So, with all that being said, we can now move on to Leviticus 10. It is from this chapter that we get a phrase that is used quite commonly. That phrase is “strange fire.” This is, of course, the story of Nadab and Abihu. And this is yet one more tale of someone knowing what God expects out of them and saying “Well, yeah, I know God said that. But did He really mean it? Besides, I think I can do this a whole lot better than God.” And keep in mind, the same God that acts in this chapter is the same God who is acting today. He has not changed. He jealously guards His holiness, and He will not have any foolish humans telling Him how He ought to do things, or telling Him that they can do things better than He can. Leviticus 10:1—Then Nadab and Abihu, the sons of Aaron, each took his censer and put fire in it, put incense on it, and offered profane fire before the LORD, which He had not commanded them. Who were Nadab and Abihu? They were sons of Aaron. Did they know what kind of incense God had specifically told them they were to use? Did He not spell out for them, quite plainly? Now, when and where this happened has been debated by scholars over these many years. I would agree with the conclusions of Keil and Delitzsch—
“By the fire which they offered before Jehovah, we are no doubt to understand the firing of the incense-offering. This might be called “strange fire” if it was not offered in the manner prescribed in the law, just as in Exodus 30:9 incense not prepared according to the direction of God is called “strange incense.” The supposition that they presented an incense-offering that was not commanded in the law, and apart from the time of the morning and evening sacrifice, and that this constituted their sin, is supported by the time at which their illegal act took place. It is perfectly obvious from Leviticus 10:12 and Leviticus 10:16 ff. that it occurred in the interval between the sacrificial transaction in chapter 9 and the sacrificial meal which followed it, and therefore upon the day of their inauguration. For in Leviticus 10:12 Moses commands Aaron and his remaining sons Eleazar and Ithamar to eat the meat-offering that was left from the firings of Jehovah, and inquires in Leviticus 10:16 for the goat of the sin-offering, which the priests were to have eaten in a holy place. Knobel's opinion is not an improbable one, therefore, that Nadab and Abihu intended to accompany the shouts of the people with an incense-offering to the praise and glory of God, and presented an incense-offering not only at an improper time, but not prepared from the altar-fire, and committed such a sin by this will-worship, that they were smitten by the fire which came forth from Jehovah, even before their entrance into the holy place, and so died ‘before Jehovah.’”
And since Leviticus 10:4 tells us that Moses commanded they be removed “from before the sanctuary,” this more than likely happened outside the tent, in the courtyard, and not inside the tabernacle. So they probably didn’t offer this mixture on the Altar of Incense. But whenever and wherever this happened, one thing is clear: they were to use only a certain mixture for the incense they were to burn, and that mixture was to be burned only on the Altar of Incense. Exodus 30:7-9, 34-35—“7 Aaron shall burn on it sweet incense every morning; when he tends the lamps, he shall burn incense on it…9 You shall not offer strange incense on it,”…34 And the LORD said to Moses: “Take sweet spices, stacte and onycha and galbanum, and pure frankincense with these sweet spices; there shall be equal amounts of each. 35 You shall make of these an incense, a compound according to the art of the perfumer, salted, pure, and holy.” What’s that last word? “Holy.” This was what God commanded. This was not a suggestion; this was not God recommending that they make something like this, while telling them “But ya know, if you want to mix it up a little, be My guest.” God said this mixture was “holy.” And it was this mixture and ONLY this mixture that was to be burned on the Altar of Incense—Period, paragraph. This was not a case of “God said it; I believe it; that settles it.” This was (as it always is) “God said it—THAT SETTLES IT.” Whether or not we believe it—really doesn't matter.
When we studied the Trespass Offerings we talked about how there are so many churches today that are bringing the filthy elements of the world into their “church” service. They seem to have this notion that “Well, I know God may not think this is right. But, we know how to draw a crowd better than God does, so we’re gonna do it like this. God will understand.” And what is always their excuse? “We must have done something right because look at all the people that came!” Oh, and let’s not forget the tired old, “We had 20,000 young people meet Jesus tonight!” Well, there may be some who actually came to know Christ—but I dare say it was in spite of their worldly methods, rather than it being a fruit of them. And I'm sure once they realize they’ve been eating rotten fruit, they will seek a place where a pastor actually feeds them solid food, rather than the sugar-coated skubolon they've been choking on. Bishop Joseph Hall, writing in the late 1500’s and early 1600’s, writes, "It is a dangerous thing, in the service of God, to decline from his institutions; we have to do with a God, who is wise to prescribe his own worship - just to require what he has prescribed - and powerful to avenge what he has not prescribed."
Leviticus 10:2-3—2 So fire went out from the LORD and devoured them, and they died before the LORD. 3 And Moses said to Aaron, "This is what the LORD spoke, saying: 'By those who come near Me I must be regarded as holy; And before all the people I must be glorified.'" So Aaron held his peace. The same fire that had just displayed God’s acceptance of their initial offerings was now displaying His indignation at being scoffed at and mocked by these two disobedient transgressors. No second chances, no opportunity to apologize, no appeal. God killed them. Period, paragraph, end of story. They became their own Sin Offering. And God was quite justified in killing them right then and there, because it was His holiness that he was defending. But how many times do we see it? The defenders of those who offer strange fire to God will rally to their defense, rather than defending God’s right to be worshipped as He sees fit. But God is not man. If your pastor says that something should be done a certain way, and others decide it should be done another way, that is only natural. Man is a fallen creature, and does not possess the ability to demand others to march in lock-step with his decisions. But when God demands something be done a certain way, or not done a certain way, He is the ultimate Authority, the one who gave His life for the church, the One who is Sovereign over every square inch of creation. And if He says to do something or to not do something, He is to be obeyed—regardless of what your pastor or my pastor says.
If we get to the book of Numbers, we find the people time and time again bucking against God’s authority, and grumbling and complaining about the decisions God makes and the authority figures that God places over them. And time and time again, God sends His wrath and fury upon them, burning the outskirts of the camp (Numbers 11:1); sending quail just to spite the people and then killing them as they chewed it (Numbers 11:33); bringing leprosy upon Miriam (Numbers 12:10); allowing them to be routed in battle against the Canaanites and the Amalekites (Numbers 14:39-45); swallowing up hundreds of Korah’s family (Numbers 16:31-33); sending fiery serpents to bite and kill people (Numbers 21:4-9); destroying 24,000 people in one day for idolatry (Numbers 25:9). And on and on and on. The same God that brought all these plagues and death on the people for complaining against Him and for rebelling against Him and for treating the holiness of God as some flippant thing—this is the same God that rules over all creation to this day. But we don’t get it. We don’t want to think like that. We want to believe in a fuzzy-wuzzy God that just winks and nods at our sins, and that lets us join all kinds of abominable filth to the worship of Almighty YHVH. We want to say, “Oh, that Old Testament God was such an ogre. He wasn’t very nice at all. Now this Jesus, he’s so much more loving and tolerant, and He lets me get away with all kinds of things. I like Him better!” As if Jesus is some laid-back, hippy-type slacker dude that lets us carry on any way we want with no repercussions.
Anyone know what Christ is going to do when He returns? How does John describe Him in Revelation? He ain't no milquetoast! Revelation 19:11-18—11 Now I saw heaven opened, and behold, a white horse. And He who sat on him was called Faithful and True, and in righteousness He judges and makes war. 12 His eyes were like a flame of fire, and on His head were many crowns. He had a name written that no one knew except Himself. 13 He was clothed with a robe dipped in blood, and His name is called The Word of God. 14 And the armies in heaven, clothed in fine linen, white and clean, followed Him on white horses. 15 Now out of His mouth goes a sharp sword, that with it He should strike the nations. And He Himself will rule them with a rod of iron. He Himself treads the winepress of the fierceness and wrath of Almighty God. 16 And He has on His robe and on His thigh a name written: KING OF KINGS AND LORD OF LORDS. 17 Then I saw an angel standing in the sun; and he cried with a loud voice, saying to all the birds that fly in the midst of heaven, "Come and gather together for the supper of the great God, 18 that you may eat the flesh of kings, the flesh of captains, the flesh of mighty men, the flesh of horses and of those who sit on them, and the flesh of all people, free and slave, both small and great." Does that sound like some lovey-dovey, “Let’s all just get together for milk and cookies and get past our differences” type of king? This is a king who judges and makes war! A King who is clothed in a robe dipped in blood. Who, with a word from His mouth destroys His enemies, and who leaves their rotting corpses in the field for the vultures to pick at! Not just the kings and generals of the earth—but even the poorest, most destitute soul who follows those kings will be slaughtered by this King on His white horse. And He will not feel one ounce of remorse about it because this is His creation, and He will rule it the way He sees fit, and if any dare to try and stand in His way he will hack them in pieces the way Samuel hacked up Agag. And He will look around and ask, “Who’s next?” But there won’t be a “Next” because He will have vanquished all His enemies. This is the God that Nadab and Abihu said, “Oh, that’s OK, He’ll understand!” That’s the same God that “pastors” like Perry Noble and Steven Furtick think will sit sweetly and idly by while he feeds load after load of watered-down manure and satanic music to those who sit under their teaching. He will sit by for now. But one day they will give account. I pray I never lose the sense of awe of God like these seem to have.
Leviticus 10:4-7—4 Then Moses called Mishael and Elzaphan, the sons of Uzziel the uncle of Aaron, and said to them, "Come near, carry your brethren from before the sanctuary out of the camp." 5 So they went near and carried them by their tunics out of the camp, as Moses had said. 6 And Moses said to Aaron, and to Eleazar and Ithamar, his sons, "Do not uncover your heads nor tear your clothes, lest you die, and wrath come upon all the people. But let your brethren, the whole house of Israel, bewail the burning which the LORD has kindled. 7 You shall not go out from the door of the tabernacle of meeting, lest you die, for the anointing oil of the LORD is upon you." And they did according to the word of Moses. They would not even touch the actual bodies of these two—they carried them by their tunics. They knew that a very unhappy God had just killed their cousins for adding to or taking away from what God had said to do. And they carried them out of the camp. Probably out to where the Sin Offerings were burned, although we can't say for sure. But wherever they took the bodies, one thing is clear: they were not to remain in the camp, therefore defiling and polluting the camp. Now, notice something else too—something that had not dawned on me until I read what Keil and Delitzsch said on this matter. The fire of God had burned up these two men. Yet they were carried out by their tunics. So this obviously means that their tunics were not burned. Their bodies had been burned—but not their clothing. This is a very Sovereign God! One who can burn a body without singing clothes! This same Sovereign God who made a bush that burned but was not consumed, and who allowed three men (well, actually, four) to stand in a furnace and not be burned at all, and to make it so that their clothing did not even smell like smoke. This is a powerful God. And yet some exist who will say “We’re gonna do things our own way, and God will have to bless it, and that’s that!” Yeah, good luck with that.
And notice what Moses commands of them. "Do not uncover your heads nor tear your clothes, lest you die, and wrath come upon all the people." They could not mourn over these two men. Why? Why couldn’t they mourn? After all, these were their cousins! That sounds like a very mean, nasty God! Well, yea—to human minds. But God would not let these men mourn for their cousins for one very important reason: God’s holiness is to be treasured and jealously guarded against all those who would stand against it. I dare say that when we are in Heaven, and if we could see into Hell, and see people there that we knew and loved in this life, we would not shed a tear. Because God’s justice will have been satisfied, and we will know that in their suffering in hell, God will be glorified. And think about this as well: In order to carry them out of the camp, they had to carry them through the camp. All of Israel was a spectator to the aftermath of what they only saw glimpses of: They had no doubt seen the fire come down, and now they were seeing these charred bodies—still wrapped in the clothing they wore—being hauled through their midst, the men carrying the bodies neither weeping nor mourning. Matthew Henry—“Nadab and Abihu (who had been in the mount with God, Exodus 24:1) were looked upon as the great favourites of heaven, and the hopes of their people; and now on a sudden, when the tidings of the event had scarcely reached their ears, to see them both carried out dead, with the visible marks of divine vengeance upon them, as sacrifices to the justice of God, they could not choose but cry out, Who is able to stand before this holy Lord God?” And yet, time after time, these same people who saw the charred bodies of these two rebellious creatures would rebel themselves against this mighty and sovereign God.
Leviticus 10:8-11—8 Then the LORD spoke to Aaron, saying: "9 Do not drink wine or intoxicating drink, you, nor your sons with you, when you go into the tabernacle of meeting, lest you die. It shall be a statute forever throughout your generations, 10 that you may distinguish between holy and unholy, and between unclean and clean, 11 and that you may teach the children of Israel all the statutes which the LORD has spoken to them by the hand of Moses." Let’s talk about one thing real quick. If you have a MacArthur Study Bible, you will see that Dr. MacArthur postulates that the reason for this prohibition against wine and intoxicating drink is this: “Taken in its context, this prohibition suggests that intoxication led Nadab and Abihu to perform their blasphemous act.” Now, he is certainly not the only commentator to suggest such a connection. Nearly every commentary I have read theorizes such. And while it’s certainly entirely possible, we don’t necessarily have the connection in the words. If we had a connecting word like “therefore” at the beginning of verse 8, and it read “Therefore, the LORD said to Aaron…”—then it would be obvious. But no matter whether one holds to such an opinion or not, it is certainly not a hill worth dying on. Here’s why: does man need to be intoxicated to rebel against God? Was Adam drunk when he ate of the tree? Was David inebriated when he took Bathsheba? Was either Herod, or Annas or Caiaphas under the influence of strong drink when they led the Lord of Glory to His death? No. Man can buck against the commands of God quite easily without the aid of alcohol.
That said, let’s talk about the reason for this injunction. “That you may distinguish between holy and unholy, and between unclean and clean, and that you may teach the children of Israel all the statutes which the LORD has spoken to them by the hand of Moses.” This seems to indicate that God has set up some kind of dividing line between what is good and evil, does it not? Yes it does. And why does it? Because there are things which God considers clean, and there are things which God considers unclean. There are things that God considers to be good, and there are things which God considers to be sinful. Amos 7:7-8—7 Thus He showed me: Behold, the Lord stood on a wall made with a plumb line, with a plumb line in His hand. 8 And the LORD said to me, "Amos, what do you see?" And I said, "A plumb line." Then the Lord said: “Behold, I am setting a plumb line In the midst of My people Israel; I will not pass by them anymore.” When we talk about the church being the “House of God”, what description to we give of Christ? Acts 4:11—“This is the ‘stone which was rejected by you builders, which has become the chief cornerstone.’” God does not deal in loopholes. He does not have “grey areas” when He speaks. He does not approve of something one day and disapprove of that same thing the next day. The LORD our God is not the schizophrenic “God” of Mormonism, who changes His mind every time the wind blows (or they elect a new “prophet”). He deals in black and white. He does not say to a people, “Well, if you guys think homosexuality is OK in your culture and in your context—well, I won’t consider it to be a sin for you people. But I will for others.” This idea of God adapting His commandments to fit in with what a certain culture believes is nonsense.
And if you want to build a (literal) house that will stand, you have to deal in absolutes. You have to be able to say, “This wall is not straight” and “These pipes are the wrong size.” You have to measure angles very precisely or your house will not stand. You don’t just eyeball these things. And when God sets out to build a (spiritual) house, you can be sure that He has very exacting standards. A cornerstone and a plumb line—these are the things God uses to determine whether the angles are correct or not. Every part of His house is measured against his plumb line, and against the cornerstone. And right now, His creation is not plumb. It is not level with the Cornerstone. And even the creation knows it—even if the crown of His creation, Man, does not. Isaiah 1:3—“The ox knows its owner and the donkey its master's crib; but Israel does not know, My people do not consider.” Romans 8:20-22—20 For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of Him who subjected it in hope; 21 because the creation itself also will be delivered from the bondage of corruption into the glorious liberty of the children of God. 22 For we know that the whole creation groans and labors with birth pangs together until now.
Man does not need intoxicating drink to rebel against the Cornerstone, or to become out of line with what God considers to be plumb. It’s how we are born. But when we use such liquors, and we cloud our judgment even further, we move ourselves even further away from that plumb line. There are some who do not want to divorce themselves from these drinks, and they will find all kinds of excuses to rationalize their behavior. “Oh, I'm just an alcoholic. I can't help myself!” You're right—you can't help yourself. That’s why you need to submit yourself to the yoke of Christ and learn from Him and seek Him. Is it easy? No. No burdensome sin that we carry around is easy to get rid of. But if you keep giving in to it, you only have yourself to blame. Proverbs 20:1—Wine is a mocker, strong drink is a brawler, and whoever is led astray by it is not wise. If you want a nearly perfect description of one who is in bondage to alcohol, read Proverbs 23:29-35—29 Who has woe? Who has sorrow? Who has contentions? Who has complaints? Who has wounds without cause? Who has redness of eyes? 30 Those who linger long at the wine, those who go in search of mixed wine. 31 Do not look on the wine when it is red, when it sparkles in the cup, when it swirls around smoothly; 32 at the last it bites like a serpent, and stings like a viper. 33 Your eyes will see strange things, and your heart will utter perverse things. 34 Yes, you will be like one who lies down in the midst of the sea, or like one who lies at the top of the mast, saying: "35 They have struck me, but I was not hurt; they have beaten me, but I did not feel it. When shall I awake, that I may seek another drink?" This admonition carries over into the New Testament when Paul writes, Ephesians 5:18—Do not be drunk on wine, but be filled with the Spirit. Why? Why does God warn us not to become intoxicated? So that we may discern between what is clean and what is unclean, between what is holy and what is profane. We can find sinful things all on our own—we don’t need the help of strong drink to get us there more quickly. In fact, it is not for no reason that liquor stores often describe themselves as selling wine and…what? “Spirits.” There’s a reason liquor is called “Spirits.”