By those who come near Me I must be regarded as holy; and before all the people I must be glorified.
Leviticus 10:3, NKJV
Nadab and Abihu is a shocking encounter with God. It reminds me of the New Testament account of Ananias and Sapphira. In both occurrences the individuals involved were profaning the holiness of God.
The New King James uses the word “profane” to describe Nadab and Abihu’s fire. Some translations call it “strange.” The Hebrew says it is estranged, foreign, loathsome, that of a prostitute. The description here is that Nadab and Abihu were performing what was to be holy worship in the wrong manner—a manner that was offensive to a holy God. What is dedicated to the Lord can neither be taken for personal gain or attributed to another. They took the presence of the Lord as common place and ordinary, and the fire of the altar consumed them. They decided to act according to their own judgment and did not follow the pattern God had given them for worship.
What was God’s pattern? God had already given direction to Moses and Aaron that He is to be regarded as holy and must be glorified. If we are to honor God, we are to recognize there is none like Him; we recognize His heavy or weighty presence, and we exalt Him. This was more than understanding a dogma of God’s holiness. Those present witnessed the reality of God’s glory for themselves. God is looking for worshippers who worship more than concept. He was looking for pure worship that was in order with His holiness. Watching the fire from the altar leap out and burn these two men to death left an unforgettable memory in the minds of those who saw the reality of God’s holiness. Watching Ananias and Sapphira fall to their feet dead left a last impression of God’s holiness upon those who witnessed this account. Let us never forget the holiness of God, and may we never lack in awe and reverence for Him.
Alexander MacLaren continues this thought about Nadab and Abihu:
They have had many successors, not only in Israel, while a ritual demanding punctilious conformity lasted, but in Christendom since. Alas! our censers are often flaming with ‘strange fire.’ How much so-called Christian worship glows with self-will or with partisan zeal! When we seek to worship God for what we can get, when we rush into His presence with hot, eager desires which we have not subordinated to His will, we are burning ‘strange fire which He has not commanded.’ The only fire which should kindle the incense in our censers, and send it up to heaven in fragrant wreaths, is fire caught from the altar of sacrifice. God must kindle the flame in our hearts if we are to render these else cold hearts to Him.
Let your life be consecrated to worship the Lord in Spirit and Truth. He calls us today to come boldly into His presence based on Christ’s sacrifice. Efforts to come into God’s holy presence based on any other work will find us in the company of Nadab, Abihu, Ananias, and Saphhira. Literal fire may not come from the altar and consume you, but it will be impossible to delight in God’s presence with dishonor towards Him in your heart.