Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Strange Fire

Leviticus 10:1-3 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. Then Moses said to Aaron, "It is what the Lord spoke, saying, "By those who come near Me I will be treated as holy, And before all the people I will be honored."

The sons of Aaron offered "strange fire" to God. That phrase struck me this morning as I was reading this passage in Leviticus. It got me to thinking about what we offer as strange fire these days. No longer do we have the tent of meeting and burnt offerings to God like in the time of the Israelites. No, we now have the perfect sacrifice, Jesus Christ and so we don't have to make atonement for our sins according to the laws of the Old Testament.
Now, my initial question was "What were these guys thinking?!" We know that everything had to be just so in order for the priests to make any type of sacrifice to the Lord and here are these guys, THE SONS OF AARON for cryin' out loud, who decide they want to play with fire (pun intended). If anyone should have known the consequences of not doing things God's way it should have been these fellows. Their father was the original high priest charged with taking care of the tabernacle.
This brings me to my next point. The pastors, theologians, preachers and teachers are the ones that should know the best. Please pay special attention to the emphasis on "should." Remember, the sons of Aaron should have known better than to do what they did in offering "strange fire" to God... but they didn't. Folks, there is some strange fire going around churches, seminaries and theological books these days. Some of the concepts that theological students are taught are far from what God has commanded. In some versions the word "strange" in this passage is translated "unauthorized," how fitting. There is strange fire that says that the old Gospel of sin and repentance is no longer good enough. Strange fire that says Jesus was not who He said He was and is not the only way to salvation. Strange fire that says that the Bible is not the Word of God and that very little of it can be trusted. While on the other hand all of what Bart D. Ehrman, Paul Tillick, Karl Barth, Soren Kiirkagaard and Oprah say can be trusted implicitly. Strange fire that twists the scripture to fit social inclinations rather that calling society to conform to the scripture. Strange fire indeed that says that God is not a man of His word. This is all wrapped up in wonderful ideas of free thought, tolerance and Godly love for our neighbors. Remember, Nadab and Abihu didn't do it completely wrong they just "added incense" to their firepans.
There are two very important things to remember though; one is that not all people in or associated with theological education are offering this putrid odor to the Almighty. Two, strange fire is not limited to anyone or any profession. Satan is an equal opportunity deciever and no one is omitted. What then is the solution, or, what does this have to do with me?
First we must see what kind of offering God wants from us. For the answer let's look at Psalm 51:16-17, For You do not delight in sacrifice, otherwise I would give it; You are not pleased with burnt offering. The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise. So, do we approach God with a humble spirit and humble heart or do we approach God as is we have Him all figured out?
Second, we must prepare ourselves to fend off the deception that is going to come. More and more of the "mainstream" churches are inching their way further from the truth of God's Word. By "mainstream" I mean denominations such as; United Methodist, Prebyterian, Episcopal, Lutheran, and such. Again, this is an inaccurate generalization and not meant to speak for every member or every congregation. The same can be said for institutions of theological education and it may be that this is what is driving the direction of the churches. It has become fashionable to make mockery of tradtional Christianity and God and His Word. Strange fire. Anyway, we must make sure that we are properly prepared for the attacks of the enemy. That means saturating ourselves with the Word, constantly being in prayer and seeking the very face of God, all while clinging tightly to the Cross that got us where we are.
So, just as in the time of Aaron and his unfortunate sons, there is a strange fire being offered to God. It is up to each of us to recognize this and not be consummed ourselves by it.

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