Ellen G. White Writings

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The Signs of the Times

July 1, 1880

Offering of Strange Fire

By Mrs. E. G. White

“And Nadab and Abihu, the sons of Aaron, took either of them his censer, and put fire therein, and put incense thereon, and offered strange fire before the Lord, which he commanded them not. And there went out fire from the Lord, and devoured them, and they died before the Lord. Then Moses said unto Aaron, This is it that the Lord spake, saying, I will be sanctified in them that come nigh me, and before all the people I will be glorified. And Aaron held his peace.”

The sons of Aaron did not take the sacred fire from the altar, which the Lord himself had kindled, and which he had commanded the priests to use when they offered incense before him. They took common fire, and put it in their censers, and put incense thereon. This was a transgression of God's express command, and his judgment speedily followed. Aaron's sons, who officiated in holy things, would not have thus transgressed if they had not indulged freely in the use of wine, and been partially intoxicated. They gratified the appetite, which debased their faculties, and disqualified them for their sacred office. Their intellects were beclouded, so that they did not have a realizing sense of the difference between the sacredness of the fire which God let fall from Heaven, and which was kept burning continually upon the altar, and the common fire, which he had said they should not use. If they had had the full and clear use of their reasoning powers, they would have recoiled with horror at the presumptuous transgression of God's positive commands. They had been especially favored of God in being of the number of elders who witnessed the glory of God in the mount. They understood that the most careful self-examination and sanctification were required on their part before presenting themselves in the sanctuary, where God's presence was manifested.

“And Moses said unto Aaron, and unto Eleazar, and unto Ithamar, his sons, Uncover not your heads, neither rend your clothes, lest ye die, and lest wrath come upon all the people; but let your brethren, the whole house of Israel, bewail the burning which the Lord hath kindled. And ye shall not go out from the door of the tabernacle of the congregation, lest ye die; for the anointing oil of the Lord is upon you. And they did according to the word of Moses.” The father of the men slain, and their brothers, were forbidden to manifest any signs of grief for the ones who had been justly punished of God. When Moses reminded Aaron of the words of the Lord, that he would be sanctified in them that came nigh to him, Aaron was silent. He knew that God was just; and he murmured not. His heart was grieved at the dreadful death of his sons while in their disobedience; yet, according to God's command, he made no expression of his sorrow, lest he should share the same fate of his sons, and the congregation also be infected with the spirit of unreconciliation, and God's wrath come upon them.

When the Israelites committed sin, and God punished them for their transgression, and the people mourned for the fate of the one punished, instead of sorrowing because God had been dishonored, the sympathizers were accounted equally guilty with the transgressor.

The Lord teaches us, in the directions given to Aaron, reconciliation to his just punishments, even if his wrath comes very nigh. He would have his people acknowledge the justness of his corrections, that others may fear. In these last days, many are liable to be self-deceived, and they are unable to see their own wrongs. If God, through his servants, reproves and rebukes the erring, there are those who stand ready to sympathize with those who deserve reproof. They will seek to lighten the burden which God compelled his servants to lay upon them. These sympathizers think they are performing a virtuous act by sympathizing with the one at fault, whose course may have greatly injured the cause of God. Such are deceived. They are only arraying themselves against God's servants, who have done his will, and against God himself, and are equally guilty with the transgressor. There are many erring souls who might have been saved if they had not been deceived by receiving false sympathy.

“And the Lord spake unto Aaron, saying, Do not drink wine nor strong drink, thou, nor thy sons with thee, when ye go into the tabernacle of the congregation, lest ye die; it shall be a statute forever throughout your generations; and that ye may put difference between holy and unholy, and between unclean and clean. And that ye may teach the children of Israel all the statutes which the Lord hath spoken by the hand of Moses.”

There was given the same positive command as was given to our first parents, in regard to the tree of knowledge. God would impress upon all the necessity of strictly temperate habits in order to preserve in their full force all their powers, prepared for constant action. Satan has worked perseveringly to the one end, to compass the ruin of the world. Since his success on the point of appetite in Eden, in causing the fall of our first parents, he has plied this temptation to the human family with wonderful success. Intemperance weakens the physical powers, and debases the morals, so that eternal things are placed on a level with common. Satan exults as he looks upon his work. If he can lead astray the heads of families through appetite he is mostly sure of a harvest in their children, and children's children to the third and fourth generation. He studies from cause to effect. Children generally have transmitted to them as a legacy, the appetite and passions of their parents, intensified. And often these children grow up without any redeeming influences around them, but with unfavorable surroundings and examples. And they are weaker in physical and moral power than were their parents before them. Intemperance benumbs the sensibilities to that degree that physical, mental, and moral feebleness is the result, and right and wrong is not discerned.

This is the purpose of Satan, to belittle the requirements of God, and make of none effect his holy law. The man of sin has placed a common working day in the very bosom of the decalogue and in doing this has thought to change the law of God and has thus exalted himself above God. Were the moral powers of man clear and vigorous they would not choose the common in the place of the sacred because it is more convenient to be in harmony with the world. The general disobedience of man does not change or detract one particle from the positive command to keep holy the seventh day, for God placed his sanctity upon that day. A principle of right and obedience to God are always and everywhere the only safe rule. The language of every God-fearing soul should be, Perish whatever may, gold, silver, houses, lands, reputation, but let me retain my integrity and the approval of God. The habit of doing wrong in breaking one of God's commandments will not lessen the guilt. There are habits contracted by bad example, or by bad influence before we have judgment to discern the right; or the force of reason may be so narcotized by indulgence of appetite in the use of tobacco, opium and liquor that wrong is not discerned. These slaves to appetite are completely under the dominion of their master, and unless evil habits are conquered, they will conquer and destroy.

Selfish gratification through the force of habit has reigned almost supreme in the hearts of the human family since the fall of Adam. Satan has slain his thousands and tens of thousands by causing them to think that God does not mean what he says. They venture to disobey, as did our first parents, and at last find the result is death. The Lord would garrison the hearts of the men of Israel in responsible positions, that they should preserve their reasoning powers, clear to discern between right and wrong in their dealings with the people, and this direct and solemn command was to reach from generation to generation to the close of time. Men who are instructing the people, and are in positions of trust should ever be men of strictly temperate habits; unless they are they will not be men of principle; for indulgence of the appetite perverts the senses. Those who have had advantages in education, trained by wise and God-fearing parents to strictly temperate habits, will generally be found trustworthy. They learn to bear the yoke in their youth.

The sons of Aaron although especially honored of God by being placed in important positions, were unfaithful. The yielding disposition of Aaron to indulgence of his children had given them characters that were inclined to self-gratification. They failed where they should have been strong. These men did not understand their own weakness and made a fatal mistake in the indulgence of appetite. The highest incentive was presented before them to develop firmness and principle, and strictly temperate habits, that they might have a continual sense of the sacredness of the work which was given them. God was testing their character to bring into exercise the highest powers of the mind. But the habits of self-indulgence had a firmer hold on them than they had any idea of. It seemed a trifle to them to put the intoxicating draught to their lips; they had done it again and again until force of habit controlled them; and then elevation to responsible position did not have sufficient influence upon them to make them break a sinful custom. Had these sons been educated to courageous resolution, to self-control, they would have resisted the growing power of vicious habits. There is not a virtue nor a vice, not an act of body, nor of mind, to which we may not be chained down by the force of habit. Many promising young men have ruined themselves by one false step at the commencement of life in the formation of habits of intemperance. Here the neglect of parents is seen in the formation of the characters of their children. Notwithstanding the father had failed to do his duty, God would bring these sons in close connection with himself that he might instruct them as to his will and his way; but the reverence they had failed to give the father, led them to disregard the positive requirements of God.

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