Life-Study of Leviticusby Witness Lee
Printed Copy: Available Online from Living Stream Ministry
Printed Copy: Available Online from Living Stream Ministry
In chapters one through nine of Leviticus, we have seen the offerings and their laws, the consecration of Aaron and his sons, the initiation of the priestly service, and the issue of the priestly service. The issue of the priestly service includes the appearing of God, the appearing of God’s glory, the blessing of the people, and fire coming out from before God and consuming the burnt offering (9:24). This consuming fire, which represents God’s holiness, is used by God in two different kinds of situations, one positive and the other negative. In a positive situation, when we have something for God and offer it to God, He accepts it by consuming it with fire. This consuming is positive; it is the divine acceptance of what we are, what we do, and what we have for God. In a negative situation, holy fire comes from God as judgment. Such a negative case—the case of Nadab and Abihu—is found in Leviticus 10:1-11, the section which we will consider in this message.
The case of Nadab and Abihu in 10:1-11 goes together with the events of the previous chapter. It seems that this sad case happened on the same day in which “fire came out from before Jehovah and consumed the burnt offering and the portions of fat on the altar” (9:24).
Nadab and Abihu, sons of Aaron, did something that seemingly was good: they offered something to God. However, they offered “strange fire” (10:1), common fire, not fire from the heavens. God judged this offering of strange fire by consuming the two priests who offered it. This shows us, on the one hand, that God is merciful and kind, and, on the other hand, that He is quite severe and strict. After the blessings of that excellent and glorious day in chapter nine, the day of God’s initiation of the application of Christ to His people for their enjoyment, we might have tolerated the mistake recorded in chapter ten. But with God there was no tolerance. Immediately after God blessed, He judged.
The consuming of the offerings by the heavenly fire was altogether positive. That consuming was a strong confirmation that God is the true and living God and that He was with His people, the people of Israel. Furthermore, this consuming by fire was a confirmation of what Moses had done and of what he had told the people about God. Before that time, the Israelites might have wondered what kind of God they had, for they had heard about Him through Moses, but they had not seen Him. Now there was a particular day with all kinds of laws, regulations, and offerings, a day that was formal and official. On this day God’s glory appeared, and His blessing came upon His people. Furthermore, on this day there was the divine acceptance of the offerings. This acceptance came in the form of consuming fire. This fire came down from heaven; it was not from the earth, and it did not originate with the children of Israel. When fire came from heaven to the very spot—the altar—where the offerings were and consumed the offerings, the people saw it, shouted, and fell on their faces (9:24b).
Not long afterward, the consuming fire appeared again but in a negative way. Instead of accepting, the holy fire judged. In chapter nine the holy fire consumed in the sense of accepting; in chapter ten the holy fire consumed in the sense of judging. Concerning Nadab and Abihu, 10:2 says, “Fire came out from before Jehovah and consumed them, and they died before Jehovah.” A similar thing occurred in Acts. On the day of Pentecost the glory of God came down from heaven (Acts 2:1-4), but not long afterward a couple cheated the Holy Spirit and died as a result (Acts 5:1-11). In the case in Leviticus 10, the offering of something not sanctified, a common, worldly fire, brought in judgment. The holy, heavenly fire consumed Nadab and Abihu, and they died.
The more we consider the case of Nadab and Abihu, the more we realize that God is not only merciful but also holy, not only kind but also severe. Therefore, we should not be careless in serving Him or in touching the divine things.
Leviticus 10:9 and 10 say, “Do not drink wine or strong drink, you or your sons with you, when you come into the tent of meeting, that you may not die; it is a perpetual statute throughout your generations, that you may make a distinction between the holy and the common, and between the unclean and the clean.” This charge indicates that the reason Nadab and Abihu offered strange fire might have been that they were drunk with wine. This made them loose and careless and caused them to act without fear. As a result, they suffered God’s holy judgment.
In both the Old Testament and the New Testament, the principle is the same concerning the result of carelessness in serving God and in touching the divine things. In the case both of Nadab and Abihu and of Ananias and Sapphira the result was death. This shows us that the careless touching of the divine things is serious and may result in death. According to the New Testament, this death may not be physical but spiritual.
Let us now consider in some detail the case of Nadab and Abihu.
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