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Shadows of the Cross

Shadows of the Cross – The Danger of ‘Unauthorized Fire’ (Leviticus 10:1-3)

Today’s Reading: Leviticus 9-10

Today’s Reflection: Leviticus 10:1-3

1) 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. 2) And fire came out from before the LORD and consumed them, and they died before the LORD. 3) 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.

As we see in earlier chapters of Leviticus and even in Exodus, God had given specific instructions about His sanctuary and the services to be carried out there.  But Aaron’s sons Nadab and Abihu didn’t follow these directions.  They instead offered ‘unauthorized fire’.  Unlike Moses’ and Aaron’s examples of obedience, Nadab and Abihu failed to do what God had instructed them and attempted to substitute something else, something God had not instructed them to do.  They died as a result.

This punishment may seem harsh and the crime of offering ‘unauthorized fire’ may seem arbitrary, but it isn’t at all.  The sanctuary services symbolized the future Messiah who would come and take away the sins of the world—Jesus was the sacrifice for our sins (Hebrews 10:12), poured out His blood for our atonement (Hebrews 9:13-15), and has become the priest who intercedes on our behalf (Hebrews 4:14).  The services representing the coming Christ had to be perfect just as Jesus Himself would be perfect.

When Jesus came there were many men who had their own idea of who the Messiah should be and what He should do—become ruler of the world (Matthew 4:8), king of Israel (John 6:15), overthrow Roman rule and restore Israel as an independent nation (Acts 1:6).  But God’s plan for Jesus was the only plan that could offer salvation to all mankind (John 3:16).  Had Jesus attempted anything else, had he failed to do what God instructed and attempted to substitute one of man’s ideas of the Messiah instead, He would have been offering ‘unauthorized fire’ and putting the salvation of all of humanity at risk.

Christians today are supposed to be reflecting Christ and His glory, showing His love, kindness and mercy to the world (John 13:34-35).  But instead many Christian churches today are instead offering ‘unauthorized fire’, preaching doctrines like the prosperity gospel, or ‘once saved, always saved’, or hateful condemnation of some sinners (like homosexuals), while overlooking others.  Like the Pharisees, these churches focus on certain laws that make them feel righteous and leave matters important to God undone (Matthew 23:23).  These doctrines can lead people away from eternal life and towards their own spiritual destruction, making it clear why the offering of ‘unauthorized fire’ in His name cannot be tolerated by God.

Matthew 7:21-23 – 21) “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. 22) On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ 23) And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.’

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