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)
I am starting to be aware that we are as guilty today of bringing strange fire before the Lord as were Nadab and Abihu. The reality of the real truth about strange fire is that it is the very teachings we cling to tenaciously in our attempts to resist the truth about God's methods for resolving evil forever.
Strange fire is a fire that is strange in heaven's way of thinking and living and responding.
Strange fire is a belief that God must inflict torture and pain similar to what physical fire produces as a means of intimidating sinners toward repentance or to punish them.
Strange fire is foreign to the consistently compassionate nature of God's love, the God who never embraces methods of His accuser to accomplish His will. Force, intimidation, coercion, shame, abuse violence – all of these are counterfeits that have no place in the kingdom of heaven. Yet sadly they are all immeshed into the body of the beliefs not only of nearly every Christian but every religion and philosophy of life found on this planet.
When Nadab and Abihu brought strange fire before the Lord and offered it thinking it would make no difference, they were merely doing what so many today are doing with their offerings to God. They assumed that the instructions by God for the sanctuary were no more that simply descriptions of religious rituals rather than descriptions of natural law protocols to protect them around intense power. Today we still miss the point because we do not realize the true meaning of the word holiness. In assuming that holiness refers to a danger of making God mad at us if we cross Him, we are in just as much danger of being consumed as were these two drunkards.
By bringing into our praise and worship of God the common methods, attitudes and assumptions that we rely on in our everyday relationships in business, politics and entertainment and weaving those into our teachings and beliefs about God, we are offering up strange fire just as surely as did those men so long ago. Fortunately for us the imminent and very potent glory of God is not nearly as close to us today as it was to them so we are not also consumed like those men were when they came into the sanctuary of His holiness.
The word sanctuary literally means a safe place for certain species to live in free of the threat of abuse or attack. God's sanctuary is supposed to be a place where it is safe for Him to dwell without threat of being slandered, misrepresented or abused. It is also supposed to be a safe place for anyone willing to approach Him for intimacy and fellowship and open vulnerability. But sadly it is rare to find such a sanctuary anywhere today. But it is also why we see very little of God's kind of power in contemporary Christianity.
Then Moses said to Aaron, "This is what the LORD meant when he said, 'Through those who are near me I will show myself holy, and before all the people I will be glorified.'" And Aaron was silent. (Leviticus 10:3 NRSV)
What does it mean to be holy? Let me use an analogy what has worked well for me from the realm of natural law which is where all of God's laws operate.
We have little problem appreciating the enormous danger of high voltage electricity and the potentially lethal results of not taking correct protocols seriously when working around high tension electrical conductors. If someone fails to respect the strict guidelines demanded for working around such equipment and gets fried as a result, we never conclude that somehow electricity became angry with that person and lashed out in wrath to strike them dead. We realize it is silly to blame electricity as the fault for that person's death because we know the true reason was that they violated natural law. Even if that person was unaware of the danger we still would never try to accuse electricity with diabolical motives to kill them. We acknowledge that whether one is killed knowing the truth about electrical power and simply ignored it, or whether it was an innocent accident, either way we never assume that any fault should be discovered in dark motives on the part of electrical generators.
Yet when it comes to God who is the very center and Source of all power of every kind for the entire cosmos, the Creator of everything who is all-powerful – somehow we are willing to abandon our reason and understanding of natural truth and accuse Him of intentional and deliberate torture or execution of His rebellious children who refuse to come into alignment with the principles of living in the presence of His high energy power. By doing so we rely on logic of God's accuser Satan who has from the very beginning lied about God's motives and the nature of His intense passionate love, leading many to believe that there is a dark side hidden within God's nature that will lash out with revenge against His enemies if they reject His offers of mercy. Yet what we fail to recognize is that the real danger for us is that this very belief about God is itself strange fire that threatens to result in our own destruction if we insist on mingling it with the high voltage power of love that constitutes the reality of God's essence.
In our willing ignorance and in drinking of the wine of Babylon, we become stupid and drunk just as Nadab and Abihu were drunk when they committed this insane act that ended their own lives. We are in just as much danger of being consumed by the fire of God's presence of love as they were. (see Leviticus 10:1-10 compared with Revelation 14:8;17:2,4; 18:3)
We continue insist that love is not really strong enough, that love is insufficient to compel sinners to repentance. We reject the revelation that love will never inflict imposed punishments on those who resist it for we simply cannot imagine in our fallen nature any possibility of convincing sinners to change without resorting to force, threats, fear and violence when love appears to fail. Our strange fire today is in insisting that God's love includes resorting to violence when loving methods fail because we reject the idea that God's love alone can be enough to convince sinners of their need to change.
This strange fire denies the truth that Paul explains in Romans 2, that the kindness of God is the effective method that leads sinners to repentance. Rather we insist that without a good dose of fear injected into the gospel that God's love and kindness could not get the job done. Yet in doing this we flatly contradict what Paul declares in that very passage.
Or do you think lightly of the riches of His kindness and tolerance and patience, not knowing that the kindness of God leads you to repentance? But because of your stubbornness and unrepentant heart you are storing up wrath for yourself in the day of wrath and revelation of the righteous judgment of God. (Romans 2:4-5)
Many scoff at belief in a God who will rely solely on love alone to win over Satan's kingdom of violence and deception. They are convinced that evil must be suppressed with violence, that rebellion and sin must receive its 'just' punishment or God cannot be worthy of our trust. They see no way to embrace the truth of a God who will only love in the face of evil. But in accepting these demonic doctrines they also reject the explicit testimony and demonstration of the Son of God who came to this earth to reveal the glory of God by allowing rebellious sinners and demons to torture and kill Him.
Strange fire is insisting that God must inflict physical torture using physical fire on all who refuse to repent and agree with Him in the end. Sadly the kind of fire that God calls strange in the Old Testament is the very fire we contend He will resort to using to incinerate sinners in the end, or worse yet to force them to endure in torture throughout all eternity as payback for failing to see things His way. Yet what we fail to appreciate is the vital truth that Paul and all other true disciples have been trying to tell us for centuries, that God is very different than what His enemies (and even too many of His friends) have made Him out to be.
Because Christianity of every stripe has be infected with doctrines involving strange fire, and because they even accuse those trying to share the real truth about God as being guilty of heresy, they are in fact setting themselves up to experience the same fate as Nadab and Abihu when they one day come face to face with the reality of God's presence. Even the way this story is usually interpreted is riddled with strange fire mentality, for in assuming that God lost patience and lashed out in anger to punish these men with physical flames that incinerated them, we reinforce the very fallacies that led to their destruction.
We in essence still perpetuate lies about God similar to what caused these two sons of Aaron to lose their lives because they foolishly assumed they could come into the high-intensity presence of the Source of love with little thought as to the natural consequences of disregarding rules governing how to approach such high voltage power. By missing the warning in this story we are still deceiving ourselves regarding one of the most explicit demonstrations in the Bible that should alert us to our own danger of coming into God's presence while clinging to lies of Babylon about the kind of God who runs the universe in love alone.
The wine of Babylon is of course, not a literal wine that you can physically drink. Rather it is the cocktail of doctrines and beliefs and assumptions about God and His way of relating that makes up the alcohol that will in the end drive us crazy in the head and keep us confused about reality. Sadly we have all been drinking of the wine of Babylon filled with lies about God, for we are told in Revelation that ALL nations – including all denominations – have been drunk of this mixture. And I am coming to see that this wine is made from the fruit of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil, a deadly cocktail according to the warning of God to our first parents.
The serpent's insistence that God knows both good and evil and the insinuation that He is willing to resort to balancing these conflicting motives and methods to accomplish His will – this is the fermentation that makes up the ingredients of this wine logic. This wine was what originally brought about the fall of our entire race when Eve and then Adam embraced the lie that God knows both good and evil and we need to do the same if we want to be more like Him. Today we still perpetuate that blatant lie of Satan in many of our teachings and our assumptions about what God is like and what He must do if He ever wants to clean up our mess.
We are called in these last days to come out of Babylon, that massive and pervasive system of confusing and conflicting contradictory notions about God. We must quit drinking wine squeezed from the fruit the Tree that caused our first parents to become drunk in confusion and fear about God. Our only hope is to return to the truth about our loving heavenly Father that can only be found on the Tree of Life, and where we can also find leaves that provide healing for our diseased thinking about Him (Revelation 22:2).
This deadly cocktail of wine and drugs is clinging to lies about God in our heart while thinking we can come into His presence of high voltage love and assume there will be no problem. Even believing that the fire that consumed these two men was an intentional act of violence on the part of God is part of the wine that sets us up to experience the same demise if we were to encounter that same Presence today.
The cause of death for these two men was not the result of some dark desire of vengeance in God's heart but rather was the lethal mixing of indifference and deliberate ignoring of principles governing reality with the potent intensity of love that is the very essence of God's heart. When strange fire and divine fire come into close proximity, that love exposes what has been hidden in the heart and the exposure of our fears, lies and resistance to love becomes the very fuel that explodes from within.
By the abundance of your trade you were internally filled with violence, and you sinned; therefore I have cast you as profane from the mountain of God. And I have destroyed you, O covering cherub, from the midst of the stones of fire.
Your heart was lifted up because of your beauty; you corrupted your wisdom by reason of your splendor. I cast you to the ground; I put you before kings, that they may see you. By the multitude of your iniquities, in the unrighteousness of your trade you profaned your sanctuaries. Therefore I have brought fire from the midst of you; it has consumed you, and I have turned you to ashes on the earth in the eyes of all who see you. (Ezekiel 28:16-18)
This correlates directly with what Paul warns about as destructive wrath coming from within us.
But because of your stubbornness and unrepentant heart you are storing up wrath for yourself in the day of wrath and revelation of the righteous judgment of God. (Romans 2:5)
The original language just as easily allows for this verse to be rendered storing up wrath within yourself. This correlates perfectly with God's description of how the demise of Satan will come about, a drawing out from within him of the very fire that will ultimately consume him. Carefully note that only two verses previous to this it is pointed out that what was within him was violence resulting from an abundance of trade.
This reference to the abundance of trade refers to a spirit of artificially evaluating things and people and is what we now refer to as commerce. By ignoring the value system that heaven has where all God's children are equal in worth, in favor of a system of hierarchy, pride and abuse, Lucifer invented his system that we now praise as civilization.
The world's concept of living civilized is based on three foundations: commerce, hierarchy and imposed law. Yet this is the very system that attempts to displace God's government that is based on agape love, and it always results in producing an internal spirit of violence. This internal violence in the end becomes the very fuel that will be ignited within the rejectors of God's mercy when the sword of truth in the mouth of Jesus exposes the lies that this counterfeit system relies on for its very existence. In that day all our reliance on imposed law to make us right with God, all artificial methods of assessing value by comparing ourselves with others, and all the abuse that results from hierarchy will result in torturing us with excruciating regret, rage and despair as we discover that everything we have trusted in and relied upon to save us is all out of harmony with the atmosphere of heaven. This is what Jesus referred to as weeping and gnashing of teeth. It is the hell of overwhelming anguish and destructive rage as we see that God's ways of love were the only right ways after all.
It is vitally important to know that God's love is not the cause of the fire that will ultimately consume the lost but rather is simply the catalyst that ignites the internal resistance they have stored up inside themselves against His love. When these incompatible elements encounter each other at close range the result proves to be fatal. The cause that consumes the wicked is the same kind of experience that consumed Nadab and Abihu and that likewise killed Ananias and Sapphira. It is the deadly mixture of hanging onto lies about God while attempting to connect ourselves to His power. This desire for power without agape love is to mix two incompatible volatile elements and the result is a fire that consumes.
Satan's kingdom is built on a lust for power while rejecting agape love. Power without love was never part of God's design and it misrepresents the truth about Himself. Throughout Scripture we find illustrations where this is exposed, yet nowhere more clearly than at the cross. In the events leading up to and including the cross, Jesus made it explicitly clear that He had full access to all the power anyone could ever hope to access but that He was choosing in love to deny Himself that power in deference to trusting Himself to the One who judges fairly. Jesus was the extreme opposite of the example of Lucifer who allowed his lust for power devoid of love to turn him into the arch-demon he has become.
Ever since Satan launched his campaign of slander and insinuations against God's government he has successfully convinced many to believe that God is more like himself than like Jesus. And by embracing the assertions that God must resort to violence at times to achieve His goals, we join this accuser in his slander against God's character and government. This is what constitutes the strange fire that will destroy us from within if we refuse to allow God to completely cleanse us and make our hearts pure and holy like His. Only as we come to appreciate the true nature of holiness can we be prepared to enter into His presence and experience joy there instead of terror.
"This is what the LORD meant when he said, 'Through those who are near me I will show myself holy, and before all the people I will be glorified.'" (Leviticus 10:3 NRSV)
It is time to abandon all use of strange fire both in our own thinking and in how we talk about God to others. We must reject the use of strange fire by renouncing any and all notions that God must ever resort to using force at some point or He will never be able to overcome and eliminate the kingdom of force and darkness and violence. We must come to believe the true gospel about God that Jesus came to give us and that He demonstrated in His own life by allowing evil to throw everything it could at Him while miserably failing to entice Him to react in kind even for a moment.
In fact this is what you were called to do, because Christ suffered for you and gave you an example, so you should follow in his footsteps. Christ never committed any sin. He never spoke deceitfully. Although he was abused, he never tried to get even, when he suffered, he threatened no retaliation, but left everything to the one who judges fairly.
He was carrying our sins when his body was put on the pole, so that once the sins were gone, we could live righteously. For, 'by his wounds you were healed.'
Christ carried our sins in his body on the cross. He did this so that we would stop living for sin and live for what is right. By his wounds you were healed.
You were like sheep that went the wrong way. But now you have come back to the Shepherd and Protector of your lives. (1 Peter 2:21-25 multiple versions)