Strange Fire

“Now Nadab and Abihu, the sons of Aaron, took their respective firepans, and after putting fire in them, placed incense on it and offered strange fire before the Lord, which He had not commanded them.  And fire came out from the presence of the Lord and consumed them, and they died before the Lord.” (Leviticus 10:1-2)

Leviticus chapter 9 ends with a wonderful picture of worship done correctly. Every step of the way throughout the offering of sacrifices Aaron and his sons heed the words of Moses as he issues the commands that God Himself has given. In verses 9, 12, 18, and 20, Aaron’s sons are specifically mentioned as participating in the ceremonies and assisting their father. Verse 24, the final verse of the chapter, finds God sending out a holy fire upon the burnt offerings and the people of Israel shouting and falling to their faces in praise and worship of God Almighty.

I wonder just how much time passed between what is described in Leviticus 9:24 and the very next verse, 10:1. Because the entire mood and feel of the narrative takes a very dramatic turn for the worse. Now we have two of the sons of Aaron, Nadab and Abihu, deciding to stray from the clear instructions of God spoken through Moses and taking it upon themselves to offer strange fire, that is, fire not commanded by God to be brought. And the same fire that had just been said to consume the burnt offerings came again and consumed the two men.

Although we are not specifically told in detail what the strange fire was that they brought, we are given some hints. In verse 3, Moses recounts the words of the Lord when he tells Aaron,

“By those who come near Me I will be treated as holy,
And before all the people I will be honored.”

And in verse 9 God, Who has spoken nearly exclusively with Moses throughout the time the Children of Israel were in the Wilderness, directly addresses Aaron saying,

“Do not drink wine or strong drink, neither you nor your sons with you, when you come into the tent of meeting, so that you will not die—it is a perpetual statute throughout your generations—”

Perhaps the two sons of Aaron were drunk and sought to recreate the experience of worship just for the thrill of it. Maybe, since they were Levitical priests, they felt that they were at liberty to come before God at any time and in any condition they wanted. Whatever the case, they were indicted by God Himself as treating the Lord with dishonor and failing to make a distinction between the holy and the profane (v. 10).

It is significant that this incident directly follows the act of Aaron and the priests making atonement for sin through the sacrifice of sin offerings and burnt offerings since the Old Testament ceremonies of Atonement are a direct foreshadow of Christ’s work of Salvation on the Cross; as evidenced in the Book of Hebrews. It is, therefore, appropriate to find parallels between the actions of Nadab and Abihu profaning the God-ordained rites of Atonement and the works of Salvation performed by the Lord Jesus.

Nadab and Abihu came to God in a way, and at a time, and in a place that God had not instructed them. In short, they came to God on their own terms, not on His. They violated the Law of Moses given by God by seeking to come to God some other way.

We do not live in the age of the Law of Moses, but in the age of the Grace of God through Jesus Christ. Nevertheless, there is a Way by which we are instructed to come to God that we are no more able to bypass than were the sons of Aaron able to bypass the instructions of Moses. Jesus Himself said,

“I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through Me.” (John 14:6)

And, again, in the Book of Acts, we find the words of Peter, filled with the Holy Spirit, proclaiming about Jesus:

“And there is salvation in no one else; for there is no other name under heaven that has been given among men by which we must be saved.” (Acts 4:12)

People still offer strange fire to God by seeking to come to Him on their own terms and in their own way. But we have as clear-cut instructions for how we are to approach a Holy God as the Hebrews living under the Law of Moses did. There are those who feel that, because of who they are or what position they hold, they are free to come to God in any way they deem fit.

There are also even believers who offer strange fire to God when they try to recreate the thrill and excitement that genuine worship of the Lord brings when our hearts are right before Him and, like the two sons of Aaron, profane the holiness of God by coming before Him drunk in their own pride and vanity, attempting to persuade God to respond to their own efforts apart from Him.

We have an access to the throne of God that those living under the Old Testament never had (Hebrews 4:16), but let us never forget that we are only permitted into the Presence of God through the Lord Jesus. God is still a holy God and we must never approach His holy Presence in an unholy way. Before we come before God, let us make sure that our hearts are right before Him and that we are coming through faith in Jesus Christ. If our hearts are not right, then that should be the first order of business when we do come to Him. Not that sin should ever keep us from Him, on the contrary, He is the only One Who can cleanse us from sin. But let us not presume to come to Him offering the strange fire of our own self-righteousness and expecting God to accept it.

To God goes all glory. In service to Him,


**Unless otherwise indicated, all Scripture quotations are taken from the New American Standard Bible (NASB) © The Lockman Foundation and are used by permission.

[If you do not know the Lord Jesus Christ or you are not certain where you are headed when this life ends, I invite you to read the article “Am I Going To Heaven?“]

Blood Tipped Ears, Thumbs, and Toes


“Then he presented the second ram, the ram of ordination, and Aaron and his sons laid their hands on the head of the ram. Moses slaughtered it and took some of its blood and put it on the lobe of Aaron’s right ear, and on the thumb of his right hand and on the big toe of his right foot.” (Leviticus 8:22-23)

Many of the rituals mentioned in Leviticus may seem strange to us unless we remember that “blood” throughout this book is a foreshadow of the blood of Christ which covers all believers. The blood mentioned in Leviticus 8:22-23 is no exception.

The event being described here is the ordination of Aaron the High Priest and the other priests who will serve in the Tabernacle. Aaron and his sons were being prepared for priestly service and were being covered with the blood of sacrifice.

Since the New Testament tells us that every believer has been called into the priesthood (1 Peter 2:9), that is, into service to Jesus Christ our Lord, much of the symbolism present here is applicable to those of us in the Body of Christ. First of all, to be fit for service, a person must be covered in the blood, the blood of Jesus Christ. How many hypocritical “servants” of the Lord have done great harm to the cause of Christ because they never really knew Him? Before we are fit to serve, the sin question in our own lives must be resolved and we must be trusting in the Lord Jesus for our own Salvation. Before a Levitical priest could be ordained for service he had to be covered in the blood of sacrifice.

But why the ear? the toe? the thumb? Because the ear must be anointed to hear and rightly divide the Word of God. Any service or ministry must be grounded in the Word. We are not all called to teach or preach, but our service, whatever it might be, must be grounded in Biblical truth. Whether our calling is evangelism or tending the nursery during church services, our ministry is not as effective as it should be if we remain ignorant of the Bible.

The thumb represents our actions and our labor. Every ministry is a ministry of action and a blood-covered and anointed thumb speaks of this. That action may be the arduous labors of a missionary to a Third-World country or it might be the action of a wheelchair-bound widow folding her hands to pray for God’s people. God has not called any of us to sit on the sidelines and watch. Service to the Lord is not a spectator sport.

The toe speaks of movement; service is a mobile endeavor. No, we are not all supposed to travel abroad in order to serve God, but our steps should be leading us along the path He has laid out for us. “GO into all the world…”, Jesus said (Mark 16:15). Not “Sit and wait for the world to come to you.” So many churches have been built, furnished, decorated, prayed over and dedicated, and then filled with a few folks who wait anxiously for people to come and find them. Service to God involves going out to where the people in need are. We can’t just build a building and hope they come, we should be taking the Gospel to them and inviting them to come into our churches with us.

Finally, notice that the ear, thumb, and toe mentioned are the right ear, thumb, and toe. The right-hand side is spoken of in the Bible as the side of strength and power since most people are right-handed. Rachel wanted to name her son Ben-oni, the son of my sorrow since she felt her life slipping away during her labor. But Jacob, his father, named him Ben-jamin, son of my right hand since he would need to lean on the boy for strength now that his beloved Rachel was gone.

Christian service is to be done in our strength and with the fulness of effort. We are not supposed to just give a little bit of time and effort that we have left after everything else we wanted to do is done. God does understand and expect us to fulfill our obligations to work and family, but too often we relegate any service to Him into the “if I have enough time to squeeze it in” category. This one does sting a little because I know that I can do better in my own service and ministry which is writing this blog! Praise God He’s still working on me.

It is my prayer that everyone within the Body of Christ, including myself, will be more mindful of the service and ministry into which God has called us. Let us go forward with blood-tipped ears, thumbs, and toes and make 2016 the year where we begin to reclaim territory that has been lost.

To God goes all glory. In service to Him,


**Unless otherwise indicated, all Scripture quotations are taken from the New American Standard Bible (NASB) © The Lockman Foundation and are used by permission.

[If you do not know the Lord Jesus Christ or you are not certain where you are headed when this life ends, I invite you to read the article “Am I Going To Heaven?“]