Tag Archives: God

Mephibosheth: A Portrait Of The Sinner

“Then David said, “Is there yet anyone left of the house of Saul, that I may show him kindness for Jonathan’s sake?” (2 Samuel 9:1)

Last time, we took a look at the great civil war between Israel and Judah with the armies of the House of Saul fighting against the armies of King David. I would like to look now at a single person from Saul’s family and the kindness that David the king showed him.

As Chapter 9 of Second Samuel opens, we find King David sitting on the throne of a united Israel and Judah with the civil war over and most of the other enemies of David conquered. He had moved his capital from Hebron to Jerusalem, after capturing it from the Jebusites, and had defeated Israel’s perpetual enemy, the Philistines. The Ark of the Covenant had been brought into Jerusalem and, although God had decreed that it would be built during the reign of his son, Solomon, David had sought to begin construction of the Temple. God blessed David and promised that his kingdom would endure forever (2 Sam. 7:16) and that the lovingkindness of the Lord would not depart from him as it had from Saul.

Success tests the character of the most virtuous of men and, in the words of the First Baron of Acton, “Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely.” But King David was a man “after God’s own heart” and we are repeatedly told throughout the narrative that he “showed kindness” to various people; a trait seldom found in rulers. Sitting upon his throne in Jerusalem, his mind not distracted by the demands of government nor the strategies of war, he reflects upon his late friend Jonathan, son of Saul, and he wonders if there is anyone left alive within Jonathan’s family to whom he may show kindness.

It turns out that there was a son of Jonathan still alive. We are first told about Mephibosheth back in Chapter 4 where we find him as a little five-year-old boy being rushed from his house by his nanny after hearing the news of the death of his father Jonathan and his grandfather Saul (1 Sam. 31:1-6). Urgently escaping as quickly as possible before the Philistines could finish off any surviving sons of the House of Saul, Mephibosheth fell and injured his feet, leaving him crippled (2 Sam. 4:4).

A Dead Dog Like Me

Mephibosheth, the son of Jonathan the son of Saul, came to David and fell on his face and prostrated himself. And David said, “Mephibosheth.” And he said, “Here is your servant!” David said to him, “Do not fear, for I will surely show kindness to you for the sake of your father Jonathan, and will restore to you all the land of your grandfather Saul; and you shall eat at my table regularly.” Again he prostrated himself and said, “What is your servant, that you should regard a dead dog like me?” (2 Samuel 9:6-8)

Within the relationship that develops between David and Mephibosheth, we find a wonderful illustration of God’s mercy to the sinner. When the two men first meet, King David offers Mephibosheth gifts and honors that are truly astounding to the son of Jonathan. A vain and prideful man might have been ungrateful, feeling that this was the least that the king who ruled where his own grandfather once had could do for him. But, no, Mephibosheth was neither vain nor proud. He prostrated himself before the king in humility and was keenly aware that this act of grace and mercy was unmerited.

Mephibosheth’s words echoed David’s own words to God when he marvelled in the Eighth Psalm,

“What is man that You take thought of him,
And the son of man that You care for him?” (Psalm 8:4)

Like the sinner who first comes to Christ, Mephibosheth was blown away by the mercy that the King was showing him. And as is for all who are humble at heart, he recognized who he was compared with who the king was and that he in no way deserved the kindness he was being shown. Remember Peter’s reaction when Jesus miraculously provided an overwhelming catch of fish where he himself was unable to bring in a single one. Falling before the Lord he shouted, “Go away from me, Lord, for I am a sinful man!” (Luke 5:8). Or Isaiah’s reaction to his vision of God’s glory filling the Temple:

“Then said I, Woe is me! for I am undone; because I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips: for mine eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts.” (Isaiah 6:5 KJV)

The heart that is most receptive to the grace and mercy of God is the heart that acknowledges just how undeserving it is. Mephibosheth referred to himself as a “dead dog” and the sinner, too, must recognize that he is dead in his sins (Ephesians 2:1).

For The Sake Of Jonathan

David showed kindness to Mephibosheth, not because of who Mephibosheth was or what Mephibosheth had or had not done, but for the sake of Jonathan. God the Father shows mercy and grace to us, sinners, for the sake of Jesus. It is because of our relationship to Christ that we are invited to eat at the King’s table.

When David looked upon Mephibosheth, he saw Jonathan and it was his love for Jonathan that compelled him to treat Mephibosheth with kindness and mercy. God the Father does love us, but it is our relationship to Jesus Christ that compels Him to show us grace and mercy. God loves all the people of the world (John 3:16), but He only shows grace and mercy to those who are covered by the blood of Jesus.

It is noteworthy that David never mentions anything about the feet of Mephibosheth. His feet were broken, lame, and crippled just as we are broken, lame, and crippled by our sin.  God does not look upon the sinful flesh of those whom Christ has redeemed, but sees us through the lens of the righteousness of Jesus Christ (Romans 5:19, 2 Corinthians 5:21, Philippians 3:9). Crippled feet did not exclude Mephibosheth from the king’s table, neither does sin exclude us. If we are in Christ, then that sin has been removed from us to be remembered no more (Psalm 103:12).

Verse 11 of Second Samuel 9 tells us that Mephibosheth ate at the king’s table as one of the king’s own sons. Passages such as Romans 8:15, Galatians 4:5, and Ephesians 1:5 remind us  who are in Christ Jesus that we, too, have been adopted as sons and daughters of God. Like Mephibosheth, we will take our place at the table of the King with the same privileges and benefits of any other child of the King. One day, we will live in that place where our own King lives, the New Jerusalem, just as Mephibosheth moved to the city of David to be where he was. And God will show us great kindness and mercy for the sake of Jesus, not looking upon our sins and lame feet, but seeing us with the same love that He has for the Son.

To God goes all glory. In service to Him,

Loren

loren@answersfromthebook.org

**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?“]

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Why Did God Command His People To Kill?

“Only in the cities of these peoples that the Lord your God is giving you as an inheritance, you shall not leave alive anything that breathes. But you shall utterly destroy them, the Hittite and the Amorite, the Canaanite and the Perizzite, the Hivite and the Jebusite, as the Lord your God has commanded you,” (Deuteronomy 20:16-17)

“The Bible story of Joshua’s destruction of Jericho, and the invasion of the Promised Land in general, is morally indistinguishable from Hitler’s invasion of Poland, or Saddam Hussein’s massacres of the Kurds and the Marsh Arabs. The Bible may be an arresting and poetic work of fiction, but it is not the sort of book you should give your children to form their morals.” (Richard Dawkins, from “The God Delusion”)

It has become fashionable in recent years among many outspoken atheists to call into question God’s morality. Since many verses may be found in the Old Testament of God engaging in “mass murder” and wholesale genocide, according to Bible skeptics, His own goodness and moral purity has come under fire as His actions are compared to the most evil, depraved tyrants the world has ever known.

Even for many Christians, verses such as the one quoted above from Deuteronomy are a source of bewilderment, discomfort, and downright embarrassment. How can the loving, forgiving, merciful Jesus of the New Testament have anything in common with the God of the Old Testament? And why does the God of the Old Testament seem so bloodthirsty at times?

Joshua’s Campaign Against Canaan

Although there are many Old Testament passages dealing with the nation of Israel engaging in war with other peoples, it seems that Joshua’s campaign against the residents of Canaan usually brings up the most objections; perhaps because the accounts are given so early on in the Bible. How is it that God could not only condone but order the Israelites to conquer so many different groups of innocent people? Not only that, He instructs them to utterly annihilate them, leaving “nothing alive that breathes.

The first myth to be addressed is the notion that these were innocent, peaceful people inhabiting Canaan. The next verse of the quote above from Deuteronomy 20 actually gives us our first clue about the answers to our questions:

“…so that they may not teach you to do according to all their detestable things which they have done for their gods, so that you would sin against the Lord your God.” (Deuteronomy 20:18, emphasis added)

If the Canaanites were doing “detestable” things, then they weren’t innocent. The sins in which these people were engaging are numerous and horrific. Deuteronomy 12:31 tells us that they, “burned their sons and daughters in the fire to their gods.

molochMoloch was a Canaanite idol to whom the inhabitants of the land, and later many of the Israelites who sought to emulate them, would sacrifice children. A bronze image of the deity with the head of a bull and the body of a man would be heated by fire and living infants and toddlers would be placed upon its outstretched arms to be burned to death in sacrifice.

Additionally, the Canaanites engaged in rampant sexual depravity. Homosexuality, incest, and bestiality were regularly practiced and were glorified in the stories of their gods. And while many of the Bible’s critics would not condemn homosexuality among consenting adults, the Canaanites did not confine themselves to such. As Genesis 19 tells us about the Canaanite city of Sodom, these people had no qualms about forcing others to have illicit sex with them.

Richard Dawkins’ comparison of what the Israelites did being on the same level morally as Hitler invading Poland or Saddam Hussein massacring Kurds simply does not hold up. The Poles and Kurds were slaughtered by evil dictators with their own greedy agendas while the Canaanites were under Divine judgment for unspeakable sins of the basest nature. Even the land itself was defiled by the Canaanite’s evil and God spoke of the land “vomiting out” the inhabitants (Leviticus 18:25). God was not conducting mass murder of innocent people to make room for another group to occupy the land. The Canaanites were being judged for their wickedness.

But Why The Children And The Animals?

One point of major contention exists over the fact that God ordered the Israelites to kill everyone. Nothing that breathed was to be left alive. We can assume that this included animals, young children, even babies. Surely animals and babies were innocent? Admittedly, this is a more sensitive area of the topic and calls, perhaps, for a greater deal of speculation. Robert M. Bowman, Jr. offers the following explanation in his article, “Joshua’s Conquest: Was It Justified?“:

First, after generations of the sort of moral degeneracy that characterized these peoples, it may be that even the smallest children were beyond civilizing. Apparently even they were abused and forced to participate in obscene conduct, such that they would have grown up psychologically and spiritually scarred-and perhaps threatened to perpetuate the cycle.

Second, the STDs and other infectious diseases that must have pervaded those cities may well have been carried by the smallest children, and if so, they may have posed a grave danger to the physical health of the Israelites. Imagine some of the nations today most ravaged by AIDS, but living more than three thousand years ago, with no access to even the most basic medical resources. It may be that infectious diseases were also ravaging the domestic animals in these cities, which would also explain why they were destroyed.

To paraphrase Dr. J. Vernon McGee, when you’re dealing with an extreme form of cancer you perform extreme surgery to remove all of it. You don’t leave a little bit of it behind to see whether or not it will end up like the other cancer. You get rid of it. Although we tend to be appalled by the notion of small children being lumped together with their parents because we want to give them a fair chance to grow up and make their own decisions, God, Who knows all things, is not limited by the same uncertainty that we are. He knows what they will eventually become if they are permitted to live.

Ultimately, the Israelites did not wipe out the entire population as they were instructed to and we only need to turn a few pages over to the Book of Judges to begin to see the devastating consequences of allowing the Canaanite civilization to survive. Even a future king of Israel, Ahaz, would one day practice the same despicable child sacrifice to Moloch that would see a revival because the influence of Canaanite culture was allowed to remain (2 Kings 16:2-3).

We know that God dealt fairly with the Canaanites and gave them every opportunity to repent and change their ways. Genesis 15:16 refers to God waiting to enact His judgment because the “iniquity of the Amorite was not yet complete.” What if the Canaanites, or even a single Canaanite had turned to God during this time? Well, we know at least one did. Joshua chapter 2 tells us of Rahab, a prostitute living in Jericho, who believed that God was with the Israelites. She asked for mercy when they attacked the city and she and her family were spared.

Thou Shalt Not Kill?

Finally, I would like to briefly look at the question of how God can instruct people in the Old Testament to kill or even how He can kill people Himself when the Ten Commandments say that we shall not kill (Exodus 20:13).

First of all, the commandment given prohibits the personal killing of one human being by another, or murder. The distinction is made in the Bible between a person acting in their own interests and taking the life of another and what we would call justifiable homicide. Genesis 9:6 says that whoever sheds man’s blood shall have his own blood shed by man. This is the first Biblical reference to capital punishment which is condoned in both the Old and New Testaments. Romans 13:4 speaks of civil rulers “bearing the sword on behalf of God” as avengers against evil-doers. Those in authority have the God-given responsibility to punish criminals and that includes executing murderers. But they do so on behalf of the justice of God and the laws of the land, not for their own gain and interests.

War can also be justifiable use of deadly force because one is acting on behalf of the nation in which he lives. Genesis 14 tells us of a war in which Abraham fought in order to liberate his nephew Lot who had been taken by force by the enemy.

We see many instructions given in the Old Testament also for capital punishment being carried out for various infractions, including spiritual ones. Exodus 22:18 is rendered in the King James Version with the commandment to not “suffer a witch to live.” A verse which has come under attack by critics repeatedly. Although a whole additional article would probably be necessary to sufficiently explain why this was a law under the Old Testament and not under the New, let me just briefly point out that many of the capital offenses mentioned in the Torah were specifically relevant to a certain people at a certain time and in a certain place. Ancient Israel was a Theocracy whose original “King” was God Himself. In order to prevent the Jewish people from devolving into the same condition as the Canaanites before them and to protect the lineage through which Jesus Christ would be born, extreme measures were called for. Like the cutting out cancer analogy we considered with regards to the Canaanites, God wanted to be sure that any steps toward idolatry and spiritual rebellion were nipped in the bud immediately.

Witchcraft and spiritual rebellion might seem like harmless enough sins to many modern skeptics, but they are a big deal to God. And as we read through the rest of the Old Testament and see the horrible consequences Israel faced for their idolatry, we see what a tragedy these things can result in. Today, we do not have a Theocracy ruled by the laws of God and thus we, as Christians, are not instructed to go around killing adulterers and those who practice witchcraft. We are instructed to bring the Gospel of Jesus Christ to a lost and sinful world.

To God goes all glory. In service to Him,

Loren

loren@answersfromthebook.org

**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?“]

Further Reading:

Evidence Unseen

North American Mission Board

Bible.org

 

Shall We Look For Someone Else?

“Now when John, while imprisoned, heard of the works of Christ, he sent word by his disciples and said to Him, “Are You the Expected One, or shall we look for someone else?”  Jesus answered and said to them, “Go and report to John what you hear and see: the blind receive sight and the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed and the deaf hear, the dead are raised up, and the poor have the gospel preached to them. And blessed is he who does not take offense at Me.” (Matthew 11:2-6)

John the Baptist knew Who Jesus was for he is the very one who declared Him the “Lamb of God that takes away the sin of the world” (John 1:29). I do not believe that John was uncertain about Jesus’ identity here but rather His methods. Consider what the Baptist had prophesied about Jesus:

“As for me, I baptize you with water for repentance, but He who is coming after me is mightier than I, and I am not fit to remove His sandals; He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire. His winnowing fork is in His hand, and He will thoroughly clear His threshing floor; and He will gather His wheat into the barn, but He will burn up the chaff with unquenchable fire.” (Matthew 3:11-12)

John doubtlessly had in his mind the coming King from the lineage of David spoken of by Isaiah who said of the Messiah, “…He will strike the earth with the rod of His mouth, and with the breath of His lips He will slay the wicked” (Isaiah 11:4). He was looking for a  Judge Who would punish the wicked, but Jesus came offering forgiveness. He was looking for a Conquerer Who would wage war on the enemies of Israel, but Jesus came offering peace with God to whomever would believe. He was looking for a King Who would sit upon the throne of Jerusalem, but Jesus came as a Servant Who wandered the hills of Galilee. John looked for One Who would set the captives free, yet he himself languished in Herod’s prison.

That God was moving, John the Baptist did not deny. But He was moving in a way that John had not expected. The Romans still controlled Israel, Herod still sat upon his throne, and the corrupt Pharisees and Sadducees still oversaw the religious affairs of the nation. And all the while Jesus was miles removed from the City of David and was spending His time healing the sick and preaching a Gospel of reconciliation. John the Baptist’s confusion was understandable.

Jesus will ultimately fulfill all of the prophecies concerning Him, including those which John the Baptist himself had spoken. The first time He came as a Savior but the next time He will come as a Judge (cf. Revelation 19:11-16). But it seems that John was wondering if maybe God was going to send someone else to “clear the threshing floor” at that time.

As Christians, we know that God is always working in our lives and on our behalf, but often He acts in a way that we are not expecting or that we do not understand. Perhaps there is something that we are certain God wants to do in our life, yet it doesn’t seem to be happening. Maybe, like John the Baptist’s expectations, ours are not being fulfilled right now because it is not the right time. Or it could be that God is doing things differently from what we were anticipating.

Jesus sent words of comfort to John the Baptist by telling his disciples to report back to him with what they had seen. God was surely moving even if it was wasn’t the way he was expecting!

“THEY all were looking for a king
To slay their foes and lift them high:
Thou cam’st, a little baby thing
That made a woman cry.” (1)

To God goes all glory. In service to Him,

Loren

loren@answersfromthebook.org

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

(1) From the poem, “That Holy Thing” by: George MacDonald

[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?“]

I Am God, There Is No Other

“Turn to Me and be saved, all the ends of the earth;
For I am God, and there is no other. (Isaiah 45:22)

Since the beginning of the world, mankind has failed to see that God is God and there is no other. All was perfect and beautiful within the Garden of Eden; God had provided rivers of water for drinking (Gen. 2:10-14), verdant trees brimming with nutritious fruit for eating (Gen. 2:9), and an environment teeming with life (Gen. 2:19). Everything that man needed was provided by God Who also imparted dominion over the earth and its creatures to humanity (Gen. 1:26-28). Man would rule over the earth with authority and power exceeded only by that of God Himself. God exalted man to a height that only His own throne would exceed, yet it was that throne for which man would grasp. For Satan tempted Adam and Eve with the notion that they, too, could be like God (Gen. 3:5).

Not much has changed in the time since man was expelled from the Garden of Eden. Mankind has yet to really learn and understand that God is God and there is no other. Consider the false gods and idols worshipped by the ancients. From the primitive heathen who would carve out for himself a “god” from wood and stone to the philosophers of Greece and Rome who would create an entire pantheon of deities and worship the creation of their own imagination, man, frustrated by his inability to raise himself to the throne of God, has sought to place something of his own construction in the place occupied by God alone.

But where are these gods, and whither have gone these idols? What has become of the pantheons of Rome, or Greece, or Egypt? Does anyone yet bow their knee before Osiris, or Zeus, or Mercury? The sands of time have faded their memory and they have been overturned from their places of honor. The false gods and idols of the ancients have been cast down and are worshipped no more. “For I am God, there is no other.

And what of those who put their hope in philosophy or science? What of those who exalt intellect, knowledge, and “reason” above all else? One has only to look at the history of such pursuits to realize that what we call brilliance today will eventually be seen as foolishness by our grandchildren. The span of two or three generations is usually more than sufficient time for mankind to realize that what he revered as incontrovertible truth just yesterday has come to be shown as nothing in the world but unfounded nonsense and vain imagination. Intellectuals are often seen as the divine prophets for the secularly-minded, but few of their thoughts and ideas will ever stand the test of time and will one day be regarded as the product of the ignorance of a by-gone era. “For I am God, there is no other.”

Can anything different be said of those who would build empires and rule over the lives of others? Is the legacy of one such as Alexander The Great, Caesar, Napoleon, or Genghis Khan any more lasting than the false deities or philosophers of yesteryear? Consider the end of such who sought to be kings and queens over the whole world. Not only have they passed from the world’s stage, but so have the empires and kingdoms which they struggled so hard to build. They sat upon a throne for a moment in time and now only their names survive the decay of history. “For I am God, there is no other.

The false religions and false gods of today will eventually suffer the same fate as those who came before them, of that we may be certain. Those who put their faith and hope in man have misplaced their faith indeed. Those who follow the teachings of Muhammed will one day be disappointed, because Muhammed is dead and buried. Or those who worship the Buddha will in no way find everlasting life because he, too, is dead and buried. And those who exalt the teachings of people like Joseph Smith, Charles Taze Russell, and others who have founded pseudo-Christian cults above the clear teachings of God’s own Word, the Bible, will find that these men and women were not gods either. The Word of God is eternal and will never pass away (Luke 21:33), but the words of these false prophets and false teachers will one day be proven to be dangerous delusions which deceived many. “For I am God, there is no other.

Finally, there has been a great return in recent times to that very first idolatry: the exaltation of self. Not that this self-worship has ever really left. Man has continued to believe the serpent’s words in the Garden – “you shall be like God.” Many of those living in modern times say that there is nothing worthy of worship and would agree that all these things we’ve considered are not gods either. Yet they fall down at the altar of their own ego and have replaced faith in anything with pride. Claiming to adhere to a doctrine of atheism, these people put their own success, their own happiness, their own pleasure above everything and are not really atheists at all. They are not without belief in a god because they ultimately consider themselves to be god; at least of their own little world. Perhaps they do not seek to rule upon a throne over others or build their own kingdom, but they do esteem their own will and desire as more valuable and important than that of anyone else. Yet God Almighty says to them:

“For all flesh is as grass, and all the glory of man as the flower of grass. The grass withereth, and the flower thereof falleth away:” (1 Peter 1:24-25 KJV)

Though they would exalt themselves above the stars, though they would, as Lucifer, ascend above the heights of the clouds (Isaiah 14:14), though they would happily receive the praise and adoration and worship of men, as did Herod when he spoke and the people cried out, “It is the voice of a god and not a man!” (Acts 12:22), in the end, God will have the final word. “For I am God, there is no other.

At life’s end, and end it shall, nothing will remain of the fortunes and kingdoms which men have built. Though a man rule over half the world he will, at last, occupy no more than a six foot by three foot plot of land. And though he possesses more riches than can be fathomed, he will leave this world just as he came into it (1 Timothy 6:7). The story is told of John D. Rockefeller, the Bill Gates of his time, dying and his family waiting eagerly outside of his accountant’s office to find out how much of his staggering fortune he had bequeathed to them in his will. When the account emerged, one relative, unable to control his greedy excitement blurted out, “Well, how much did he leave?” The accountant simply responded, “He left all of it.”

God has sought since time immemorial to teach mankind that He is God and there is no other, not so that His ego might be stroked but that man would look unto Him for Salvation. Man has looked unto every other possible source for Salvation, joy, and fulfillment and has come up empty. God alone can save, God alone can provide fulfillment and lasting peace. The first part of the verse we have been considering says, “Turn to Me and be saved...” Do not turn to a false god, or false religion, or some other person, or the works of your own hands. Turn to Me. It is only by turning to Jesus Christ that a person may be saved (Acts 4:12). How do we know that “God” speaking in Isaiah 45:22 is referring to Jesus Christ? Because of what it says in the next verse:

“I have sworn by Myself,
The word has gone forth from My mouth in righteousness
And will not turn back,
That to Me every knee will bow, every tongue will swear allegiance.” (Isaiah 45:23)

Let’s compare that to Philippians 2:10:

“So that at the name of Jesus every knee will bow, of those who are in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and that every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” 

 This demonstrates the truth of the Trinity. God the Father, God the Son (Jesus Christ), and God the Holy Spirit are One God. So, we are saved when we turn to Jesus. Yet who may turn to Him? All the ends of the earth. This is likely referring to spiritual condition as much as geography. Not only may the man in Australia and the woman in Peru both turn to Jesus and be saved, but so may the drunkard in Belgium and the convicted murderer in India. The dregs of society stand on equal footing with the heads of state when it comes to access to God for Salvation. None are excluded based on location, neither are any disqualified due to transgression. May we all today acknowledge that God is God and there is none else and may we turn to Him and be saved.

To God goes all glory. In service to Him,

Loren

loren@answersfromthebook.org

**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?“]

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,

Loren

loren@answersfromthebook.org

**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?“]

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