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    Chapter 23—Strange Fire

    “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.”4aSG 11.2

    The sons of Aaron did not take the sacred fire from the altar, which the Lord himself had kindled, and which he commanded the priests to use when they offered incense before him. They took common fire and put 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 were 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 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 faculties 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 the elders who witnessed the glory of God in the mount. They understood that the most careful self-examination and sanctification was required on their part before presenting themselves in the sanctuary, where God's presence was manifested.4aSG 11.3

    “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 come 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.4aSG 12.1

    “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.”4aSG 13.1

    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 as the transgressor.4aSG 13.2

    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, reprove and rebuke 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.4aSG 13.3

    The case of Aaron's sons has been placed upon record for the benefit of God's people, and should teach those especially who are preparing for the second coming of Christ, that the indulgence of a depraved appetite destroys the fine feelings of the soul, and so affects the reasoning faculties which God has given to man, that spiritual and holy things lose their sacredness. Disobedience looks pleasing, instead of exceeding sinful. Satan rejoices to see men, formed in the image of his Maker, yield themselves as slaves to a depraved appetite, for he can then successfully control the faculties of the mind, and lead those who are intemperate to act in a manner to debase themselves and dishonor God, by losing the high sense of his sacred requirements. It was the indulgence of the appetite which caused the sons of Aaron to use common instead of sacred fire for their offerings.4aSG 13.4

    The sons of Aaron departing from God's commands represents those who transgress the fourth commandment of Jehovah, which is very plain—“Six days shalt thou labor, and do all thy work; but the seventh day is the Sabbath of the Lord thy God: in it thou shalt not do any work,” &c. Nearly all the professed followers of Christ do not keep the day God has sanctified and required them to keep sacred, to rest upon it because he has rested upon it himself. They labor upon God's holy time, and honor the first day of the week by resting upon it, which is a common working day, a day upon which God did not rest, and upon which he has placed no sacred honor.4aSG 14.1

    A departure from the fourth commandment will not now be visited immediately with temporal death. Yet God does not regard the violation of his commandments any more lightly than he did the transgression of Aaron's sons. Death is the final punishment of all who reject light, and continue in transgression. When God says, Keep holy the seventh day, he does not mean the sixth, nor the first, but the very day he has specified. If men substitute a common day for the sacred, and say that will do just as well, they insult the Maker of the heavens and of the earth, who made the Sabbath to commemorate his resting upon the seventh day, after creating the world in six days. It is dangerous business in the service of God to deviate from his institutions. Those who have to do with God, who is infinite, who explicitly directs in regard to his own worship, should follow the exact course he has prescribed, and not feel at liberty to deviate in the smallest respect, because they think it will answer just as well. God will teach all his creatures that he means just what he says.4aSG 14.2

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