LESSONS FROM THE WORSHIP OF NADAB AND ABIHU
Aaron, the first high priest of Israel and brother of Moses, had four sons (Exodus 6:23). Though Eleazar was the son that succeeded Aaron as high priest (Numbers 20:28), most Bible readers are probably more familiar with two of his other sons, Abihu and Nadab. Why is this so? Because of the divine record of their tragic mistake and subsequent death that is found in Leviticus 10:1,2.
It is written, “Then Nadab and Abihu, the sons of Aaron, each took his censer, and put fire on it, and offered profane fire before the LORD, which He had not commanded them. So fire went out from the LORD and devoured them, and they died before the LORD” (Leviticus 10:1,2). This passage is recorded in the Bible “for our learning” (Romans 15:4), so we need to ask ourselves, “What can we learn from this history?” Let us consider three fundamental points that we can learn from the worship of Nadab and Abihu.
WORSHIP TO JEHOVAH IS A SERIOUS, SPECIAL AFFAIR.
Contrary to what some are now advocating, not everything that one does in life is worship. Worship is different from other activities. It is something unique. To worship the God of heaven means to give honor to or pay homage to Him. Such involves the meditation of the heart. Note what God revealed immediately after Nadab and Abihu died regarding His attitude toward worship: “By those who come near Me I must be regarded as holy; And before all the people I must be glorified” (Leviticus 10:3).
In the Book of Psalms it is written, “Oh come, let us worship and bow down; let us kneel before the LORD our Maker . . . Exalt the LORD our God, And worship at his footstool – he is holy” (Psalm 95:6; 99:5). Worship is not entertainment. It is not play time. It is not a time to have a private conversation with others about worldly affairs.
In our worship to God, we must show our reverence for Him. Such would include truly worshipping in spirit or from the heart (John 4:24). Would it not also be the case that God’s children should dress in such a way that it is obvious that in their minds, worshipping the Almighty truly is a special affair? We find it downright disturbing, yes, nothing less than appalling, that today some Christians attend the services of the church dressed as if they were going to a party or to participate in some type of sporting activity. Let us not forget: worship is both special and serious.
NOT ALL WORSHIP PLEASES GOD.
Nadab and Abihu worshipped God, did they not? Yes, but obviously God did not accept their worship! This is a strong warning to us for it shows that there is such a thing as false or unacceptable worship. In fact, in this case those who were worshipping the Lord were from His own chosen nation. Thus, sometimes the Lord God even rejects the worship of His own children (consider Isaiah 1:11,13, where it is said that God told the Israelites not to bring any more sacrifices to Him because He would not accept them).
Many people seem to think that how we worship is not really all that important. Supposedly, all that really matters is that we worship in some way. This is the teaching of Satan! Look, the first worship about which we read in the Bible was the worship of Cain and Abel – Cain’s worship did not please God!
Remember, Jesus said, “. . . the true worshippers will worship the Father in spirit and truth” (John 4:23). The Christ also said that it is possible for worship to be “in vain” (Mark 7:7). Let us be careful that our motive in worship is always to please the Lord God, not please ourselves or other men.
TRUE WORSHIP MUST BE BASED ON THE COMMANDS OR WORD OF GOD.
Just what mistake did Nadab and Abihu make? They offered a fire before the Lord “which He had not commanded them” (Leviticus 10:1). Thus, the idea for using that particular fire came not from God, but from the minds of those two sons of Aaron. Their mistake was doing in worship that which God had not authorized. Man must not add to or take away from God’s instructions (Deuteronomy 4:2; Revelation 22:18,19).
In worship, we must do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, that is, by His authority (Colossians 3:17). Because we now live under the new covenant, in our worship we must do only that which is authorized by the teaching of the Christ (2 John 9; Galatians 1:6-8). To go beyond the doctrine of God’s Son in our worship is to act according to the desires or commands of men, not God. God-pleasing worship is always based on a “thus saith the Lord.”
How do we know that God created all things in six days? The Bible tells us so. How do we know that God created man in His image? The Bible tells us so. And, how do we know the manner in which the great Creator wants His children to worship Him? Again, the Bible instructs us about how to worship properly. Christians do not live by the teachings of the Law of Moses as Aaron and his sons were required to do. However, there are important principles of worship that we need to learn and apply from the divine account of Nadab and Abihu’s unlawful activity and tragic death.
— Roger D. Campbell
TRUTH is published monthly by the Klang church of Christ in order to help educate, edify, encourage, and equip the saints of God.