23 … the Eternal One’s glory appeared to all the people. 24 Then flames erupted from the presence of the Eternal One and devoured the burnt offering and all the fat on the altar. At the sight of this, everyone cried out and fell on their faces.
10 Nadab and Abihu, two of Aaron’s sons, took censers and filled them with embers; then they put incense on top of the fire and presented it to the Eternal One. This was a strange and unauthorized fire that the Eternal did not command them. 2 Flames erupted from before the Eternal and burned up Nadab and Abihu. They both died in the presence of the Eternal One.
Wow, from one extreme to the other! Aaron and Moses had done exactly what God commanded: everything performed perfectly and God allowed His glory to appear, flames consumed the offering as a sign of His approval. Then, at some point after, Aaron’s sons decided to do something extra; an offering unacceptable to God that resulted in their deaths! This is one of those accounts that makes us say ‘what?’ Or at least it does me.
At first look, they weren’t doing anything wrong. Making an offering of incense to please God – why would that be unacceptable? What was so wrong with a spontaneous, free-will offering from two of His priests? Was it so very wrong for them to go an extra step and use some initiative in their worship? Let’s take those questions a step or two further… Is God so rigid that He can’t make allowances? Is God so stuffy that it has to be His way or no way? It’s a quick leap from those first questions to the second but the second are the ones that get us in deep trouble.
God had set out clearly and precisely exactly how offerings to atone for sin, to please and honour Him were to be made. He’d allowed for free-will offerings to be brought to His altar, provided for every instance but still, these two priests thought they knew better and it was a disaster. God had a plan that included but did not end with, the sacrificial system given to Moses. It looked forward to the death of the ultimate sacrificial lamb, Jesus.
The thing is people still do what Nadab and Abihu did. We think we can do something extra to please God or worse we think there’s some other way to satisfy the demands of a Holy and Righteous God. Not to mention believing there are many ways to get to heaven or God or some blissful afterlife. God neither needs nor wants our ideas about how it should be done.
Righteousness, forgiveness and acceptance are free gifts for those who call on the Name of Jesus. That Name is the ONLY way we can be reconciled with God – there is no other way to be made right with Him.
In a world that questions even the existence of God let’s remember His mercy and goodness to us, the gift of salvation He has given. There is nothing we can do to earn that gift.
That truth releases us from a huge burden.
That truth is the most valuable thing we can share with others.