By CHARLES WOODRUFF
Though we live in the New Testament age of grace, we cannot neglect the Old Testament, which was written for our learning and admonition. In the NT we have no formal priesthood as they did in the OT. Yet we learn much about how those in authority are to perform their duties. In the NT, every believer is a priest, able to go boldlyonly God’s way, as well.They are not to lord it over God’s heritage, but be examples to the flock. Too often this is greatly lacking in today’s post modern age. before God’s throne of grace. Even so, God has raised up ministry gifts in the NT church.These elders and deacons have a functional role to edify and build up the local churches. As the individual priests,we all have a responsibility to minister God’s way, and as an undershepherd to Christ, pastors and elders have a responsibility to minister God’s way, and
I hope we can draw from the tragic story of Nadab and Abihu, two sons of Aaron the high priest, who were priests themselves, and who did not go God’s way. It cost them dearly.
NADAB AND ABIHU“And Nadab and Abihu, the sons of Aaron, took either of them his censer, and put fire therein, and put incense thereon, and offered strange fire before the LORD, which he commanded them not. And there went out fire from the LORD, and devoured them, and they died before the LORD” (Leviticus 10:1,2).
Aaron was God’s first appointed high priest. He had four sons, who were also priests. All five of them, as well as other Levites who were appointed certain duties in the tabernacle, had just received detailed instruction from the Lord through Moses on exactly what was required in the sacrificial offerings.Two of Aaron’s sons, Nadab and Abihu, chose to do things their own way. Either they were not paying attention, or wanted to cut some corners. Either way, they blew it-- big time! So God slew them right on the spot.
As part of their training they had been told “And the fire upon the altar shall be burning in it; it shall not be put out: and the priest shall burn wood on it every morning, and lay the burnt offering in order upon it; and he shall burn thereon the fat of the peace offerings. The fire shall ever be burning upon the altar; it shall never go out” (Leviticus 6:12,13). This was the fire that the Lord Himself started. They understood that no new or unauthorized fire was to be started by man for any sacrifice at the altar. That is why it is called strange fire.
It also seems from the text that they wanted glory for themselves, for they were taking up Aaron’s duty. He was in charge of the sacrifices, and only when he designated them could Nadab and Abihu participate. They both put fire in their own censers, and came presumptuously to offer before Jehovah. Evidently they wanted to “be somebody”. This is under the Old Testament economy of law, yet similarly we see this today in the churches. There are those with a Diotrephes spirit (see 3 John 1:9), who want to be somebody at all costs, whether it is God’s way or not. This is not the religion of Jesus -- it is the religion of Jesse. Jesse Jackson used to pump people up by getting them to say “I am somebody.” Actually, we are all nobodies, and only God can make somebody out of us.
As for me, I do not want to proclaim, declare, or exalt myself, but only Christ. Sadly, there are many in the ministry who are in effect saying “Look at me, look what I have done”. This is like the spirit of Nadab and Abihu. We need to say “Look at Christ, look what He has done. Scripture says it this way “Look unto me, and be ye saved all the ends of the earth; for I am God and there is none else” (Isaiah 45:22). This is the verse that God used to grip the heart of 15 year old Charles Haddon Spurgeon and save him. He became one of the spiritual giants of the New Testament church. He being dead yet speaks today! Actually I do not want to listen to, read after, or otherwise attend any preacher that exalts himself. Give me Christ! Exalt Him! Don’t exalt your creed, your denomination or statement of faith, good as they may be. Exalt the Savior!
Beloved, God will not truly bless anything He did not originate. I realize there are great differences in the OT and NT. The old was types and shadows largely, but was foundational. Included in it were the civil laws of the nation of Israel. Violations such as picking up sticks on the Sabbath, or cursing one’s father or mother, brought swift and sure judgment. “And he that curseth his father, or his mother, shall surely be put to death” (Exodus 21:17).
They didn’t have to wait for the Great White Throne; it was on the spot! The OT is the NT typified, the New is the Old realized. Yet God always establishes an exact pattern. (see Hebrews 9:23). Even the “fire” of Calvary was lit by God. Evil men put Christ to death, but it was in the divine purpose of Jehovah “It pleased the Lord to bruise Him” (Isaiah 53:10). “But He was wounded for our transgressions” (Isaiah 53:5). It was “Him, being delivered by the determinate counsel and foreknowledge of God, ye have taken, and by wicked hands have crucified and slain” (Acts 2:23).
Men today don’t want the fire, the blood, the “slaughterhouse religion”, as they call it. They want a nice, tidy, easy believism gospel. A gospel of man’s making, i.e., strange fire. In most churches the old paths are gone. Long ago they took the blood out of most of the hymnbooks. But you better leave it in there, for “Without the shedding of blood is no remission of sin” (Hebrews 9:22). The only sacrifice God will accept is the one He ordained. It was “not possible that the blood of bulls and goats should take away sins” (Hebrews 10:4), yet Christ’s once for all offering did this for all believers. He is the way, the truth and the life. (see John 14:6).
Just as great fear came upon the NT church when Ananias and Sapphira were slain by the Holy Ghost, so fear came on Aaron’s other two sons, Eleazar and Ithamar. After their brothers died, at first they feared to even eat the sin offering, which was their right and duty.(see Leviticus 10:16-20). In a later OT example Uzziah the king didn’t want to go God’s way either, but usurped the office of the priesthood in much the same way as Nadab and Abihu, and Uzziah was made a leper until his death. (see 2 Chronicles 26:16-21). “Thus those who hate to be refined by the fire of divine grace, will undoubtedly be ruined by the fire of divine wrath” (Matthew Henry).
There is a warning given those who presume to take communion unworthily. (see 1 Corinthians 11:27). Yet, none of us are worthy, except in Christ. “A humble communicant who comes ‘not in his own righteousness, but in the Lord’s mercy’ needn’t be discouraged; for He (God), knows how to distinguish between presumptuous rashness or comptemptuous disobedience” (Thomas Scott). Do remember, brethren, there is such a thing as a healthy fear of God, for “Our God is a consuming fire”