Intro. This is the grand opening. The Tabernacle has been built according to the specifications established by God. The various offerings by which sinful man might be restored to fellowship with a Holy God have been described. First of necessity the sin offering, then the Burnt Sacrifice, (consecration), and finally the Peace offering, (communion). The garments for the priests have been made according to the specifications and now they have put the priestly apparel on Aaron and his sons. Moses and Aaron have offered sin, burnt sacrifice, and peace offerings. There is a general excitement in the camp. It is here that we read:
And Moses and Aaron went into the tabernacle of the congregation, and came out, and blessed the people: and the glory of the LORD appeared unto all the people.
And there came a fire out from before the LORD, and consumed upon the altar the burnt offering and the fat: [which] when all the people saw, they shouted, and fell on their faces. In this excitement we read that:
Nawdawb and Abeehu, 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.
And there went out fire from the LORD, and devoured them, and they died before the LORD. Suddenly a joyous occasion is transformed into an occasion of great fear. They have seen two of Aaron sons smitten dead by the fire of God right before their eyes.
I. WHAT WAS THIS STRANGE FIRE THAT BROUGHT INSTANT DEATH TO THE SONS OF AARON?
A. It is possible that they were trying to attract attention or glory to themselves.
1. It was a moment of divine manifestation, and the attention of the people is on the Lord. They are praising God and worshipping on their faces before the Lord.
2. The two sons of Aaron perhaps desired some attention for themselves.
3. As Moses explained to Aaron why this had happened, he said: "This is what the Lord meant when He said: "I will be glorified before the people."
4. It is a serious matter when people are worshipping God for someone to do something that would draw the attention of the worshippers from God and on to themselves. This is done in many different ways.
a. By loud shouting. The man in Bible college who used to shout Hallelujah at a strategic point in a sermon. I watched him destroy many messages by this antic. It was jarring to the senses and you immediately lost the flow of the message and he upstaged the one who was delivering God's message to the people.
b. During the singing as we worship, if someone stands while the rest are all seated, this attracts the attention of the congregation upon the one standing and diverts their attention from the Lord.
c. Even the swaying and the waving of your hands can be attention getters.
d. Paul declared that God desires that no flesh should glory in His presence.
e. I watch the services on TV sometimes, and it seems to me that everyone is trying to upstage the next person and draw the attention of the crowd to themselves.
f. There is a lot of exalting of the flesh.
B. It could be that there was some sin in their life. Again God said, "I will be sanctified in them that come near to Me."
Let the priests also, which come near to the LORD, sanctify themselves, lest the LORD break forth upon them.
2. Jeremiah the prophet said:
[It is] the LORD'S mercies that we are not consumed, because his compassions fail not.
3. Even the plate on the head dress that the priest wore said: "Holiness to the Lord."
4. Some men who stand in the pulpit today as God's representatives to the people, who are living a double life, I am surprised that God does not strike them dead. Surely God is merciful and not willing that any should perish.
5. Paul wrote:
But I keep under my body, and bring [it] into subjection: lest that by any means, when I have preached to others, I myself should be a castaway.
6. God holds leaders to a higher standard;
My brethren, be not many masters, knowing that we shall receive the greater condemnation.
And the Lord said, Who then is that faithful and wise steward, whom [his] lord shall make ruler over his household, to give [them their] portion of meat in due season?
Blessed [is] that servant, whom his lord when he cometh shall find so doing.
Of a truth I say unto you, that he will make him ruler over all that he hath.
But and if that servant say in his heart, My lord delayeth his coming; and shall begin to beat the menservants and maidens, and to eat and drink, and to be drunken;
The lord of that servant will come in a day when he looketh not for [him], and at an hour when he is not aware, and will cut him in sunder, and will appoint him his portion with the unbelievers.
And that servant, which knew his lord's will, and prepared not [himself], neither did according to his will, shall be beaten with many [stripes].
But he that knew not, and did commit things worthy of stripes, shall be beaten with few [stripes]. For unto whomsoever much is given, of him shall be much required: and to whom men have committed much, of him they will ask the more.
7. The qualifications for overseer in the church:
This [is] a true saying, If a man desire the office of a bishop, he desireth a good work.
A bishop then must be blameless, the husband of one wife, vigilant, sober, of good behaviour, given to hospitality, apt to teach;
Not given to wine, no striker, not greedy of filthy lucre; but patient, not a brawler, not covetous;
One that ruleth well his own house, having his children in subjection with all gravity;
(For if a man know not how to rule his own house, how shall he take care of the church of God?)
Not a novice, lest being lifted up with pride he fall into the condemnation of the devil.
Moreover he must have a good report of them which are without; lest he fall into reproach and the snare of the devil.
But Jesus called them [to him], and saith unto them, Ye know that they which are accounted to rule over the Gentiles exercise lordship over them; and their great ones exercise authority upon them.
But so shall it not be among you: but whosoever will be great among you, shall be your minister:
And whosoever of you will be the chiefest, shall be servant of all.
For even the Son of man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give his life a ransom for many.
II. CAN A MINISTER WHO HAS FALLEN EVER RETURN TO THE PULPIT AGAIN?
A. That all depends.
1. There must be an honest and full confession.
2. There must be genuine repentance.
a. Not just sorry that you got caught.
b. Sorry that you did it.
B. There must be a true fear of the Lord.
1. The fear of the Lord is to hate evil.
2. You cannot feel that you are a martyr, and you are giving up the love of your life for Christ's sake.
C. There must be a true repentance.
1. Repentance is represented by a changed heart and life.
2. There must be fruit that demonstrates repentance.
3. Fruit does not grow over night.
a. It takes time to demonstrate that the repentance is genuine.
b. The forgiveness is instantaneous but the regaining of trust takes time.
III. THERE IS A THIRD SUGGESTION AS TO WHAT THE STRANGE FIRE MIGHT HAVE BEEN. THIS IS FOUND BEGINNING IN VERSE 8.
And the LORD spoke unto Aaron, saying,
Do not drink wine nor strong drink, you, nor your sons, when you go into the tabernacle of the congregation, lest ye die: [it shall be] a statute for ever throughout your generations: (The reason for this)
That you might put difference between holy and unholy, between unclean and clean;
1. It is possible that Aaron's sons had been drinking and that their judgment had been impaired.
2. As a minister of God, I feel that I am not to drink any form of alcoholic beverage, or take any mind-altering drugs.
3. This is true of all elders in the church.
a. When Paul gave the qualifications for the elders in the church, he said: "Not given to wine."
b. The Bible says that wine is a mocker, strong drink is raging, and he that is deceived thereby is not wise.
4. If a person wanted to totally consecrate his life to God, he would take the vow of a Nazarite. One of the aspects of that vow would be to refrain from drinking wine.
Who has woe? who has sorrow? who has contentions? who has babbling? who has wounds without cause? who has red eyes?
They that tarry long at the wine; they that go to seek mixed wine.
Look not thou upon the wine when it is red, when it gives its color in the cup, [when] it moves itself aright.
At the last it bites like a serpent, and stings like an adder.
Your eyes shall behold strange women, and your heart shall utter perverse things.
Yes, you shall be as he that lies down in the midst of the sea, or as he that lies upon the top of a mast.
They have stricken me you say, and I was not sick; they have beaten me, [and] I did not feel it: when I awake I will seek it yet again.
6. As Christians I know that we have liberty in Christ. The Christian ethic is the broadest ethic I know. Paul said, "All things are lawful for me." You can't get any broader than that. But Paul continued:
a. "All things are not expedient." Paul said that he was pressing toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus. He saw himself in a race and pressing toward the goal, He did not want to do anything that would impede his progress. He wanted to win.
b. But I will not be brought under the power of any. Alcohol has an effect on your reasoning ability. You will do things while under the influence that you would never otherwise do. You read of a person being arrested on a DUI charge. What does that mean? Driving under the influence of alcohol. What absolute freedom is expressed in the words, "All things are lawful for me." But it is possible to so exercise your freedom as to bring yourself into bondage. I love my freedom so much that I will not exercise it in such a way that I would lose it.
c. All things are lawful, but all things edify not. There are things in life that build you up, and things in life that tear you down. It is foolish to exercise your freedom by doing things that tear you down.
IV. WHAT IT BOILS DOWN TO IS THAT GOD DOES NOT WANT US DOING THINGS FOR HIM UNDER THE INFLUENCE OF STRANGE FIRE.
A. My motive for serving God is to be "The love of Christ constrains me."
B. I am repentant for the early years of my ministry in which I sought to motivate people to do the work of the Lord by strange fire.
1. We used to try to increase the number in our Sunday school through contests offering prizes to the winners. Serving God motivated for some earthly reward is strange fire.
2. If I only minister for a paycheck, that is strange fire.
3. If I seek to draw the attention of the people to me, through the ministry, that is strange fire.
4. If I am ministering to others while there is iniquity in my life, that is offering strange fire.
5. Should I stand in the pulpit with my mind altered by drugs or alcohol, that is strange fire.
6. It is only the grace of God that many ministers do not fall dead when they approach the pulpit.
7. They must not think that the lack of immediate judgment is a sign of God's approval. The Lord has declared, "In due time their foot shall slip."
8. Proverbs says: He that is often reproved yet stiffens his neck, shall suddenly be destroyed, and that without remedy.