Leviticus 10:1
Now Aaron's sons Nadab and Abihu took their censers, put fire in them, placed incense on them, and offered unauthorized fire before the LORD, contrary to His command.
Strange FireAlexander MaclarenLeviticus 10:1
A Sad IncidentWilliam Jones.Leviticus 10:1-2
A Solemn JudgmentJ. Cumming, D. D.Leviticus 10:1-2
Clerical Apostasy and UsurpationJ. A. Seiss, D. D.Leviticus 10:1-2
Disobedience Swiftly PunishedS.R. Aldridge Leviticus 10:1, 2
God's Orders Must be Carried OutH. W. Beecher.Leviticus 10:1-2
LessonsA. Willet, D. D.Leviticus 10:1-2
Moral ObservationsA. Willet, D. D.Leviticus 10:1-2
Nadab and AbihuD. C. Hughes, M. A.Leviticus 10:1-2
Nadab and AbihuE. S. Atwood.Leviticus 10:1-2
No Strange Fire PermittedH. C. Trumbull.Leviticus 10:1-2
Repulsive IncenseW. H. Jellie.Leviticus 10:1-2
Reverence in Holy ThingsAmerican Sunday School TimesLeviticus 10:1-2
Speedy JudgmentBp. Hall.Leviticus 10:1-2
Strange FireBp. Babington.Leviticus 10:1-2
Strange FireJ. C. Gray.Leviticus 10:1-2
Strange FireLady Beaujolois Dent.Leviticus 10:1-2
The Fall of Nadab and AbihuJ. A. Seiss, D. D.Leviticus 10:1-2
The Sin of Aaron's SonsF. W. Brown.Leviticus 10:1-2
The Sin of Nadab and AbihuJ. Parker, D. D.Leviticus 10:1-2
Sin and Penalty in Sacred ThingsW. Clarkson Leviticus 10:1-3
Strange FireW. Clarkson Leviticus 10:1, 3
Nadab and AbihuJ.A. Macdonald Leviticus 10:1-7
Strange Fire; and Jehovah's Judgment Upon itR.A. Redford Leviticus 10:1-7
Counterfeit FireR.M. Edgar Leviticus 10:1-11

Leviticus 10:1-11
cf. Acts 5. We have considered the consecration both of the high priest and of the minor priests, and how, entering upon their office in expectation of a sign, they got it in the outflash of the "consuming fire." But sad to say, two of the minor priests so provoke the Lord by their presumption that they are instantly consumed. Having already contrasted the high priest's consecration with Christ's baptism, and the descent of the fire with the effusion of the Spirit at Pentecost, we cannot resist the parallel presented by the case of Ananias and Sapphira to this case of Nadab and Abihu. If believers are rightly regarded as "priests unto God," then the case of Ananias and Sapphira is one of presumption in an assumed priesthood. The parallel will help us to definite ideas about the sin.

I. HONOUR IS OFTENTIMES TOO MUCH FOR SOME MINDS. And it is generally a minor class of mind that gets intoxicated with position and success. Nadab and Abihu, elevated to the priesthood, are so elated as to suppose that everything becomes them. Moreover, allied with this mental intoxication and excitement there often is physical intoxication. Indulgence is thought a proper thing for the upstart, and so he leads his presumption by excess. The probabilities are in favour of supposing that Nadab and Abihu had indulged in wine or strong drink immediately on their elevation to the priesthood (cf. verses 9, 10), and, in consequence, were incapacitated for distinguishing between the holy fire and its unholy counterfeit. It is not every one who can stand a "full cup," or walk with it steadily. If with honour there comes not a quiet spirit, it becomes a curse rather than a blessing.

II. SELF-CONFIDENCE IS THE NATURAL RESULT OF THE INTOXICATION OF SUCCESS. Nadab and Abihu, in their folly, think that they can guide themselves in priestly duty. Their venerable uncle, Moses, is not to be consulted by such dignitaries as they are. They can approach the Divine presence in a perfectly new and original way. The fire which came originally from heaven, and which has been most carefully preserved as a sacred deposit, is not, they believe, a bit better than fire they themselves can kindle. They will not depend upon it, but furnish a good fire themselves. Their spirit is sell-confidence all through. The license of innovation was most uncalled for at such a time, seeing that the ritual was only in process of reception from heaven. There was no excuse for their course at all.

III. GOD NEVER GRANTS A MANIFESTATION, BUT SATAN GETS UP THROUGH SELF-CONFIDENT MEN A COUNTERFEIT. Nadab and Abihu believed they could produce as good a fire as God. Ananias and Sapphire believed that hypocrisy could conduct itself as creditably as Pentecostal devotion. To every suggestion of a "year of grace," there comes the counter-suggestion of a "year of delusion." All fire is equally common, or, for that matter, equally sacred, to the self-confident mind. Special inspirations are incredible. Censers can be filled on the most rational principles, and God does not refuse any man's person. Paul, in 1 Corinthians 13, conveys the idea of counterfeit eloquence, a loveless exhibition of oratory that casual observers might pronounce angelic; of counterfeit enthusiasm, and even faith, so that neither mysteries nor mountains can retard the loveless spirit's prayers; of counterfeit martyrdoms, giving up the body to be burned after giving up fortune to the poor; and yet, because love is wanting in such cases, they constitute an unacceptable and profitless service.

IV. THOSE WHO PRESUME WITH THEIR COUNTERFEITS MUST ACCEPT OF THE JUDGMENT THEY DESERVE. Nadab and Abihu, despising the Divine fire, and coming into competition with their own, are consumed by it. In a moment they experience how God is a "consuming fire' to all presumption. Ananias and Sapphira feel the same. They fall before the deserved vengeance of the Most High. God offers us the great alternative - either sanctification through the fire of the Holy Ghost, or destruction from the presence of the Lord and the glory of his power. God will be sanctified in some way: if the wrath of man does not turn to praise, it will glorify God in being restrained (Psalm 76:10).

V. IT IS CLEAR THAT GOD ONLY ACCEPTS WHAT HE HIMSELF INSPIRES. This is the lesson of this sad providence. We must bring back to God what he has given. Independent offerings are not acceptable. To come to him in a way of our own devising, instead of by Jesus Christ; to come to him in a self-confident spirit, instead of in the humility inspired by the Holy Ghost; to come to him with proud, cold hearts, instead of with warm and ardent ones, is to be sent empty away. He refuses all such counterfeit offerings; he must have Divine fire or none. - R.M.E.

Nadab and Abihu... offered strange fire.
Nadab and Abihu were no inconsiderable personages. They were the sons of Israel's priest, the nephews of Israel's leader, the head of Israel's princely elders. They had been with Moses and Aaron in the hallowed mount; they had looked upon the glorious vision of God as He appeared on Sinai; they had been chosen and consecrated to the priesthood; they had stood by and assisted Aaron in the first operations of the Hebrew ritual; and in all that camp of God's ransomed ones, Moses and Aaron alone had higher dignity than theirs. But, from the mount of vision they fell into the pit of destruction. They were accepted priests yesterday; they are disgraced victims of God's holy indignation to-day. An event so startling and melancholy, occurring at the very inception of the Mosaic ceremonies, challenges our special attention, and calls for serious thinking.

I. Let us inquire, then, into THE NATURE OF THE OFFENCE which called out this startling visitation upon these unfortunate men. The context shows that it was not one isolated and specific act of disobedience. It was of a complex nature, and involved sundry particulars, each of which contributed to make up the general crime for which judgment came upon the guilty ones. The special statute recorded in the ninth verse, of which this occurrence seems to have been the occasion, furnishes ground for the inference, that Nadab and Abihu had indulged too freely in stimulating drinks, and thus incapacitated themselves for that circumspection and sacred reverence which belonged to the priestly functions. And if this inference be correct, we have here another among the many sad exhibitions of the mischiefs wrought by indulging in a too free use of intoxicating liquors. The history of strong drink is the history of ruin, of tears, of blood. It is, perhaps, the greatest curse that has ever scourged the earth. But, although drunkenness was most likely the root of Nadab and Abihu's offending, it was not the body of their came. If these men had not been first "set on fire of hell" by excessive indulgence in drink, they would never perhaps have been driven to the daring impiety which cost them their lives. The head and front of the sin of these men, as I understand it, was the presumptuous substitution of a will-worship of their own, in defiance of what God had appointed. In three points did they offend — first, in the time; second, in the manner; and third, in the matter of the service which they undertook. It was the prerogative of Moses or Aaron to say when their services were needed; but they went precipitately to work, without waiting for instructions, or asking for directions. It was for the high priest alone to go in before the Lord and offer incense at the mercy-seat; but they wickedly encroached upon His functions, and went in themselves. Never more than one priest was to officiate in burning incense at the same time; but they both together entered upon a service which did not belong to either. These things in themselves evince a very high-handed disregard of Divine order. But the great burden of their sin rested in the matter of the service. They "offered strange fire" — common fire — fire wholly foreign to the fire which God had kindled for such purposes. They thus obtruded what was profane into what was holy, desecrated God's ritual, cast contempt upon His institutions, put their own will-worship above His sacred regulations, and thus called down upon themselves a judgment which made all Israel tremble.

II. Let us now consider some of THE IMPLICATIONS, SURROUNDINGS, AND FORESHADOWINGS of this sad occurrence. The shadows of the future were linked in with the facts of the past. Scarcely had Christianity been constituted, until we find a foreign and fitful spirit insinuating itself into the operations of those into whose charge its earthly services had been given (see 2 Thessalonians 2:3, 4; 1 John 4:3). Along with pontifical power, came in great doctrinal and moral corruption. The one was a part of the other. Bishops retired from the pulpits to sit as spiritual lords, superior to all the kings of earth; the Virgin Mary was installed as the world's mediator; earthly priests assumed the work of intercession, and undertook to forgive and license crime for a price; the Church was driven to the wilderness; another Abihu in his drunkenness had entered the Holy Place, and was offering strange fire before the Lord. And the thing that hath been is the thing that is. Philosophy still has its additions to make to the Word of God. Heathenish pomp still moves to lift itself up in our temples. Human reason is still at work to devise ways to worship and please God which He has not commanded. Men are still found who claim authority to perform offices for the souls of others, which belong only to our great High Priest in heaven. Thousands there are who flatter themselves that they are doing great things in their worship, though the spirit that is in them is not at all the Spirit of Christ. But it shall not always be so. There is a price annexed to all these usurpations and irregularities with regard to holy things. God has magnified His Word above all His name; and he that adds to or takes from it, has his reward specified, and his portion reserved for him. Nadab and Abihu were suddenly and miraculously cut off in the midst of their sin; and so shall it be at last with all the confederates in usurpation and wrong, whether secular or ecclesiastical. Fire from the Lord shall slay them.

(J. A. Seiss, D. D.)


1. What rendered their incense odious to God? "Strange fire."

(1)Not kindled by God.

(2)Not mingled with blood.

2. What corresponding offensiveness may mar our offerings? The fire is "strange" when our religion or work is the outcome of

(1)Mere emotional fervour.

(2)Mere intellectual excitement.

(3)Mere feverish activity.

(4)Mere self-glorifying religious effort.

(5)Mere spiritual rhapsody.


1. Fearless presumption.

2. Wilful disobedience.


1. Remember the God with whom we have to do.

2. The rebuke which presumption will receive.

(W. H. Jellie.)




1. We may note that the punishment they received —

(1)Condemns them here in the eyes of all Israel.

(2)Showed the exceeding sinfulness of sin; and

(3)The exacting demands and exalted dignity of the law.

2. God thus manifesting Himself as a consuming fire showed —(1) His jealousy, that He could not be openly and grossly insulted.(2) His power, that the fire which glowed in the cloud, which had kindly let them out of Egypt, protected them from their foes, and which consumed the burnt-offering on the day of consecration, had power to destroy, and, unless held in check, would consume all sinners.(3) His mercy, that while sin deserved punishment, and God had the right and power to destroy, He made judgment His strange work, and such retribution — as that which visited Aaron's sons — an exceptional thing. Let us learn that though worship must be voluntary yet it must be according to God's own appointed way. Liberty is not to be perverted into lawlessness.

3. Strange fire is offered upon God's altar when worship is presented with —

(1)Unsolicited materials, or from

(2)Unsanctified motives. Enthusiasm is holy ardour — literally, God in us — His own fire ascending to Himself.

(F. W. Brown.)

I. THE POSITION OF THESE TWO MEN. Regularly ordained priests of the Lord (Exodus 40:12-16). They had a right, therefore, to burn incense before the Lord.


1. The letter of the law was violated (chap. Leviticus 16:12, 13).

2. The essence of this sin (ver 3).(1) Emphasis to be placed on "I." "I will be sanctified," &c.(2) This implies that when deviations from Divine and clearly-defined instructions occur, the Lord charges that such deviations do not enhance His glory; neither is He sanctified in those who are guilty of such deviations.

III. THE PUNISHMENT INFLICTED ON THESE MEN (ver. 2). The punishment indicates the unspeakable importance with which God regards implicit and strict obedience to the letter of all His ordinances.


1. How great the grace needed for this.

2. How exemplary the use of needed grace in such a trial as this.

V. THE ACCUSTOMED MOURNING FOR THE DEAD WAS PROHIBITED IN RESPECT TO THESE MEN (ver. 6). Does not the rebellious element oftentimes enter into our mourning, and thus the grace of God, in bereavement, becomes of no practical value?

VI. THE NEW PROHIBITION (vers. 8-11). The connection in which this prohibition stands suggests —

1. That Nadab and Abihu were probably under the influence of some intoxicating liquor when led to offer "strange fire" before the Lord.

2. That such liquors have a tendency to unfit any one for any true spiritual exercise, because of their exciting nature.Lessons:

1. How profound a lesson is here taught in regard to the only acceptable manner of administering the ordinances of God's house — not with the strange fire of willworship, nor by the slightest deviation from the prescribed order.

2. We learn the unfitness of those who minister in holy things, who neglect the proper observance of the ordinances, and teach men so to do.

3. Let us learn to submit to God's judgments, however severe.

4. Let us avoid everything that would. disqualify us for acceptable worship.

(D. C. Hughes, M. A.)

1. No new or strange doctrine to be brought into the Church.

2. God's election free, and of grace, not of any worthiness in man.

3. That God is no accepter of persons.

4. God is to be glorified even in His judgments.

5. Of a double power of the Word, to life or death.

6. The bodies of the dead to be reverently used, and after a seemly manner to be buried.

7. That it is lawful upon just occasion to be angry.

(A. Willet, D. D.)

1. In prosperity we must think of adversity.

2. Not to present ourselves before God with carnal, vile, and strange affections.

3. Wherein a man sinneth, he shall be punished.

4. To submit ourselves to the will of God.

5. That men should not for the occasion of private grief neglect the public business, especially in God's service.

6. Against the sin of drunkenness, especially in ministers.

7. That our sins are an offence unto Christ, and to all the celestial company.

8. Not to be too rigorous toward those who are in heaviness, and sin in weakness.

(A. Willet, D. D.)

Their sin was that to burn incense withal, they took not the fire from the altar of that which came down from heaven, and was preserved by the diligence of the priests till the captivity of Babylon, but other fire, which therefore is called strange fire because it was not fire appointed and commanded. Which fault in man's eyes may seem to have excuse, and not to deserve so fearful a punishment. For they were but yet green in their office and so of ignorance might offend, being not yet well acquainted with the nature of their office. Again, of forgetfulness they might offend, not remembering or thinking of the matter as they ought. Thirdly, there was no malice in them, or purpose to do evil, but wholly they aimed at God's service with a true meaning, although in the manner they missed somewhat. But all these, and whatsoever like excuses, were as fig-leaves before God, vain and weak to defend them from guiltiness in the breach of His commandment.

1. First, with what severity the Lord challengeth and defendeth His authority in laying down the way and manner of His worship, not leaving it to any creature to meddle with, but according to prescription and appointment from Him. Content He is that men shall make laws for human matters, concerning their worldly estate in this earth as shall be fittest for the place where they live. Laws against murder, theft, oppression, &c., but for His Divine worship He only will prescribe it Himself, and what He appointeth that must be done and that only, or else Nadab and Abihu their punishment expected, that is, God's wrath expected, in such manner as He shall please.

2. But doth not a good intent and meaning prevail with God, albeit the thing be not expressly warranted? Yourself judge by that which you see here, and in many other Scriptures. Had Nadab and Abihu, the sons of Aaron, here any ill-meaning towards God, or did they of malicious purpose offend Him and procure their own destruction? No; you must needs think their intent was good, but because they swervest from the Word, that good intent served not. The words out of Deuteronomy are not, you shall not do ill in your own eyes, "But you shall not do that which seemeth good" — good I say, and I pray you mark it, you shall not do that, but shall keep you to My commandment. Be it never so good, then, in my conceit, that is, be my meaning never so good, it profiteth not, neither shall excuse God's destroying wrath more than it did here these sons of Aaron. "There is a way," saith Solomon, "that seemeth good to a man and right, but the issues thereof are the ways of death." Such assuredly are all will-worships not grounded upon the Word, but upon man's will and good intent. "They shall excommunicate you," saith our Saviour Christ, "yea, the time shall come that whosoever killeth you will think that he doth God good service." What then? Shall his so thinking excuse his bloody murder? Joseph had no ill-meaning when he prayed his Father to change his hand and lay his right hand upon his elder son's head. What ill meant Joshua when he wished Moses to forbid those that prophesied? Micah's mother, when, according to her vow, she made her son two idols? Peter's meaning had no hurt in it when he forbade Christ to wash his feet; with a number like places in Scripture. Yet you know no good intent was accepted in these cases. No more shall it ever be when it is not agreeing to the Word, which only is a Christian man and woman's true and perfect guide. Let, therefore, these things take place within us, and never wrestle we against the Lord, for He is too strong for us, and His will must stand, not ours. Oh, why should it grieve .me to be ruled by His word, seeing it is so sure a way for me to walk in? Or why should any teacher deliver to me that which he never received of God to be delivered to His people? If they crave obedience why should they be angry, that I pray to have it showed out of His Word whom only I must obey? Be hath prescribed a form of serving Him, that form He will accept and bless with eternal peace; all other forms He will abhor and punish. Nadab and Abihu preach so unto us and all flesh. They wish us to take heed by their harm. God is in other things full of patience, but in this He is full of wrath, and His authority to appoint His own worship, He will not endure it to be taken from Him by any man.

(Bp. Babington.)

In this passage we have the law of worship announced, not in the measured statements of a statute, but in words of terror spoken with tongues of flame. What answer does the incident give us to the vital question, How can men worship God acceptably?

I. THE CHARACTER OF THE WORSHIPPER IS A FACTOR OF IMPORTANCE. Those who, like the apostle, are "in the Spirit on the Lord's day" — and every day may be a "Lord's day" — are caught up into the realm of spiritual vision, and stand face to face with realities that on lower levels are at best the dreams and hopes of faith. Worship as an offering may be formal, though even for that to be acceptable there midst be some preparedness of heart; but worship, in order to prove a revelation, must be spiritual, and in securing that the attitude of soul is everything.

II. THE PURPOSE OF THE WORSHIPPER IS AN ELEMENT OF WHICH GOD MAKES ACCOUNT. Whatever other reasons influenced Nadab and Abihu to offer "strange fire," it is evident that they had some selfish end to serve. God looks down into every pulpit, and into every minister's heart, and judges every prayer, and criticises every sermon, and estimates the worth or worthlessness of the service offered, according as He finds or furls to find a singleness of purpose to honour Him the sovereign motive that originates and regulates it all. As God looks down on our Sabbath assemblies, in how many pews He sees men and women offering "strange fire," instead of bringing the appointed sacrifice. The spirit of devotion that animates real service is omitted.

III. THE PREPARATION FOR WORSHIP IS A MATTER TO WHICH GOD ATTACHES GREAT IMPORTANCE. The numerous directions in the Jewish ritual looking to personal purity were all symbolic and significant of the value of character in the office of worship (Psalm 24:3, 4; 1 Timothy 2:8; Hebrews 10:22). Both the old covenant and the new are imperative in insisting upon right character as essential to right worship.

IV. THE MODE OF WORSHIP HAS ITS LIMITS OF IMPORTANCE. The Jewish ritual was complicated, but it was in all its parts significant. A distinguished writer has said that "whoever would write out the spiritual symbolism of the Book of Leviticus, would give the world a fifth Gospel." Nadab and Abihu were punished for departing from the Divinely established order of service. The folly of men is never so apparent as when it sets itself up as being wiser than God. Under the Christian dispensation larger liberty of choice is allowed. Men are free to adopt such methods of worship as are most affluent in ministries to their spiritual life. But the old underlying principle which was sovereign in the Jewish ritual still remains in force. Any method of worship which is anything more than a means to an end, any ceremony which suffers the thought to go no further than itself, is radically defective.

(E. S. Atwood.)


II. THE SEVERE PUNISHMENT OF THEIR SIN. The punishment in its severity seems out of proportion to the sin. But on this question two considerations of great importance should be duly weighed.

1. The time at which the sin was committed. They were now getting the sacred ritual into full operation; and it was of essential importance that a people such as the Israelites were at this time should be taught that all sacred things should be reverently regarded, and all religious services performed in a devout spirit and becoming manner, and with minute attention to Divine directions.

2. The persons by whom the sin was committed. They were the elder sons of the high priest, and were consecrated to the holy office of the priesthood, "the very persons whose official charge it was to maintain" the sacredness of religious institutions. A severe punishment was necessary for the welfare of the nation.


IV. THE BURIAL OF THE BODIES OF THE OFFENDERS. What a sight that was passing through part of the camp — the dead bodies of two men recently so distinguished in relationship and office, now so distinguished as examples of the awful judgments of God, and in their priestly vestments too! How fitted to impress even the most frivolous with the sacredness of Divine institutions and the dread peril of violating Divine directions!



1. The law. That the priests should abstain from every kind of intoxicating drink during their sacred ministrations (cf. Ezekiel 44:21).

2. The reasons by which the law was enforced.(1) That their perceptions might be clear, and their judgment true in the duties of their holy office (ver. 10).(2) That they might teach the people all God's statutes (ver. 11).(3) The law was further enforced by a stern penalty for its violation, "Lest ye die."


1. On worship. We should worship God in the way which He has appointed — with humility, with reverence, &c.

2. On sin and its punishment. Every sin, unless repented and forgiven, must be punished. But presumptuous sins, such as that of Nadab and Abihu seems to have been, are specially heinous and ruinous (cf. Numbers 15:30, 31; Psalm 19:13).

3. On submission to the will of God. Imitate Aaron in this.

4. On fitness for the service of God. Aaron and his sons might not touch or even approach the dead, &c. The servants of God must keep themselves from everything that might defile them. "Be ye clean that bear the vessels of the Lord."

5. On temperance. The wise man wilt be temperate in all things and at all times. When about to enter upon sacred services it is specially advisable to abstain entirely from everything intoxicating. The inspiration for such services should not be spirituous, but spiritual.

(William Jones.)

I. WHO OFFERED IT. Nadab and Abihu. The last one would have expected to be guilty of such a sin. They were not ignorant, but over-zealous people, who only imperfectly knew the law. But they were the sons of Aurora Could hardly be ignorant of the sin they were committing. The best that can be said of them is that they were not sufficiently thoughtful. Ignorance and thoughtlessness are sinful in those with whom knowledge is possible, and who have many incentives to consideration. We should strive to know that we may more perfectly do the will of God. The great probability is that their sin was not merely sin of ignorance, but presumption. Preferred their choice to God's.

II. WHAT THEY OFFERED. From chap. Leviticus 16., Numbers 16:18, 46, it is clear that they should have taken a coal from off the altar. Every act of worship was strictly prescribed. Intention to beget in the minds of the people a profound reverence for the will of God. In everything to consider His will first. To find their happiness in obedience. Instead of acting in accordance with the will of God they obeyed the impulse of their own proud and selfish hearts. It is likely that the time of offering was also wrong.

III. How THEY WERE RECEIVED. They draw near and swing their censers. And suddenly "there went out fire," &c. (ver. 2). Their strange fire had been replied to with a fire more strange to them. They were struck dead as by a lightning-flash, h sudden and emphatic protest against their presumption. Learn —

1. To study earnestly that we may more perfectly obey the will of God.

2. To avoid trifling with holy things and ordinances.

3. The instruments of sin may become instruments of punishment. With fire they sinned, by fire they were overthrown.

4. The very gospel, if abused, may become an instrument of condemnation.

(J. C. Gray.)

Ere that "eighth day" had closed (chap. Leviticus 10:19), when Jehovah had sent fire from heaven to consume with delight the offerings laid upon His altar, in token of .acceptance — yea, that very day Satan was again at work, this time with the sons of Aaron, leading them to offer —

I. "STRANGE FIRE," in direct violation of God's command (Leviticus 10:1). His fire was to be ever burning upon His altar (Leviticus 6:12, 13), continually fed by what ascended as "a sweet savour" to the Lord; and "strange fire," like strange incense (Exodus 30:9), was an abomination to Him. But man is ever prone to think his way, his fire, his incense as good or better than God's. And where God's Fire —i.e., the Holy Spirit — has been manifestly working, there surely does Satan begin to work by his emissaries, as in the case of Jannes and Jambres (2 Timothy 3:5-9; Exodus 7:11, 22; Exodus 8:18); and again with the "vagabond Jews, exorcists" (Acts 19:6-17), in the days of St. Paul. Satan inspires "false teachers," "seducing spirits" (1 Timothy 4:1; 2 Peter 2:1), who, like Nadab and Abihu, shall "bring upon themselves swift destruction."

II. THE SONS OF AARON had been specially privileged. The sons of Aaron represent — as we know — the Church, whose members are also partakers of many privileges (Hebrews 6:4). But — as "they are not all Israel which are of Israel" (Romans 9:6), so all called Christians are not "Christ's "; and it is just in the professing Church that we may expect to hear of "strange fire," and false worship, inaugurated by "false teachers," who shall bring in destructive heresies" (2 Peter 2:1, R.V.); and "many shall follow their pernicious ways" (ver 2, A.V.). Especially will this be the case as we approach the end of the age — "the last days" — when "perilous times shall come" (2 Timothy 3:1).

III. "FIRE FROM THE LORD," sent forth in judgment, as in the case of Nadab and Abihu. That fire is used of the Lord for judgment we learn from many passages in Scripture. See, as to the past —

1. "The cities of the plain" (Genesis 19:24-29), "making them an ensample," &c. (2 Peter 2:6; Jude 1:7).

2. At Taberah, because of the complaining of the children of Israel (Numbers 11:1; Psalm 78:21).

3. "The two hundred and fifty men that offered" "incense" (Numbers 16:2, 35; Psalm 106:18).

4. The captains and their fifties (2 Kings 1:10, 12). Then as to the future, we read — "Our God shall come:... a fire shall devour before Him," &c. (Psalm 50:3; see also Psalms 97:3). "The Lord Jesus shall be revealed... in flaming fire," &c (2 Thessalonians 1:7, 8); and "that wicked" — or lawless one referred to — shall be consumed (2 Thessalonians 2:8). "A fire... from God out of heaven" shall devour those gathered against the saints and the "beloved city" (Revelation 20:8, 9). And "the devil, that deceiveth them," shall be "cast into the lake of fire and brimstone" (ver. Revelation 20:10). He who had energised many with "strange fire" will be consigned to the "everlasting fire prepared," &c. (Matthew 25:41). Appalling indeed to think of these judgments to come; and while we speak of such things let us give good heed lest we should seem to have aught of the spirit of James and John, which called forth our Lord's rebuke (Luke 9:51-56). Let us rather first test ourselves, and then in love warn others. He is ready to give the Holy Spirit — His purifying, guiding Fire to all who ask (Luke 11:13). Lastly, observe —

IV. AARON'S ATTITUDE of silent submission to the swift and appalling judgment with which his sons were visited. "Aaron held his peace." Think of the agony of the father's grief, yet not a word l He knew his sons' great sin, and Jehovah's perfect justice. The silence of Aaron may also teach that our "Great High Priest" could not intercede for any guilty of the sin He declared should "not be forgiven" (Matthew 12:31, 32; Mark 3:28-30): "Blasphemy against the Holy Ghost," to which the "strange fire" seems to point.

(Lady Beaujolois Dent.)

Many a pious heart has been saddened, and sickened almost unto death, over the calamities that have befallen the camp of the Lord in the shape of apostasies, false doctrine, unholy living, and reckless usurpation. Who among us that could not tell the story of many a heart-rending fall in the Church of God! More than once have I seen the man in affluent prosperity a great patron of the Church, prompt in his place in all the services of the sanctuary, and esteemed as one of Israel's elders; but when reverses and bankruptcy came I have seen him turn aside to walk in the ways of the ungodly, the forger, the counterfeiter, the robber, and even the ribald blasphemer. Many a time have I seen the poor man in his daily toil, seemingly walking humbly with his God, and attentive to the things that relate to heavenly treasures; but when the tide of fortune came and gave him riches, or advanced him to places of influence and distinction, he forgot his Church and pious associations, and drifted away into pride like Lucifer's, or into covetousness as stingy as Shylock's. I have seen men of the loudest professions; yea, men ordained to stand as watchmen on Zion's walls, secretly dallying with the demon of vicious appetite, until they became the reeling sport of boys upon the street, the shame of their denomination, and the tenants of ignoble graves. And history tells again and again of men whose heads reached unto the clouds, who in an unguarded hour came down, like some tall pine of the forest which makes the wilderness howl in its fall; of impious hands touching the holy vessels of God's sanctuary; of false incense burned in the holy place, until the very lamps and stars were hid, and the very house of salvation made a den of robbery and death.

(J. A. Seiss, D. D.)

These men were not at liberty to take each his own censer; there was a utensil provided for that action, and for any man to bring his own ironmongery to serve in such a cause was to insult the Spirit of the universe. This is how we stand to-day: every man bringing his censer — his own censer — which means the prostitution of personality, the loss of the commonwealth-spirit and of the recognition of the unity and completeness of the Church. There are men who spend their time in amending Providence: Nadab and Abihu represent two such men to-day. There are men who are always trying to naturalise the supernatural: this is what Nadab and Abihu did. They said in effect, "This evil fire will do quite as well; build your life on reason; order all the ministry of your life by coherent and cumulative argument; drop the ancient words, and choose and set new words of your own; there is no supernatural: let us banish superstition and inaugurate the reign of reason." Nadab and Abihu had a kind of church, but a church without the true God — an uninhabited shell, a mockery, a base irony — the baser because it was in a sense religious. There are men who substitute invention for commandment. This is what Nadab and Abihu did: they invented a new use of the common censer; they brought into new service common fire; they ventured to put incense thereon when only the pontiff of Israel was allowed to use such incense; they invented new Bibles, new laws, new churches, new methods; they were cursed with the spirit of extra independence and individuality, with the audacity of self-trust — not with its religious worship and adoration. This all occurs every day, and it occurs quite as rudely and violently in the current and flow of our own history. All this invention and all this deposition of God and of law comes just as swiftly after our conscious realisations of the Divine presence as this instance came swiftly upon the conscious benediction of God. "There is but a step between me and death." It would seem as if a universe might intervene between true prayer and the spirit of distrust and cursing yet not a hair's-breadth intervenes. A man on his knees is next to the worst self, namely, a man with clenched fists defying the heavens.

(J. Parker, D. D.)

This judgment that fell upon the two sons of Aaron seems very severe. But notice that the high and dignified position they occupied made sin, in their case, far more grievous and calculated to do much more extensive mischief among Israel, than if it had been perpetrated by some one occupying a less conspicuous position in the state. Though sin is in itself always the same, yet, committed in the high places of the land by those who occupy in Church or in State lofty and responsible positions, it has an aggravation and an enormity that it has not when committed by those who occupy lowlier and obscurer spheres in the land. Not that the sin differs in its absolute and personal guilt, but that it differs in the influence it spreads around it. Evil in high places is very contagious — is seen by many, and imitated by more. And, in the next place, this was the commencement of a new economy. The commander of an army, or the commander of a flexor, must insist upon rigid discipline at the commencement of the military expedition, or of the sailing of the fleet; if he do not, the issue is disastrous to the soldiers and the sailors, as it will be injurious to great interests and painful to him. Therefore, at the commencement of a new economy, it was requisite that it should be seen that the least of God's laws may not be transgressed with impunity; and that the authority of God alone, struck upon the least and the loftiest, must be the great reason why there should be instant, unqualified, and undiluted obedience.

(J. Cumming, D. D.)

If God had struck them with some leprosy in their forehead, as he did their aunt Miriam soon after, or with some palsy, or lingering consumption, the punishment had been grievous. But He, whose judgments are ever just, sometimes secret, saw fire the fittest revenge for a sin of fire; His own fire fittest to punish strange fire; a sudden judgment fit for a present and exemplary sin: He saw that if He had winked at this, His service had been exposed to profanation. It is wisdom in governors to take sin at the first bound, and so to revenge it that their punishment may be preventious. Speed of death is not always a judgment: suddenness as it is ever justly suspicable, so then certainly argues anger, when it finds us in an act of sin. Leisure of repentance is an argument of favour. When God gives a man law, it implies that He would not have judgment surprise him.

(Bp. Hall.)

If the architect of a house had one plan, and the contractor had another, what conflicts would there be! How many walls would have to come down, how many doors and windows would need to be altered before the two could harmonise! Of the building of life God is the Architect, and man the contractor. It is for God to give the orders, and for us to carry them out.

(H. W. Beecher.)

There is only one way of obeying God, and that is by doing just as God tells us to do. Satan began the trial of improving on God's commandments in the Garden of Eden. Cain followed up the idea, and substituted the fruit of his own toil for the designated lamb, as a sinner's acceptable offering Each of these attempts proved a curse as well as a failure; and so it will be to the end of time. The sons of Aaron were consecrated priests when they offered other fire on God's altar than that which God had commanded. Saul was the anointed king over the Lord's people when he offered sheep and oxen contrary to the command of God. Both priest and king were punished of God for their disobedience in failing to worship God in God's commanded way. God is the same God to-day as then, His commands concerning worship are as binding now as four thousand years ago-binding on theological professors, preachers, and Bible-class teachers. It is not enough to proffer an offering to God in worship, you must worship Him according to His commandments, or you must take the consequences of your disobedience. It is important, then, that you know what is God's law concerning His day, His house, His Word, His worship. Your eternal interests hang on your fidelity in little things as well as in great.

(H. C. Trumbull.)

American Sunday School Times.
Contrast with the conduct of Nadab and Abihu the reverence displayed by the young King Edward of England. One of his companions, wishing to aid him in his efforts to grasp something just beyond his reach, placed a large Bible for him to step on. "No," said Edward, stooping to lift the volume, "I shall never tread on God's holy Word." Possibly there was a touch of superstition here; but was not the spirit commendable? What is sacred is to be held as sacred. The meanest thief is the one who runs off with a church-collection; for he adds sacrilege to his other crime. Show how we may in a very real sense offer strange fire. Is there not something of irreverence in the chipped coins and torn bills that find their way into the contribution-box? Custom may make us treat sacred things with levity. Luther tells us that he knew priests whose sacred office had become a mere form, and who, instead of repeating the proper formula in the consecration of the bread and wine, mumbled irreverently, "Bread thou art, and bread thou wilt remain;-wine thou art, and wine thou wilt remain." Has our church-going degenerated into a meaningless form?

(American Sunday School Times.)

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