One of the strangest and most disturbing stories (to me, at least) in the bible is in Leviticus 10.
Yeah, Leviticus. Old Testament. Laws out the wazoo. Skipped by many.
No, it is not all boring.
At least it wasn’t boring for Nadab and Abihu. They were the sons of Aaron, the first high priest of Israel. In line to become high priests themselves after their father dies. And nothing tells us they were bad guys. However, they offered “strange” fire at the altar.
This story has been told for, literally, thousands of years to show how we better not mess up or God will “get” you. Screw up and you are fried. And I’ve always wondered, what the heck did they do that was so bad?
Understand, Aaron, good old dad, made an idol for the children of Israel to worship. Didn’t die. Later on, some other sons of the high priest Eli were drinking on the job and having sex with women that came to the temple. And they, well ok, they died too but way after the sinning started. And Caiaphas, don’t even get me started on Caiaphas.
The explanation given needs to be looked at in a couple translations:
NIV – Moses then said to Aaron, “This is what the Lord spoke of when he said: “‘Among those who approach me I will be proved holy; in the sight of all the people I will be honored.’”
ESV – Then Moses said to Aaron, “This is what the Lord has said: ‘Among those who are near me I will be sanctified, and before all the people I will be glorified.’”
So what it sounds like is, if you are approaching or already near God, don’t screw up, cuz then he’ll GET YA!
Wait, that’s not right. I thought those who were close to God or trying to be close to God got a little grace. You know, kind of a mulligan, because we’re friends.
And shoot, if we don’t get that mulligan, why get close to God? I know for a fact I’m going to fail badly. Probably better if I just keep some distance between me and the big Guy. That’s what the children of Israel did when Moses got the Law in the first place.
“You go talk to Him. We’ll do what you say, but you have the relationship.”
After walking with God for a while, I’m starting to see how I’ve looked at God that way. I’m starting to see what is meant when we say, “God IS love (emphasis mine)!”
So how do you justify frying to guys for unauthorized fire.
The fire in question was intended to light the censers that held the holy incense. Incense, burning incense, has always been a symbol of prayer, even in other cultures. And the fire was only supposed to come from the altar of sacrifice.
The fire of my prayers is supposed to come from a heart and life laid down on the altar.
I want to be a better husband, a better father. I have dreams and hopes that are yet unfulfilled. I want to see my family, my church, my friends and brothers, my city, state, country following Jesus, living for Him completely. I pray for healings to take place, miracles to be seen, truth to be revealed, love to triumph over hate in all its forms.
So what fires my prayers?
The warning isn’t that God will kill me. The warning is that I will lose my place near Him.
I’d rather die.