Theology and Politics from a Conservative, Biblical Perspective
In Leviticus 10, we read of the deaths of two of Aaron’s sons, Nadab and Abihu. They, like their father, Aaron, and his two other sons, were appointed priests of God Most High in the burgeoning nation of Israel under Moses’ leadership. Aaron himself was the very first High Priest of the nation of Israel and other High Priests were to come from Aaron’s line. All of the four sons were blessed, but two perished because they failed to obey God to the nth degree.
1 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.
2 And there went out fire from the Lord, and devoured them, and they died before the Lord. (Leviticus 10:1-2; KJV)
This is a terribly sad situation. Very specific instructions had been given by the Lord to Moses who then passed that exact information along to Aaron and his sons. As High Priest (Aaron), and priests (his sons), their job was to follow the Lord’s commands to the letter without any deviation. There was a great deal of symbolism connected to the sacrificial system and it was important that it not be adulterated. Ultimately, we know that the sacrificial system found complete fulfillment in Jesus who died a sinner’s death (though He Himself remained free from personal sin; 2 Corinthians 5:21). God had a specific purpose for everything and He expected it to be adhered to whether they were completely understood by people or not.
Commentators disagree over why God chose to strike the two sons of Aaron dead. Some argue that the narrative simply reflects a conflict between priestly families. But the truth appears to be that both Nadab and Abihu simply disobeyed the Lord’s very specific commands. They may have done so without really thinking about it or they may have done so deliberately. We’ll never know in this life and certainly Moses does not tell us. He is concerned with the infraction itself, not the motivation behind it. However, it is clear that they strayed from the specificity of God’s commands and added something that was not ordained by God to the ritual. It was, unfortunately, a form of irreverence caused by concern for self and it was blatant at that, even if it was not done deliberately.
This incident should warn modern readers against worshipping (sic) God in ways that we prefer because they make us feel “good.” We must be careful about worship that is designed to produce “special feelings or sensational effects” in the worshipers, rather than worship that honors God. Some forms of contemporary and traditional worship may reflect the selfish spirits of Nadab and Abihu. Such “self-made worship” often has “the appearance of wisdom” (Col. 2:23). (p. 54 at link)
This is at least one of the points here. When we approach God, we need to be extremely careful in our hearts and attitudes that we are not doing things that simply make us – as worshipers – feel good or wrap us in an emotionally warm blanket. It is important that we are doing things according to the way worship is outlined in His Word and done in a way that brings us closer to Him. This is in spite of whether or not we might feel closer to Him. His Word focuses on the truth of our relationship with Him in Christ, not whether we feel that relationship or not.
This past Sunday at church, our pastor spoke of looking ahead to what we, as a local body of believers, can accomplish in 2017. Part of what he discussed was the way in which we worship as a body. We sing hymns and have propriety in worship before God. We reflect a wholesome approach to God in our worship so that sin is not stirred up within us. The hymns we sing speak to us doctrinally and remind us of the truth of His Word from which they are heavily based.
Pastor placed a slide up that showed the progression of how worship has changed for many churches over the years and how it has gone from being God-centered to man-centered today. Even though the included image is a bit blurry, readers will get the idea. Music and worship has really gone from centering on God to being a visually entertaining metaphor for how self-centered humanity has become. In short, Hollywood has taken over this aspect of the local church and it is tragic. As a drummer who has, in times past, participated in today’s upbeat and driving worship music, I can honestly say I’ll never do that again because it smacks of entertainment, not worship.
Too many today are simply enamored with worship itself because of how it makes them feel. They clap along, sway in the aisles, cry tears based largely on emotional virtue (which has no lasting value at all), and essentially are worshiping the feelings that rise from this type of worship. Those feelings can seem overwhelming and even instructive but as quickly as they come, they go. What is left? The fact that many to most current worship songs are little more than pabulum compared to the strong doctrinal message of most hymns tells us much. It is also very dismaying to hear some of the “preaching” of today’s Christian singer or musician. One wonders what Bible they are reading. The writers of the hymns knew Scripture and understood its doctrine unlike too many today. Find an old hymnal and take the time to read through the pages of hymns. They are very instructive.
I’ve heard more than one worship leader say that music during the worship service is designed to prepare us for worship. I would strongly disagree with that assessment. The time spent with the Lord and in His Word each day is what prepares the child of God to worship Him when gathered with other believers each week, whether on Sunday morning, Sunday evening, Wednesday evening or some other time. In fact, spending time with Him is worship and should impact our lives on a daily basis because of it.
Singing songs of praise is supposed to be worship in and of itself. Singing is not designed to prepare a person for worship at all. We are to come to church already prepared to worship God Almighty because we’ve already been doing that each and every day based on time spent with Him in His Word and through prayer. Singing is simply another form of worship. Paul asserts this fact in Ephesians 5:19.
…speaking to one another with psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit. Sing and make music from your heart to the Lord.
This is supposed to be the what the average Christian does all the time. It’s not to gear us up for worship. It is worship! There is a terribly wrong emphasis on things today, with too many using worship as emotional catharsis designed to make them feel good. How is that worshiping the God of the Universe? When Paul and Silas were in jail, they prayed and sang praises to God (Acts 16:25-34). They didn’t do this to become prepared to worship. They did it as worship. In that particular case, God opened their cells, but that’s certainly not a hard and fast rule for us. We worship Him because He is worthy of our worship, period.
Nadab and Abihu brought “strange fire” to the Lord’s altar and they paid a very hefty price. In fact, Moses told Aaron and his two remaining sons that they could not mourn the loss of Nadab and Abihu, though the nation of Israel itself was allowed to mourn (Leviticus 10:6). Essentially, Aaron was told that they must accept as right what the Lord had done by killing Nadab and Abihu because of their flagrant disregard for God’s ceremonial laws, even if they did so unintentionally or even possibly with good intentions. The fact that two of Aaron’s sons changed an aspect of worship to include something that had not been specifically ordained by God Himself resulted in their immediate deaths and dismissal as priests. They were found to be unacceptable and God dealt with it. Does this mean the two are in hell now? Not necessarily at all. It simply means that God rebuked them to death for their error. Paul implies the same type of thing can happen to authentic Christians today.
For this cause many are weak and sickly among you, and many sleep. – 1 Corinthians 11:30 KJV
Paul is pointing out to the failing Corinthian believers that due to their unchecked sin, some of them had become ill and some had even gone to “sleep.” Whenever Paul used the word “sleep” referencing Christians, he was always speaking of death. If a true child of God goes AWOL, off the path into sin, God will begin chastening that individual. If the person hardens their heart and refuses to turn back to God, He reserves the option of allowing sickness and even death to overtake that person. It is not unheard of at all. The difference is that in today’s age of grace, God does not rebuke us as we often should be rebuked. He allows us to choose our own path, but of course, He wants us to continuously move toward Him, not away from Him.
Nadab and Abihu unfortunately, moved away from God by taking their own path. They opted to add something to the ceremonial system that God had not advocated. That one mistake cost them their physical lives.
Aren’t you glad that we do not live in Old Testament times within Israel? It was a very difficult life due to its structure. Everything had to be done correctly because everything symbolized something ordained by God even though many at that time had no real clue as to the true significance and meaning.
Brothers and sisters, we need to live our lives in ways that pleases God. It can be very difficult to do at times, but we must persevere in the faith. This is why Paul says what he says in Philippians 2:12 and it is very insightful.
Wherefore, my beloved, as ye have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling. (KJV)
Paul is not saying that we somehow must work for our salvation. He is simply saying that the process of sanctification is something we must enter into and cooperate with God to achieve. Certainly, on one hand, God sanctifies and justifies us based on our faith in the finished work of Jesus. On the other hand, we must yolk ourselves together with God so that we spend our lives actively living in ways that meet with His approval.
This is also why Paul tells the Thessalonian believers to test all things and hold fast only to those things which God considers good (1 Thessalonians 5:21). Test or prove all things by the Light of His Word. Nadab and Abihu had God’s spoken Word through Moses. They knew what they should have done but changed things up. They paid the price for it.
Christians need to stop determining truth by what is felt. We have God’s Word as the diviner of truth. In terms of worship, anything that appeals to our baser instincts should most likely be tossed out. Let’s worship Him in Spirit and in truth. Emotion cannot determine what is true. Yes, it can react to the truth but it cannot determine it. Using emotion to determine truth is perilous at best. It should be avoided at all costs.