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In the Leviticus 10:1-3 we see the strange story of the death of Aaron’s sons.

Now Nadab and Abihu, the sons of Aaron, each took his censer and put fire in it and laid incense on it and offered unauthorized fire before the Lord, which he had not commanded them. And fire came out from before the Lord and consumed them, and they died before the Lord. (Vs.1-2)

Honestly, it seems a bit harsh that the two men would die simply for using the wrong fire in the worship of God at the tabernacle. Yet God in His holiness didn’t think it a light thing that these two sons disregarded His clear command, and that publicly.

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.’” And Aaron held his peace. (Vs.3)

In therein is the reason God deemed it appropriate to kill these two offenders:

  1. They had not set apart the holiness of God in their minds – they treated Him with casual contempt. If God said do things this way, they thought it was okay to do things another way. They didn’t consider the Word of God to be of importance – They treated the Lord as “one of the boys” – His Word as an option for consideration but not absolute obedience.
  2. They misrepresented God to the people. As priests of the Most High, what Nadab and Abihu did put on display the glory of God or diminished the clarity of its brilliance. In short, they were to glorify God with public obedience to his specific commands. Yet, they didn’t. And because they did not glorify God in this way publicly, God removed them from the planet.

The Lord wants us to treat Him with the utmost reverence and respect – keeping in mind His holy character and desire to be glorified before others.

As I consider my own experience, I realize that it is only the mercy and grace of God that I have not been struck down for my offenses. Time and again I have not sanctified the Lord as holy or glorified Him publicly. I can understand the experience of misrepresenting God to others. When I don’t sanctify the Lord in my heart, consider His holiness, and seek to demonstrate His great glory publicly through Christ-honoring actions, speech, attitudes, and values, then I haven’t represented God appropriately.

Thankfully, there is One who is our Great High Priest who sanctified the Lord God in His heart and walked in holiness. Jesus represented God in perfection and died in our place, experiencing the same wrath as did Nadab and Abihu. We need to abide in Jesus and set apart Christ as Lord in our private lives as well as our public witness. And, as we do, we should thank the Lord for His grace.