That same day Nadab and Abihu, Aaron’s sons, took their censers, put hot coals and incense in them, and offered “strange” fire to God—something God had not commanded. Fire blazed out from God and consumed them—they died in God’s presence.
-Leviticus 10:1-2 (MSG)
Chapter 10 of Leviticus begins with an introduction of two of Aaron’s sons: Nadab and Abihu. With their father being the High Priest, they certainly were in a position of authority themselves. They made an offering of fire to God, but this was “strange” fire. One verse later, they are dead, consumed by fire from God.
Strange story, for lack of a better adjective.
So what exactly is “strange” fire? The general assumption is that the fire they brought was simply from another source. In other words, it was not from the alter as God had previously commanded and therefore the wrong kind of fire.
Were Nadab and Abihu deserving of instant, fiery death because of this decision? Ultimately, I’ll leave that up to God.
However, they were playing with fire. What I mean by that is both men weren’t taking their duty seriously — they thought just any type of fire would do, even though in the previous chapters of Leviticus God had precisely laid out how their worship was to be conducted. Nadab and Abihu were in a leadership position so they certainly knew what God wanted, and they still flagrantly chose to ignore God’s request and do otherwise. The special responsibility they had to God and his people (who they were an example for) apparently was taken for granted and treated with indifference.
Lord, thank you for the reminder of the responsibility I have as a leader — accountability to you and to those who I lead.