ESV - 1 Now Nadab and Abihu, the sons of Aaron, each took his censer and put fire in it and laid incense on it and offered unauthorized fire before the Lord, which he had not commanded them.
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In order to understand the phrase "strange fire," we must review the story in Leviticus in which it appears. The first tabernacle had been erected, and Aaron was doing a lot of sacrificing per God'...
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They offered up strange fire. The lesson is that God has a standard, much like Christ said in John 4 they that worshiped Him Must worship Him in Spirit and Truth (observing His way, rather than man's way) these two attempted to approach God with incence from fires they had setup for themselves rather than using the fire that was maintained in the temple. Moses told the three remaining priests never to drink strong drink or wine when they came to minister, so one possible inference is that Nadab and Abihu had been drinking before this incident....God judged them. This illustrates the principle that Man must worship in line with God's way and not attempt to create his own way....God is exclusive it's wether His way or nothing.....Christianity is not self help, it's God's help....Jesus said I Am THE WAY, THE TRUTH & THE LIFE. He did not say I am A way, A truth and A life...He is Lord....and if you have not made Him Lord of all in your life, then you have not made Him Lord at all.
Nadab & Abihu both accompanied Moses with over 70 others to a banquet with Jehovah on Sinai (Ex 24:9-11). If you go back to Lev 9:24 it states that "came a fire out from before the Lord". With both of these I think it is safe to say that pride corruped their thinking. Both are well aware of the rules of the Tabernacle, but after having dinner with Jehovah & being appointed to the ministry by Moses. Allowed pride to convence them that (1) They were in the presence of Jehovah therefore they had speacial favor from Jehovah. (2) They were chosen by Moses confirming they had special favor from Jehovah in there mind. Now the issue with the strange fire. As I hinted to Lev 9:24 the fire showing that a offering was acceptable. With pride corroupting there thinking wanting to be seen as special in the eyes of the congregation, one way to show this is to have prof of an accetable "burnt" offering. To make sure this will happen they made a fire (strange fire) to put on the alter. Jehovah will not share his glory (Isa 42:8) all of the focus of the people was to be toward Jehovah and no one eles was to be seen as speacial.
Exodus 30:9, "You shall not offer strange incense on it, or a burnt offering.." (The altar of incense) These are God's words. Exodus 30:34-38, here are the specific instructions for making the incense. This incense was not to be used or copied for any other purpose. It was Holy. Exodus 30:7, "Aaron shall burn on it (the altar of incense) sweet incense every morning; when he tends the lamps...(8) and when Aaron lights the lamps at twilight, he shall burn incense..." Aaron was a high priest. Burning incense was a privilege, it was an act restricted to those allowed to approach God. And only one person was permitted at any one time. Exodus 30:9, "You shall not offer strange incense..." Numbers 18, gives an outline of the duties of priests and levites. In verse 3 it says, "They (Aaron's sons) shall attend to your needs and all the needs of the tabernacle, but they shall not come near the articles of the sanctuary and the altar, lest they die -they and you also." Leviticus 16:12, "(Aaron) shall take a censor full of burning coals of fire from the altar before the Lord, with the hands full of sweet incense beaten fine and bring it inside the veil. 13, And he shall put the incense on the fire before the Lord,..." Leviticus 10:1, Nadab and Abihu each took a censor. They put fire in it, they put incense in them. This was the job of the High Priest. They used their own censors and which incense? This was Aaron's job. The strange fire was created by Aaron's poor job training. Probably also by ambition in two young men, forgetting their job description. Notice in Leviticus 10:3, Moses speaks to Aaron and Aaron stays quiet. Aaron cannot complain because he was to blame for the strange fire and the death of two of his sons, he can't even grieve! Aaron had rebelled against God in the making of the golden calf. Now his sons rebelled against him. (Exodus 32.) Deuteronomy 9:12, "Then the Lord said to me (Moses) Arise go down quickly from here, for your people whom you brought out of Egypt have acted corruptly; they have quickly turned aside from the way which I commanded them..." this chapter is a review of Israel's rebellions in the wilderness. The Lord God in chapters 1-9 of Leviticus had just given them instructions! They immediately, after they promised to follow God, disobeyed. The strange fire has very serious consequences. And so it is today. Even though we live in the age of Grace, we should always try to please God, and not invoke His anger. We must be careful as we travel in our wilderness.
After offering unholy fire upon the altar (perhaps while drunk), Nadab and Abihu are consumed by a fire sent by the Lord. The strange fire was in the using of coals from somewhere other than the consumed offering raised area (i.e., "unapproved coals" Lev. 6:12-13; 16:12). That is, they were not taken from the brazen altar as prescribed in these verses in Lv 6 and Lv 16.
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