Finding Grace in Leviticus 

Chapter 10 - The Unholy Fire of Nadab & Abihu

Leviticus 10 - The big points

Aaron’s sons Nadab and Abihu offered “profane fire” before the Lord and were consumed by fire from heaven. From this account we learn a number of things:

1) God is holy and so before we come into his presence we must be sanctified. It is not enough to “come before God”; we must do so in the right manner.

2) When we mourn the people who are judged by God we should be careful that we don’t give the impression that God made a mistake.

3) Sometimes our identity in Christ takes precedence over our other identities. Aaron was not able to remove the bodies of his sons because doing so would have made him unclean and unable to perform his role as priest before the people.

 The fire from heaven is back but this time it is rendering judgment and two people are dead. Now before you ask, “where’s the grace in that”? Let me ask you a question – what sacrifice were Nadab and Abihu offering to God? Up to this point there were no instructions concerning the use of the censor so why were they using it? The Bible doesn’t say. But it does say is very significant –

Then the Lord spoke to Aaron, saying: “Do not drink wine or intoxicating drink, you, nor your sons with you, when you go into the tabernacle of meeting, lest you die. It shall be a statute forever throughout your generations,  that you may distinguish between holy and unholy, and between unclean and clean,  and that you may teach the children of Israel all the statutes which the Lord has spoken to them by the hand of Moses.” (Leviticus 10:9-11)

Were Nadab and Abihu drunk? If they were, how could they not get the message that as priests they had to walk differently before God? Remember the blood on the right toe and the right ear and the right thumb in chapter 8? That was the significance – the anointing should cause the priests to walk differently before the people and before God.

If they weren’t drunk, didn’t they remember that they were representing the Almighty God? But we’re still looking for grace, so here it is –

Do you realize that God spoke directly to Aaron? In most of the accounts God talks to Moses and tells him what to say. In the few occurrences where God spoke in Aaron’s hearing, Moses was usually a part of the audience – Exodus 6:13, 22 and Numbers 12:4.

This time God spoke directly to Aaron.

I think God wanted to reassure Aaron that he and his remaining sons were still set apart to be his priests. Not only that but he wanted to have that conversation with Aaron to let him know why his sons were killed.

Grace understands a broken heart

There’s still more grace to see. Did you realize that the offering was allowed to burn to ashes contrary to God’s express commands? The sin offering should have been eaten by the priests in the holy place – but it wasn’t. It remained on the altar until it was completely burnt up. Did God get mad and destroy the remaining priests? No. The reason behind that is … grace.

You see Aaron, Eleazar and Ithamar could have eaten the offering because, you know, ‘God said so’ but there heart wouldn’t have been in it.

They would have done the ‘right’ thing for the wrong reason and that’s not what God wants. 

He’s more concerned with the ‘why’ than the ‘how’ or the ‘what’. Don’t get me wrong – God wants us to do what is right. If however we are doing the right thing for the wrong reason he will not be pleased with that. And that’s the grace of Leviticus chapter 10.


Abba Father, help me to do the right thing for the right reasons. Cause my love for you to overflow my heart until it touches every aspect of my life.  In Jesus’ name. Amen.

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