The post today is a story from my unpublished book about little-known Bible people,
Ordinary People Come face-to-face with Extraordinary God
If you wish to know more about this book, check the tab on the blog.
NADAB AND ABIHU: They Chose to Change God's Directions for Worship
(The story is found in Numbers 3:3 and in Leviticus 8-10)
Moses and his family came from the tribe of the Levites, the men chosen to show the Israelites how to worship. But we must remember that this large group had not been a cohesive people group for many years. They had been slaves in Egypt. They had not been worshipping corporately since they became slaves in Egypt.
God was teaching them how to worship as he led them through the wilderness. As God gave the laws to Moses, Moses told Aaron, and Aaron taught the people how to worship God. To them, everything about corporate worship was new, so they had to learn how to worship together.
Before they went to Egypt, their fathers worshipped God and offered sacrifices to him, but these traveling nomads were several generations removed from the people who originally went to Egypt during a famine. This generation only knew the land of Egypt and the stories that had been handed down from previous generations about the Holy God.
God chose Nadab and Abihu, sons of Aaron the High Priest, as the ones destined to assume their father's role. Although these two young men knew nothing of sacrifice and worship, their father surely impressed upon them the seriousness of the work they would do. If you read Leviticus chapters 8 through 10, you will see how carefully Aaron taught them. Surely they must have realized that God demanded strict adherence to the laws he gave.
Yet they made a terrible mistake,
Nadab and Abihu had been eyewitnesses to the mighty acts of God--the crossing of the Red Sea, the giving of the Ten Commandments, the building of the Tabernacle, and the beginning of God's laws. They had good family examples to follow. They watched their uncle, Moses, lead the people and perform great works. Their aunt, Miriam, was a prophetess and a songwriter; the young men watched as she led the people in praise and worship to God, and they watched their father, Aaron, as he led the people in worship and obedience and in sacrifices to God.
Consecrated to God
When the time came for Nadab and Abihu to be consecrated as priests, Aaron followed the high laws of God. Leviticus 10 tells us that Aaron and his sons were taken into the Tent of Meeting. They were washed in water and then dressed in priestly robes. The sacrifices were prepared according to God's law. The consecrating oil was sprinkled in the correct places to denote the holiness of this act. Nadab and Abihu presented the offerings and prepared the sacrificial meal according to the laws that God had given Moses.
All this was done to show Aaron's sons the awesome holiness of God and that they were to follow the laws strictly with no deviations. We are told in Leviticus 8:36 "So Aaron and his sons did everything the Lord commanded through Moses." They were on the right track.
But we read in the first verse of Chapter 10, "Aaron's sons Nadab and Abidhu, took their censors, put the fire in them, and added incense, and they offered unauthorized fire before the Lord, contrary to his command. So fire came out from the presence of the Lord and consumed them, and they died before the Lord." Their young lives were snuffed out before they had a chance to start on their journey with God, because they did not follow God's laws exactly as he had commanded.
Perhaps these young men brought coals of fire to the alter from another source or perhaps they added incense when it was prohibited. It could be that the two young priests gave an offering at the wrong time. Whatever it was, they did something disrespectful to God. They tried to change the way God had commanded the people to worship. Nadab and Abihu were careless about following God's laws. God had given rules for worship yet they attempted to add their own ideas to what God had told them to do.
Do Not Become Careless
It is sometimes easy for us to grow careless about obeying Go and to want to do things our way instead of listening to God in obedience. However, if one way were as good as another, God would not have given the laws as he did. He would not have commanded that we live his way.
This story reminds me of people today who think they don't have to obey the rules. They think they can exceed the speed limit if no one is looking, or if they have a radar device on their car to tell them when a police officer is near. They think they can take shortcuts to attain what they want, even if the tactics they use are illegal or not even totally ethical. Some people today have no scruples. Whatever they desire is their main goal, no matter what must be done to obtain it. Just take a look at our government, and you see countless examples of this--men and women who think they are above the law.
The Holiness of God
From the story of Nadab and Abihu, we learn that sin has deadly consequences. God always has good reasons for the things he tells us to do. We place ourselves in serious danger when we think we may have a better plan, or if we carelessly disobey or disrespect God. We are in danger of making the same mistakes these brothers did when we treat lightly the justice and holiness of God.
We must recognize God's holiness and remember that he controls the universe. However, today we no longer live under the laws of the Old Testament. Jesus came and brought a new way. By trusting in him and receiving him as our Savior, we can become a new creation. We still worship him, but not in the way taught by the priests eons ago. The sacrifices to do not have to be presented, because Jesus is our sacrifice. We worship him in Spirit and in truth.
Questions for further thought: (presented at the end of each chapter)
1. This is a hard story to read. Why do you think God did not give these two young men another chance?
2. After learning all the laws for worship why do you suppose Nadab and Abihu chose to worship in a different way? The Bible says they offered "unauthorized fire." Why do you think they did this?
3. What does this story teach immature young people of today?
4. When people disobey God today, is he more lenient that he was in the day of Moses?
5. What lesson can we learn from the story of Nadab and Abihu?