Thursday, March 18, 2021
What did Nadab and Abihu do wrong?
Aaron’s eldest sons Nadab and Abihu served in the tabernacle as duly ordained, incense-offering priests, just like their father. But one day Nadab and Abihu took a bad turn. They became priests gone bad. They offered something strange to the LORD.
It is not entirely clear in Leviticus Chapter Ten what Nadab and Abihu did wrong with their offering. But Nadab and Abihu did do something wrong. Whatever they did wrong must have been pretty bad. It was bad enough to result in their immediate termination. They got fired.
We know from the incident report that Nadab and Abihu’s dereliction got them summarily fired. They had not followed proper procedure. They had not adhered to clearly stated guidelines. Consequently, they were terminated. They lost their jobs. They were no longer priests.
We know from the same incident report that Nadab and Abihu got fired — fired in the most literal way imaginable. They lost their lives. They lost their lives in a hot, searing blast of flaming, consuming fire. They were burnt alive. They were burnt to death, incinerated.
So fire came out from the presence of the LORD and consumed them; and they died before the LORD.Leviticus 10:2
Thus Nadab and Abihu were terminated. They were executed. They were literally fired, incinerated.
The whole point of this account is to instill respect — no, something more than mere respect. Try fear. Be afraid. Be very afraid. Do not play games with the Holy One of Israel. Do not mess around with the LORD, for our God is a consuming fire (per Hebrews 12:29).
Someone may protest that this is just an Old Testament account. Everything has changed. Everything is different now. We’ve gone from B.C. to A.D. God does not behave this way anymore. God’s hot wrath has been entirely appeased. As a result of the beautiful and yet gruesome cross of Christ, the LORD has been placated and pacified, once and for all; right?
Well, yes and no. Yes, the crucifixion of Christ does completely satisfy God’s holy, burning anger against our sin. God’s anger has been dealt with, once and for all. Through Christ’s self-sacrifice on our behalf, God’s burning wrath has been appeased. The big seminary word for that is propitiation. God has been propitiated. And it’s true. And it’s wonderful. It’s why we say that the cross of Christ is not just gruesome, but also beautiful. We can rejoice in that.
And yet the Holy One of Israel is still holy; and Holiness means He is hostile to sin. That has not changed. Sometimes we are too quick to forget that God still hates sin. No, that’s not too strong a statement. God hates sin. God abhors sin. God detests sin — even A.D., even now, regardless of what some may say.
A conspicuous counterpart to the Old Testament’s account of Nadab and Abihu is the New Testament’s account of that duplicitous husband and wife duo, Ananias and Sapphira. Their rather scary incident report can be found in Acts 5:1-11. Just as Nadab and Abihu had displeased the LORD by means of what they were offering, so Ananias and Sapphira displeased the LORD with their dishonest offering. And just like Nadab and Abihu before them, Ananias and Sapphira promptly wound up dead and deceased. God punished them severely. God pulled the plug on them. Their deaths were meant to serve as an example to their contemporaries and to us. Do not play games with the Holy One of Israel. Do not mess around with the LORD. God can still play tough, as we shall see in forthcoming blog posts about the Book of Revelation.
Great fear seized the whole church and all who heard about these events.Acts 5:11