One of the more surprising events in the Bible comes in today’s reading – Leviticus 10:1-2. Here God strikes down Nadab and Abihu for offering “unauthorized fire” (some translations read “strange fire”). So what’s the big deal?
Well first, it’s important to note that this was an act outside the explicit instructions God had given to Aaron and his sons. We’ve seen that God gave the priests a lengthy and detailed list of instructions for rituals they were to perform, and the reason was to show them that they are sinners and they cannot be in the presence of a holy and righteous God because of their sin. So they must consecrate themselves before coming before God. Nadab and Abihu did not follow God’s instructions and God killed them for it.
You may be wondering why God didn’t just warn them instead of killing them dead on the spot. Often when God begins a new thing in the Bible he will be very strict with enforcing the rules he’s laid down with the people and will even sometimes kill someone to warn the others (See Joshua 7, 2 Sam. 6:1-7, and Acts 5).
Finally, verse 9 could be a hint as to what happened as well. In this verse, seemingly out of nowhere, God prohibits coming before him after drinking wine or alcohol. Therefore Nadab and Abihu could have been drunk while offering the fire, which would explain why they forgot to heed some of the rules God had laid down.
Yet again God is showing us the seriousness of our sin and how it separates us from him. God absolutely hates sin and wants to wipe it out. So we can’t just come into God’s presence however we please. We’d be struck down dead! We need to be cleansed and forgiven. We need to be consecrated as holy. All this happens through Jesus’ death on the cross and our faith in him.
Furthermore it shows us the importance of following God’s commands correctly, even when it seems like it might not be a big deal to make a change. It certainly didn’t seem like a big deal to offer fire in that certain way to Nadab and Abihu. But God saw it as an extreme offense. We need to know the commands of God in the Bible and do our very best to follow them to the ‘T’. We don’t have the freedom to simply change God’s commands in the ways that we want. We must follow the way God has told us to. We must recognize his ultimate authority and our rightful position as submissive servants.