Then Nadab and Abihu, the sons of Aaron, each took his censer and put fire in it, put incense on it, and offered profane fire before the Lord, which He had not commanded them. (Leviticus 10:1)
After all of the careful preparations that went into building the tabernacle and making just as the Creator had intended, tragedy occurred almost immediately. Two of Aaron’s sons were struck dead because they “offered profane (some translations say, “strange”) fire before the LORD.” Strange or profane fire is understood to mean something that was “unconsecrated” –- something that did not line up with God’s very explicit instructions. There are varying opinions as to what it was exactly but the bottom line is, because they did things their way, fire came forth and devoured them.
There are some traditions that suggest the two had been drinking wine before entering into the Sanctuary, thus the prohibition against drinking wine before entering the Tabernacle follows this episode almost immediately. Again, the Bible doesn’t specify exactly what they did or why; it only tells us they didn’t do as instructed and, consequently, paid the price. But why such a harsh response from God?
First of all, He is holy and, by virtue of His holiness, cannot (much less, won’t) allow unclean things to enter His Presence lest His holiness be compromised in some way. Secondly, God holds those in leadership to the strictest standards of righteousness and justice. In other words, if leadership thinks they can cut corners and do as they like in service to God, the people they are supposed to be influencing will feel the same. This scenario will lead to chaos and destruction and, so, God had to make this point clear. As Moses related to Aaron, God has said, “By those who come near Me I must be regarded as holy; and before all the people I must be glorified” (Leviticus 10:3).
Those in leadership positions must acknowledge and respect God’s standards of holiness for themselves and are to inspire the same level respect among the people of the congregation. This is the price that must be paid if we are to faithfully serve our King and lead others into service to Him. What we think about something, or how we think something should be done, must take a back seat to what God has instructed. And if we are truly committed to Him, why wouldn’t we wish to do things His way in the first place? Thus, the greatest command of all is, “Love the LORD your God with all your heart, soul and strength,” meaning, with every ounce of your being. So then, in everything we do, let’s deny our own will and do things in the way that pleases Him.
Blessings and Shalom,