July 2016 Newsletter
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. 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. (Leviticus 10:1-3)
When God led the Israelites out of Egypt, He first led them to Mount Horeb, where He would reveal Himself to them and receive His laws. There God instructed Moses to build a Tabernacle as a dwelling place for His presence among them. He also appointed Aaron, Moses’ brother, and His family to serve as priests before Him. It would be there job to offer sacrifices for sin and sacrifices of worship to Him.
God’s instructions for building the tabernacle were very specific (design, measurements, materials, etc.) as were His instructions for worship. All this was to teach the people that their God, who had delivered them and called to serve and worship Him, was holy. He could not be approached on their terms, but only on His. Everything had to be done according to His specifications. Every sacrifice had its particular purpose and timing, and the incense that they priests would burn continually as an act of worship had to be made to a precise recipe and it was to be used for worship alone. (Exodus 30:1-9 & 34-38)
So Aaron and his sons did what God had appointed them to do, until one day two of them, Nadab and Abihu offered what God saw as profane. WE are not told exactly what it was that God disapproved of, but evidently the offering that was presented to Him did not please Him, and consequently fire of judgment went out from God and they died.
God is still the same: He is holy and He can only be approached on His terms. As sinful people, we cannot come into His holy presence of ourselves. That is why He sent Jesus as our sacrifice, that through His death our guilt could be taken away and we could enter into His presence, not by our own righteousness, but by the righteousness of the Son of God. (Philippians 3:9 & 2 Corinthians 5:21) For this reason we can approach our God to worship Him in spirit and in truth. (John 4:23-24)
Before this tragic event, Nadab and Abihu had entered God’s tabernacle to offer incense many times. Until that day, it appears, God had been pleased with their offering. So what had gone wrong this time? Had they perhaps become too familiar with their task? Had it become a routine rather than sincere worship to their God – the almighty Creator? Had they taken a short cut when mixing the spices and fragrances instead of adhering to God’s instructions? Or did they simply come with a casual, irreverent attitude? Whatever the reason, God was displeased with their offering – so displeased that they were consumed by the fire of His glory.
Like the Israelites in the days of Moses, we too can grow familiar with what we do in worship. What once came from a sincere heart of gratefulness towards God can turn into a routine – be it on a Sunday morning or in our private time of worship. We can lose focus by succumbing to distractions or cut our worship short in order to attend to things we regard as important. Whatever our reasons, God will not accept anything less than true worship from a grateful and reverent heart.
So let us worship God in spirit and in truth – whether in our private time with Him or when we gather together as a church congregation. Let us come to service on time with our hearts prepared to meet the almighty God, our Saviour. Let us make it our priority to draw near to our Maker and defer all those conversations that seem so urgent until after our audience with the King of the universe. Let us make sure that Jesus’ words, “These people draw near to Me with their mouth, and honour Me with their lips, but their heart is far from Me” are not true of us. (Matthew 15:8, quoted from Isaiah 29:13)
We may not be consumed by fire like Nadab and Abihu, but neither will we enjoy the true life only God can give if our hearts are divided. God expects us to approach Him single-heartedly with reverence and awe. He is holy, so let us give Him the worship He is due – in spirit and in truth.