“Now Nadab and Abihu, the sons of Aaron … offered strange fire before the LORD … and they died … Then Moses said to Aaron, ‘It is what the LORD spoke, saying, ‘By those who come near Me I will be treated as holy, And before all the people I will be honored.’ So Aaron, therefore, kept silent.” Lev. 10:1-3, NASB
He died on his knees, praying. A fellow believer found his father in that position–what a beautiful image to ease the grief of death. I can’t help but think that’s the way I’d like to go as well. Not any time soon, mind you! But just imagine the magnificence of reverently approaching God by faith, then suddenly, literally entering His holy presence face to face.
For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face…” 1 Cor. 13:12
Nadab and Abihu, however, departed this life in an instant of severe judgment. Grossly underestimating God’s holiness, they approached Him on their own terms rather than His. While God remains exceedingly gracious and merciful, He pointedly removed them due to their heinous disregard.
We live in an increasingly casual world. Though I’m not one for ornate pomp and circumstance or superficial religious ceremony, I highly value reverential respect for God. And let’s face it: disrespect in general is on the rise, which surely infiltrates our understanding of God’s holiness. Consider how repeatedly we hear the Lord’s name taken in vain … or even egregiously take it in vain ourselves. Ponder the way we sometimes overlook the solemnity of God’s Word by treating it casually … like its truth is optional in our daily lives. And horrifyingly similar to Nadab and Abihu, do we occasionally offer God our own “sacrifices” rather than simply obeying His instructions? Never, ever should we lose sight of God’s immeasurable holiness.
Isaiah the prophet witnessed brilliant, glowing seraphim standing above the Lord, calling out, “Holy, Holy, Holy, is the LORD of hosts…” (Is. 6:3). This was their job. They resided in God’s presence. And they behaved accordingly. Unquestionably their acute awareness of God’s greatness, holiness, and majesty affected every single accomplishment.
What about us?
Moments march quickly without apology, and dutifully I aim to complete life’s responsibilities. Yet sometimes–no, many times–I operate without awe and wonder … without absolute astonishment concerning God’s greatness, holiness, and majesty. Often I engage in fleshly responses instead of Spirit-led reactions. Sucked into the moments, I frequently forget the constant, invisible reality of God’s holy presence. His Spirit dwells within me. His Son promises to never leave me. His eyes constantly “move to and fro throughout the earth that He may strongly support those whose heart is completely His” (2 Chron. 16:9).
Because they didn’t treat God as holy while drawing near, Nadab and Abihu immediately died. Sadly their last act consisted of offering God “strange fire.” Though I’m unsure exactly what that consisted of, I strongly suspect it involved a worship form used by others to worship idols. Their grievous deeds seriously offended God, and God’s just response left their father, Aaron, silent.
Do we ever attempt to worship without recognizing God’s holiness?
I urge you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship.” Rom. 12:1
Worship is so much more than singing praise songs–it’s a way of life. Rather than living on our own terms, let’s sacrificially offer ourselves with full recognition of His holiness–His perfect purity, His eternal existence outside of sin.
… Until one day, when we enter His holy presence face to face.