An Awakened Spirit can Avoid a Dead Body
It all started when I got to wondering about the word “profane” as used in the OId Testament. I had a feeling it meant to dishonor. While this is true, as with most Hebrew words there is a range of interpretation. Not only that, but there are two different Hebrew words that get translated as profane: zur and halal. Zur is the most frequently used word—76 times in the Old Testament, while halal is used only 21 times. Zur in the King James bible is almost exclusively translated as “strange.” But in many modern translations zur is translated as profane. Halal on the other hand is almost exclusively translated as profane.
So, you’re probably asking, “what’s your point?” Well, it’s this, my New King James Bible search of “profane” took me to the “profane” fire offered by Nadab and Abihu. How could their incense offering be profane? The offering was described by the Hebrew word zur—strange. Maybe then it was not the offering, but something more spiritually profound to which the Lord reacted.
Let’s revisit the event and see what might have been at play.
Nadab and Abihu, were the two eldest sons of Aaron, Moses’ brother.
Their tragic story is told primarily in the tenth chapter of Leviticus. The chapter opens describing the young men making an offering to the Lord which had not been commanded by God and which resulted in their death.
In acting as they did, Nadab and Abihu assumed a familiarity with God that was totally at odds with the solemnity of the occasion. They upstaged not only Moses, but also their father, Aaron, the High Priest. Their offering was a spontaneous act which they performed at the conclusion of at least seven days of very intense spiritual significance—the dedication of the priesthood.
Aaron and his four sons were each in their respective priestly garments. They were before the altar in the newly constructed Tabernacle. The sons’ father, the High Priest, had just blessed the thousands gathered to observe the event. The fire of the Lord had spectacularly roared forth and consumed the prescribed offering on the altar.
In their youth and in the exuberance of the event they apparently gave no thought as to how presumptuous and offensive their actions would be to God—how they were drawing attention to themselves and away from their father and from Moses. Their actions diminished the sacred impact of the pageantry of the event—Nadab and Abihu were editing the script—all this High Priest decorum wasn’t necessary, two kids with their own censers could define how you approached and worshipped God.
Their actions profaned, made God common, before the people. The judgment of Nadab and Abihu by God was deserved, swift and just. God did not want another repeat of the Israelites’ faithlessness evidenced at His descent on Mt Sinai the year before. It was there, gathered at the base of Mt Sinai, witnessing the awesome power of God, that the nation vacillated. In the intensity of that experience the Israelites opted to exchange an offered intimacy of relationship with God for one of intercession—as one voice they said, “Moses, you listen to God for us.” Now, in this climactic moment of pageantry in the dedication of the priesthood, God had to quickly, decisively restore His position of holiness, His preeminence and His plan for His chosen.
Although the text does not use both Hebrew words, I make the following distinction. The young men offered a strange, zur, offering, however, it was their inappropriate actions in the circumstance that profaned, made common, were halal to God. Nadab and Abihu attempted to define God in their image—to create a god that He is not—an idol god. Their individual spirit did not perceive God’s spirit—resulting in their dead bodies. God is a jealous God.
There is a tendency today to make God a buddy, a big, huggable bear. Let us not forget that although He loves each of us with a passion and is intimately approachable, He must be respected, esteemed, honored and worshipped. It is best to let Him decide how He wants to present Himself to us in any given situation. I may want the big teddy bear, but in His wisdom, I may need the correction of a father.
When my spirit is awake to His Spirit I will always make better choices, resulting in life for my body.