Leviticus 10:1, 2
And Nadab and Abihu, the sons of Aaron, took either of them his censer, and put fire therein, and put incense thereon…
What a contrast between the two scenes! Aaron and Moses entering the tabernacle and returning to bless the people and to participate in the rejoicing caused by the appearance of God's glory, and Nadab and Abihu approaching the same sacred place only to be consumed by the fire of judgment, their offerings rejected, themselves destroyed! The judgments of God are not pleasing to contemplate, but they are necessary to completeness of view, and to the begetting in us of due caution when we venture into his presence, lest our holy boldness degenerate into a presumptuous disregard of his regulations.
I. THE ACT OF RASH DISOBEDIENCE.
1. We see two brothers sinning against God. Brothers may be mutually helpful or injurious. To witness the union of members of a family in pious zeal is delightful, but too often relationship is provocative of harm rather than of blessing. Elder brothers, beware of leading your younger relations into sin!
2. Two that were intimately related to holy men were not thereby shielded from thoughtless action and severe judgment. Alas! that the children of godly parents should ever belie their ancestry. Here the sons of Aaron and nephews of Moses dishonoured their relationship.
3. Two young men brought destruction upon themselves and grief upon their friends. They died childless, and, if more than youths, could yet hardly have attained to any great age. Eleazar, the next brother, was perhaps not twenty at this time, for he was not included in the list of the men forbidden to see or enter the land of promise. We are apt to censure the evil deeds of young men too gently, and to look upon youth as more of an excuse than God seems here to regard it. Experience proves that if youth naturally inclines to sin, so also is it, equally with age, visited with righteous retribution.
4. Two that had been openly dedicated to the service of God were unmindful of his precepts. They had just been consecrated as priests. This did not prevent them from violating the Law, nor protect them from the consequences of their behaviour. There is danger as well as honour involved in waiting upon God. If Peter had not been called to the lofty position of discipleship, he had not denied his Master. By smiting these two priests, sons of the high priest, Jehovah taught the people that sin could be committed by, and would not be pardoned in, the most exalted of the nation. It was a conspicuous, forcible demonstration of the majesty and holiness of God.
5. Two that had recently beheld the glory of the Lord forgot the obedience their position demanded. Perhaps it was the very excitement consequent on such's scene that unduly elevated them, so that, becoming giddy, they reeled into the abyss of impetuous self-will and awful penalty. We must guard against imprudent familiar handling of Divine things after the grace of God has visited us with wondrous revelations of his mercy and favour. It is evident that even if displays of supernatural power were frequent, they would not prove a security against transgression. Some have turned the grace of God manifested in full and free salvation through Christ into a covering for licentiousness and irreverence.
II. THE GLOOMY CHANGE EFFECTED BY SIN.
1. A day of hallowed joy becomes a day of mourning. This is the bitter chequered experience of life. The sunny skies soon grow dark with clouds, the quiet waters are lashed into tempestuous fury. Men are almost afraid of seasons of ecstatic rejoicing, as if a reaction must quickly ensue; the gladness seems itself a presentiment of coming trouble. Sorrow treads close upon the heels of mirth. Sin may well excite in us sentiments of aversion when we see how it has disfigured the fair features of creation's landscape, changing songs into sighs and smiles into tears. Many a day that began with singing and prayer has ended with wailing and remorse.
2. The fire of Divine approval is changed in, to the fire of Divine wrath. The men became a sacrifice to God's glory indeed, but were not an offering voluntarily laid upon his altar. It seemed fitting that the punishment should bear an analogy to the sin. Strange fire was punished with hallowed fire. The conception of a mild Deity unmoved to indignation at acts unaccordant with his will is not justified by Scripture, nor is it in harmony with the utterances of conscience or the testimony borne by the existent laws of his moral government of the world.
3. Not even the profession of desire to honour God excuses the willful neglect of his injunctions. To substitute human inventions for scriptural institutions is a dangerous practice. Reason may discern little difference of moment, but it is not safe to argue that therefore the particular observance is immaterial, and rests on no rational ground of distinction. The loyalty that will presume to alter the king's ordinances is of doubtful character and certain of rejection. - S.R.A.
Parallel VersesKJV: 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.