God expects His people to take worship seriously. In the Patriarchal age, Cain was denied acceptance when he offered the wrong sacrifice with the wrong attitude. During the time when the Law of Moses was in effect, the Israelites were often found sinful in their worship in both heart and habit. In the New Testament age, we are commanded to offer up spiritual sacrifices to God, which is our “reasonable service” (Romans 12:1-2). Jesus said that the Father would be seeking true worshipers to worship Him in spirit and in truth (John 4:23-24). God wants us to honor Him. He wants us to regard Him as holy. He wants us to be obedient. He wants our worship to be about Him so He can be glorified and we can be encouraged. He will not accept human substitutes.
This is why what two Levites once did was so terribly evil (Leviticus 10:1-2).
Nadab and Abihu were priests. They were sons of Aaron, the first high priest of the house of Israel. They stood between God and His people and helped to atone for the daily sins of the children of God. They had been given the responsibility to carry out the worship and sacrifices of God’s holy tabernacle. This was the same tabernacle that contained the Ark of the Covenant within. This was the same tabernacle where God appeared before them from time to time in the form of a cloud or of fire. This was the same tabernacle where God’s presence was ever abiding just above the mercy seat. This was the same tabernacle where God spoke to Moses as a man speaks to his friend, face to face.
They were Moses’ nephews. They were Aaron’s sons. They knew better than to offer strange fire to the one and only, pure and powerful Jehovah! But they did it anyway. And so God’s justice demanded they be consumed. In a moment, they were dust. God always means what He says. He is never wrong and He never has to apologize for His sovereignty or His holiness. When these men were killed by fire from heaven, Moses told Aaron not to say a word. Aaron held his peace. Yet they were Moses’ nephews! They were Aaron’s sons!
This life-event in the history of God’s people brings to mind two astounding Bible truths:
1. No matter how much we love our children, they are going to be held accountable for their actions. The soul that sins will die (Ezekiel 18:20). It doesn’t matter if it is your child or not. It does not matter how much you love them. It does not matter how much you are willing to help them. It does not matter if you would even be willing to take their place in hell so that they could have your place in heaven. Each one of us is going to give an account of ourselves to God individually (2 Corinthians 5:9-10; Romans 14:12).
2. Every sinner is somebody’s child. We often tend to be unaffected by the fact that countless souls are lost. Maybe they have hurt many people and maybe they have made terrible choices. Maybe they are foreigners in a culture far removed from us, speaking a language we do not understand. But how do we feel when it is our kid who has to be picked up at the police station? How do we feel when it is our kid who has left the church? How do we feel when it is our kid who is the prodigal? God is longsuffering because every person who disobeys Him is, in reality, one of His own children. It is hard to imagine how Moses and Aaron must have felt about the condemnation of their own flesh and blood. It makes our hearts groan for them. Perhaps this tragedy helped them to have patience and compassion in their roles of leadership when the rest of God’s people were being so stubborn, faithless, and disobedient.
Disobedience to God should always break our hearts. It should break our hearts for the one who has been disobedient. It should break our hearts for the One who has disobeyed. It should break our hearts for the families it destroys.
Look out among you, my friends. Sin is serious and it will separate us eternally from those we love. If Moses and Aaron weren’t excused from the consequences of sin, neither shall we be.
They were Moses’ nephews. They were Aaron’s sons. But they were lost!
“Then Moses said unto Aaron, This is it that the Lord spake, saying, ‘I will be sanctified in them that come nigh me, and before all the people I will be glorified.’ And Aaron held his peace.” – Leviticus 10:3
Photo background credit: Iliyan Gochev on Creative Commons