. Our homes boom with celebration one day and the laments of woe the next. The morning calm is often just the messenger of a violent evening storm. War always seems to go ahead of our most heartfelt peace. For every sweet thing, something bitter steps in and for every day there is always a night and for every death, a new birth. The sunshine at times seems to be lost in clouds of doom. 1 Pet.1:24 For all flesh is as grass, and all the glory of man as the flower of grass. The grass withereth, and the flower thereof falleth away: (KJV) 1 John
2:17 And the world passeth away, and the lust thereof: but he that doeth the will of God abideth for ever. (KJV)
Nadab and Abihu were not just small somebodies. They were the sons of Israel's priest, Aaron, the nephews of Israel's leader, Moses, and the head of Israel's princely elders. They had been with Moses and Aaron in the Holy mountain; they had seen the glorious vision of God as He appeared on Sinai; they had been chosen and consecrated to the priesthood; they had stood by and assisted Aaron in the first operations of the Hebrew ritual. In all the camp of God's ransomed ones, only Moses and Aaron had a higher place than theirs. But, it seems from the vision they saw on the mount, they had fallen into a pit of deprivation. They had been accepted priests yesterday; now they are disgraced victims of God's Holy fury to-day.
It was no time at all, from the time the people drew near them as the sanctified of the LORD, until they shrank away from them in horror as the accursed of God. In the evening they were accepted priests, with prospects of a bright destiny before them; in the morning they were in the hands of death, and all their hopes were quenched.
An event so startling and sad, happening at the very beginning of the Mosaic ceremonies, calls for serious thinking. We cannot consider it too solemnly, nor view it wisely, without important spiritual profit. It is a sort of starting point of a great history, from which generation after generation, in all succeeding ages, might take warning and learn from.
Lev.10:1-2 And 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. 2 And there went out fire from the LORD, and devoured them, and they died before the LORD. (KJV)
The death of these men was awful, coming upon them with the speed of lightning. To a good man, sudden death is only sudden deliverance from the infirmities of life, and sudden glory. It saves from many from anxiety and pain. But for a thoughtless and unrepentant sinner to be cut off and hurried to the judgment without a moment's warning, is terrible. Nadab and Abihu were plunged into eternity with a flash, and it came about right in the middle of their sin. With their censers in their hands, while they were enclosed in a cloud of incense, which was the signal of their guilt, in the very act of their transgression, a bolt of fire rushed out over the Mercy-Seat, and devoured them, and they died before the LORD.
A judgment so obvious and enormous makes it very plain that it was the breaking forth of God's wrath. It was a massive visitation, miraculous, and direct from the furious God. The record is not very specific, and leaves much to be reached by guess; but enough is said to give us a good idea of the sin committed. The context shows that it was not just one isolated and specific act of disobedience . . . it was of a compound nature, and involved different facts, each of which contributed its part to make up the general crime for which judgment came upon these guilty ones.
Lev.10:9 Do not drink wine nor strong drink, thou, nor thy sons with thee, when ye go into the tabernacle of the congregation, lest ye die: it shall be a statute for ever throughout your generations: (KJV)
The special law recorded in this verse, of which this incident seems to have been the occasion, furnishes ground for the incident, that Nadab and Abihu had indulged too freely in stimulating drinks, and so they were not capable for that Holy reverence which belonged to the priestly functions. This may not have been the fact, but the whole nature and circumstances of their death strongly pointed that way. And if this is correct, think how many others (then and now) among the many sad exhibitions of the mischiefs wrought by indulging in a too much liquor. How many in our government, in our police force, judges in court rooms, in family homes, etc. . . . are guilty.
Drunkenness and drugs are two of depravity's worst evils . . . giant demons of destruction. People talk of earthquakes, storms, floods, conflagrations, famine, pestilence, despotism and war; but self-indulgence in the use of intoxicating drinks and drugs, has sent a volume of misery and woe into the stream of this world's history, more fearful and worse than any of them. It is like the pale horse of the Apocalypse, whose rider is Death, and at whose heels follow Hell and destruction (Rev.6:8). It is an evil that is limited to no age, no continent, no nation, no party, no sex, no period of life. It has taken the poor man at his work and the rich man at his desk, the senator in the halls of state and the man on the street, the young man in his parties and the old man in his rest, the preacher and the layman in the pew, plunging them together into a common ruin. It rages in times of war and in times of peace, in periods of depression, and in periods of prosperity, in states and in monarchies, in the civilized and in the savage. When Noah came out of the ark, he planted vineyards and drank wine, and it has not stopped, for history tells us of the awful things that were responsible because of liquor. It was liquor that brought the original curse of servitude upon the Ham’s descendants, and liquor that has eaten away the strength of empires, and crowded Hell with tenants. Egypt, Babylon, Greece and Rome each took their turn with this dreadful canker-worm. It has caused enough tears to make a sea, shed enough blood to redden the waves of an ocean, and caused enough crying to make a chorus in Hell. Some of the most brainy people, some of the most generous natures, some of the happiest homes, some of the most honorable specimens of man, has been shattered, crushed and buried in filthy wretchedness. It has supplied every jail, penitentiary and charity hospital in the world with tenants. It has sent beggars on every street, and flooded every city with savagely cruel or depraved behavior and crime. Liquor has led more to Hell than any one other form of vice. Pro.27:20 Hell and destruction are never full; so the eyes of man are never satisfied. (KJV)
IF we would sweep away all the results of this one form of sin, there would hardly be any need for prisons, shelters, charity houses or police. The tears of orphanages and widowhood would be drastically cut.
Disease would be robbed of much of its power. Clouds would disappear from ten thousand afflicted homes. Anger and violence would disappear, as peace would take its place. It is a sin for anyone to drink to the state of intoxication, no matter who, when or where; but it is a much worse and greater sin for someone in high or great station, those who are in a public office. And for a drunkard to go to God's Altar with this crime, is an abomination that cries unto Heaven. It seems Nadab and Abihu, did this, and death was their awful end. Wherever there is sin, God's wrath burns; but most severe of all, it burns around His Holy Altar, and on those who pollute His service with unholy breath and unsteady hands.
Even though drunkenness was most likely the root of Nadab and Abihu's offence, it was not the body of their crime. If the effects of alcoholic stimulation went no further than to cloud the mind and stupefy the natural senses of those who indulge in it, it would not be so bad. The worst part is, alcohol clouds the moral nature, igniting all the bad passions into increased activity. Alcohol not only weakens and ejects all impulses of good, but it quickens and enthrones every buried evil, and fits a person for the ready performance of any blasphemous and despicable deed. If these men had not been first "set on fire of Hell" (Jam.3:6), by excessive alcohol they would never have been driven to the bold wickedness which cost them their lives. Drunkenness let the devil in, and when he was once admitted, the way was open for them to trample upon the Holiest establishments of God, and they went headlong to their ruin.
As I understand it, theirs was the arrogant substitution of a will-worship (Col.2:23) of their own, in disobedience of what God had appointed. There is a constant tendency in mankind’s nature, to try to improve on what God has arranged for the good of man, and to graft in human inventions upon God’s Divine institutions. Sin is always sewing together fig-leaves to hide the shame of nakedness (Gen.3:7). It was not enough for the Hebrews to have the visible symbol of the Divine Presence in a pillar of alternate cloud and fire, they wanted a golden calf too.
Naaman was offended by the simple direction to go wash in the Jordan (2 K.5:10), he wants Elisha to come and strike his hand over the leprosy. Peter is not satisfied when Christ offers to wash his feet, he wants his hands and head included (John 13:9). The Catholic Pope is not content with the invisible rule of Jesus in the heart, he must set up a grand hierarchy to give reality to Christ's dominion, and to act as His visible vicar as he governs men. The two sacraments of God are not enough for human desires, and great councils must be called to fabricate five more.
And so, these sons of Aaron were not content to abide by the ordinances which the LORD appointed, but wanted to arrange matters to better suit themselves. In three points did they offend: (1). first, in the time; (2). in the manner; and (3). in the matter of the service which they undertook. It was the privilege of Moses or Aaron to say when their services were needed; but they went to work impulsively, without waiting for instructions or asking for directions. It was for the high-priest alone to go in before the LORD and offer incense at the Mercy-Seat; but they wickedly intruded upon his functions, and went in themselves. Never more than one priest was to officiate in burning incense at the same time; but they both together entered upon a service which did not belong to either of them. These things in themselves show a very high-handed disregard of God’s order. But the great burden of their sin rested in the matter of the service. They "offered strange fire before the LORD, which he commanded them not."
All the fire used in the services of the Hebrew ritual was holy fire. This FIRE came from Heaven. It was kindled by the LORD Himself. Its origin is given in the last verse of the preceding chapter. Lev. 9:24 And there came a fire out from before the LORD, and consumed upon the altar the burnt offering and the fat: which when all the people saw, they shouted, and fell on their faces. (KJV)
Special laws had also been given for its careful preservation. In the sixth chapter, it says: Lev.6:13 The fire shall ever be burning upon the altar; it shall never go out. (KJV)
No incense was acceptable to God . . . except that which arose from coals of this holy fire. The LORD will honor no devotion except that which He prompts. The censer was first to be filled with "burning coals of fire from off the altar before the LORD" (Lev.16:12). Such was God's requirement . . . but Nadab and Abihu paid no attention at all. With their minds clouded, stupefied, and rendered irresponsible by "strong drink," they could not distinguish "between holy and unholy . . . unclean and clean." It was a wicked presumption for them to go, of their own accord, to offer incense at all; but it was an unpardonable violation of something sacred, when they undertook it, not to respect the proper materials. They "offered strange fire" . . . common fire, fire completely foreign to the fire which God had kindled for such purposes. So they took what was profane into what was Holy, they defiled God's Ritual, cast contempt upon Him and His institutions, put their own will-worship (Col.2:23) above His Sacred regulations . . . thus calling down upon themselves a judgment that made all Israel shudder. They scorned God’s sacred fire, and in return "there went out fire from the LORD, and devoured them, and they died before the LORD" (Lev.10:2).
Now, in the second place (in the manner), let us consider some of the implications, surroundings, and warnings or indications of a future event of this sad occurrence.
When I read the account of the sin of Aaron's sons at the organization of the old economy, I think of the organization of the Christian system, and to the conduct of some Christians under the Gospel dispensation. The shadows of the future were linked with the facts of the past. Hardly had Christianity been established, until we find a foreign and restless spirit implying itself into the operations of those into whose charge its earthly services had been given. Paul noticed it even in his day. "There shall come a falling away" (2 Thes.2:3) he said, "and that man of sin he revealed, the son of perdition, who opposeth and exalteth himself above all that is called God, or that is worshipped. For the mystery of iniquity doth already work" (2 Thes.2:7). John also brought attention to it, "this is that spirit of Antichrist, whereof ye have heard that it should come; and even now already it is in the world" (1John 4:3). The evil doings of spiritual intoxication moved in quickly and altered the primitive simplicities of the Gospel, usurped the privileges of Jesus the High-Priest, mingled the inventions of men with the appointments of God.
Mat.15:9 But in vain they do worship me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men. (KJV) The vile spiritual intoxication introduced strange fire into the Holy Tabernacle of old, and the church of today.
Looking back on the history of the Church, when it first went out to evangelize the nations, the first thing to notice is the slow but steady rebellion, from the level of a common priesthood, of a lordly power in the hands of bishops, sneakily concentrating upon Orthodox churches, then upon the Patriarchs (highest ranking bishop), and finally upon one supreme Pope, who, surrounded with his conclave of advisers, claims to have the keys of Heaven, to open and shut, and go in and out. I think this man tramples God's Holy Word under his feet, demanding to himself all earthly power, displaying himself in the qualities and titles of Jesus, creating new rites and rituals, and ordaining doctrines of belief that God has NOT commanded (Mat.15:9), and undertaking with his majesty to mediate between Earth and Heaven. The Pope CANNOT do this! NO one can do that except JESUS!!!
When I consider the nature of the Pope’s proceedings, the elements of his assumptions and the spirit that underlies all he does, as I see it . . .
it is nothing but a re-enactment of drunken Nadab and Abihu, displacing Aaron, taking the high-priesthood upon themselves, and offering strange fire in the Tabernacle of the LORD.
When pontifical power came into being, there also came false doctrine (Mat.15:9) and immoral corruption. As the Church grew, some became Judaizers (a doctrine mixture of grace through Christ AND works by keeping the Law), they made the first move to corrupt the simplicities of the Gospel (Gal.2:21; Eph.2:8; 2 Tim.1:9).
Heathens were brought into the Church without completely rejecting all their heathen tastes and ideas. Gnosticism considered the main element of salvation to be direct knowledge of the supreme divinity in the form of mystical or mysterious perception. Many Gnostics do not deal in concepts of sin and repentance, but with illusion and insight. Gnosticism was the result, a kind of wide-ranging rational-religious system, weaving together all sorts of theories that wrapped itself around the very heart of the Church.
Mediæval (Middle Ages) religion, with its condemnations of natural relationships, its rejections, monk and priestly orders, saint-worship, superstition, auricular confession (confession of sin to the priest, which, as part of penance, is one of the sacraments of the Catholic Church), indulgences (pardons), false works, and Obscurantism (obscure, hazy or vague) preaching of the great Gospel doctrine of justification by faith. There are two historical meanings of Obscurantism: (1) the deliberate restriction of knowledge . . . opposition to providing knowledge; and (2) deliberate obscurity . . . an obscure literary or inventive style, characterized by a deliberate vagueness.
Penances, masses, priestly pardons, purgatorial compensations, the mediation of clergy and saints, celibacy and outward ceremony, were put in the place of repentance, faith, charity, and obedience to Christ's own Word. Bishops retired from the pulpits to sit as spiritual lords, superior to all the kings of earth; the virgin Mary was installed as the world's mediator; earthly priests assumed the work of intercession, and undertook to forgive and license crime for a price; the Church was driven to the wilderness.
The wicked acceptance of Hell’s obscurantism was believed by the Bride of Christ . . . and just like Nadab and Abihu in their drunkenness had entered God’s Holy Place, and offered strange fire before the LORD, these damnable heresies (2 Pet.2:1) were also indeed strange fire before Almighty God!
But, to make things worse . . . these things that have been, are the things that still are! Philosophy is still adding to the Word of God, which is NOT allowed by God (Deut.4:2; 12:32; Pro.30:5-6; Ecc.3:14; Rev.22:18). BEWARE: Mat.24:24-25 For there shall arise false Christs, and false prophets, and shall shew great signs and wonders; insomuch that, if it were possible, they shall deceive the very elect. 25 Behold, I have told you before. (KJV) Do NOT listen to these CULTS!!! They are WRONG! Only GOD is RIGHT!!!
Heathen splendor still lifts itself up in churches. Human reason is still trying to invent ways to worship and please God which He has not commanded. There are men who claim authority to perform offices for the souls of others, that belong ONLY to our Great High-Priest in Heaven. May God have mercy on their souls.
Thousands flatter themselves that they are doing great things in their worship . . . BUT . . . BEWARE!!! The spirit that is in them is NOT the Spirit of Christ (1 John 4:1-2). There are unrestrained Nadabs and Abihus everywhere taking hold of Sacred utensils, and rushing uninvited into the Holy Place, and offering strange fire in the Tabernacle of God.
But it shall not always be so. There is a price put on all these trespasses and violations with respect to Holy things. God has magnified His Word above all, and anyone that adds to, or takes away from it, has his reward stated, and his place reserved for him. Nadab and Abihu were suddenly and miraculously cut off in the midst of their sin; and so it shall be one day with all the partners in trespass and wrong, be it worldly or religious. Fire from the LORD shall come upon them just like it did on Nadab and Abihu.Lev. 10:2 And there went out fire from the LORD, and devoured them, and they died before the LORD. (KJV)
"Jesus shall be revealed from heaven with his mighty angels, in flaming fire taking vengeance on them that know not God, and that obey not the Gospel" (2 Thes.1:8-9). SO it is written, and SO it shall be. No matter what sinful unbeliever’s sin may consist of, the LORD shall destroy him with the appearance of His own Presence. Rev. 21:8 But the fearful, and unbelieving, and the abominable, and murderers, and whoremongers, and sorcerers, and idolaters, and all liars, shall have their part in the lake which burneth with fire and brimstone: which is the second death. (KJV)
The arrogant beast (Rev.13) shall be smitten, and cast into the lake of fire and brimstone, where the beast and the false prophet are (Rev. 20:10). Great Babylon, that mother of harlotry and den of uncleanness, shall be "remembered before God, to give to her the cup of the wine of the fierceness of his wrath" (Rev.16:19). "In one day shall her plagues come, death, and sorrow, and famine; and she shall be burned with fire" (Rev.18:8). As for the supporters of the Antichrist, "their flesh shall consume away while they stand upon their feet; and their eyes shall consume away in their sockets; and their tongue shall consume away in their mouth; and great tumult from the LORD shall be among them" (Zec.14:12). On Judgment Day, EVERY Nadab and Abihu shall be condemned to the burning fires of Hell for eternity!
God will tolerate wicked ungodliness just so long, and then He will lower the boom! And the congregation of God's Israel (Gal.3:26-29):
Isa.66:24 And they shall go forth, and look upon the carcases of the men that have transgressed against me: for their worm shall not die, neither shall their fire be quenched; and they shall be an abhorring unto all flesh. (KJV)
Nadab and Abihu were Aaron’s elder sons. It must have been an extremely trying and painful time for a father's heart, to see his sons come to such an end. We that are parents, can you imagine yourselves in his place? Think how dreadful the blow would have been to you. Before his eyes, and with clear certainty, his two boys were simultaneously (both at once), doomed forever under the curse of God. How do you think he felt, as he looked at their dead bodies, lying at the foot of the Incense Altar, struck down by an angry God? There was no hope left to comfort a father's heart in his bereavement . . . yet, it is written of him, "Aaron held his peace" (Lev.10:3). Aaron knew that it was the LORD'S doing, and that it was done in the just vindication of the Divine Holiness and glory, and that it was all rightly deserved, even though he lost his two first-born sons to the everlasting death of Hell, he "held his peace." He felt it, very deeply as any father would have felt it; but the honor and glory of God was more precious and valuable to him than child or friend, and he did not dare complain or weep when God's Holy Law took his sons. One look at God exalted and glorified, was sufficient cure for all his natural anguish. Mat.10:37 He that loveth father or mother more than me is not worthy of me: and he that loveth son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me. (KJV)
Solemn and devout people sometimes wonder how it shall be in the last day . . . how godly parents will be able to bear the knowledge of their Christless children given over to everlasting death on Judgment Day. Will the knowledge or sight of beloved relatives or friends in an everlasting Hell not interrupt and destroy the peace of Heaven? Dear one, Aaron looking upon his dead sons, is a picture of how it shall be. When God's final judgments shall go into effect, their justice shall be so obvious, and the goodness and glory of God in them shall be so glowing and apparent, that it will not be in the power of any ransomed soul to think of objecting, or having one tearful regret. When we finally come to see things in the light of Heaven, EVERY enemy of God will actually appear to be an enemy to ourselves and to our peace. We will be glad to see them shut up in the eternal prison-house of Hell forever. God's dealings with the unrepentant will be SO necessary, SO just, SO vital to His Holy government . . . it shall be SO good, and SO fair that not even one ransomed soul shall dare, even for a moment, to wish it otherwise. When He who died to save them shall condemn them to Hell (John 3:18,36; 1 John 5:11-12), and Judge Jesus’ great loving Heart has to say, Let them go down to everlasting death (Mat.25:41,46; Rev.20:12-15). Christ Jesus shall be JUDGE on Judgment Day: (Mat.25:31-32; John 5:22; 17:2; Acts 10:42).
Many a devout heart has been saddened, and sickened almost unto death, over the calamities that have fallen on the camp of the LORD in the form of apostasies (faithlessness, disloyalty, betrayal), false doctrine, profane living, and irresponsible violation. Who among us, could not tell the story of many a heart-rending fall in the Churches of God!
One more thought, even Though Nadab and Abihu assumed Aaron's place and prerogatives, Aaron was still the only high-priest. Though the sons seized his rights, they could NOT perform his work. NO one could receive reconciliation to God through their services. Even though the Pope believes he occupies Christ's place, and take to himself Christ's Titles and powers, he does NOT become Christ, nor does he succeed in doing Christ's work. Priests CAN pronounce the words of absolution (forgiveness), but the words do NOT bring forgiveness of sins. ONLY GOD CAN FORGIVE SIN! They may say they can take a soul safely to Heaven, but their saying it avails NOTHING . . . NOT one single thing as to the security of that soul.
Heretics may put falsehood in the place of God's Truth, but it is still falsehood even though it was religiously stated. No matter who tries to fill Christ's offices, HE, CHRIST JESUS is still the ONLY SAVIOUR. Men may take confessions, say prayers, hear masses, make pilgrimages, endure fasting and make vows . . . BUT . . . unless they come with a humble spirit DIRECTLY to the LORD Jesus Himself, and rest themselves in simple repentance, and have faith in JESUS, they are accepting for priests those who are NOT priests.
Popes may carry keys, and SAY that they are the keys of Heaven; but dear one, when the day comes for them to try those keys, they will absolutely NOT fit God's locks, nor will they ever throw open the everlasting doors. These popes, priests and commandeering go-getters, can make what shams they please; Jesus says: "I have the keys of hell and of death" (Rev.1:18). “I am he that openeth, and no man shutteth; and shutteth, and no man openeth" (Rev.3:7). And dear one . . . IF Jesus has the keys, (and HE does), they are safe in His Hands . . . NO one else has them or can get them!!! These false ones who think otherwise, are like drunken Nadab and Abihu; and their will-worship (Col.2:23), and shall only call forth an awful death. JESUS is the Priest, the only TRUE Priest of God; and NO priesthood will benefit you except His. JESUS is the Priest, the High-Priest, in spite of all the attacks of His privileges and rights. There is no earthly vicar, no decrees of the Church, and no one, however called or constituted, that can ever fill the place of Christ Jesus, Whom God hath made "The Apostle and High-priest of our profession" (Heb.3:1).
None but Jesus, only Jesus can do us helpless sinners any good. Quite the contrary . . . these modern Nadabs and Abihus can only lead you to Hell . . . the exact opposite of what Jesus can do for you!
Are you looking to Jesus this day? God’s mercy flows only through Him alone. Please believe this my friend!
Moses clearly brings the GOSPEL in the Book of Leviticus!
He brings us a crystal-clear picture of Jesus!
The Gospel most certainly is in Leviticus.
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