In the sweep of Leviticus, we have seen the sacrifices as prescribed by Moses (chapters 1-7). Right on the heels of this, we find Aaron and his sons being consecrated, and they then perform these sacrifices on their behalf and on behalf of the people. The result of the offering of the sacrifices, and the blessing of the people, was that God revealed His glory, and fire came out from the altar. There isn’t any time wasted before we read, “Aaron’s sons Nadab and Abihu took their censers, put fire in them and added incense; and they offered strange fire before the Lord, contrary to His command.”
They offered strange fire…
The Hebrew verb used is zuwr. Here, we find it as zarah – strange. The idea of zuwr is that it is foreign, of another place. Thus, we see that the King James and NASB does render this word better than New King James and the NIV. It isn’t profane or unauthorized, though this is true; it is a foreign fire. The fire that was upon the altar was the fire of God, and these two men were bringing a fire from a different place, one of their own making.
Herein lies the point. It is not simply that this fire was unauthorized by God. The judgment of death by fire coming out from the presence of the Lord was because of a foreign fire, and not simply that they offered something unauthorized. For example, at the end of Leviticus 10, we read that the sons of Aaron did not eat the sin offering like they were commanded, but they aren’t killed for it. The issue here is something deeper than disobedience.
In October of 2013, John MacArthur held a “Strange Fire” conference, and then wrote a book with the same title afterward. In this conference, he made the claim that the Pentecostal and Charismatic denominations are offering strange fire before the Lord – even to the point of calling them demonic. The language is all the more severe and harsh in his book. The truth is that often we do think of the Charismatics as being those who offer “strange fire”, and there certainly is a lot of it.
You only need to do a small search to find the blatant error in the Charismatic Movement. You find dubious cults that came out of the Toronto Blessing, the maniacal Lakeland “revival”, the drunkenness of the Spirit, and even now there are some who claim to have “Holy Spirit marijuana”. These sorts of dubious miracles and hyped up hysterics are certainly false fire. There are no ifs ands or buts about it.
At the same time, we find Baptists who will speak so harshly against this kind of thing that they will even call those who are deceived utterly satanic. They will go as far as claiming that the Pentecostals and Charismatics are no better than the Mormons or Jehovah’s Witnesses. As a Charismatic believer, this to me is false fire. This to me is bringing division into the Body of Christ, and that kind of spite only comes from one dark source.
Ultimately, what needs to be asked, more than the blame game, is what exactly constitutes strange fire? How do we know whether we’re offering it up to God? Is there a litmus test that we can go by?
The answer is yes.
The long answer is to say that we should test everything according to the Scripture. This is the “long answer” because it takes a lot of time and devotion to memorize the Bible and see if what we do and say adds up to it… The more basic way of seeking to know whether our prayers, our worship, our lifestyles, and even our attitudes are not bringing false fire is to understand the heart of God.
Once again, this seems like it is a timely devotion to learn God’s heart. The reality might shock you. We can simply go through 1 Corinthians 13 and ask if what we’re doing lines up with that. When we pray against someone, even calling down curses upon them, because they would speak against our ministry, is that showing love? If we are focused and intent upon obtaining a “prosperous future”, is that not self-seeking? Love is not self-seeking. When we “command” the Holy Ghost to come down, aren’t we using manipulation? What about when we will uncontrollably babble about how we wish that God would rend the heavens and come down? Oh, that You might send revival! And our constant cries over and over and over and over and over and over and prophesying and non-stop screaming at the heavens that revival might come – with all of the noise going up into the ears of God, I do wonder why there isn’t revival just abounding and flowing in our streets? Could it be that we’re coveting something that doesn’t exist (an imagined utopian experience of spiritual shots in the arm and blessed glory carrying us on clouds of splendor)?
And what about our worship? When our worship is singing songs about what God has done for me, and how much God loves me, and what God will do for me, and how much God is going to change the world on my behalf, etc is really just self-worship. This is my problem with Christian music. I have an extremely difficult time listening to Misty Edwards, Hillsong, David Crowder, Chris Tomlin, K-Love, or any of the modern artists. Often the songs revolve around me, and my relationship with God. There are so few songs that simply sing about the wonders of God for who He is. With that mentality, we ‘worship’.
I’ve said it in other blogs, and I recommend using my categories option to find some of them (search eternal perspective, principalities and powers, prophetic, resurrection, or zion), that our lives should be lived from another wisdom. We are to eat from the tree of life, and that is a selfless tree. While the tree of the knowledge of good and evil is composed of self preservation, the branches going out to self-gratification, and the fruit being sweet self-promotion, the seeds will spring up to death. There is no life in it. However, the tree of life is a cross, promoting self-sacrifice. The branches go out to self-control and denial of the carnal things, and the fruit itself is death. We would rather be a nobody who still has Christ than to be somebody without God. This is the antithesis of self-promotion. Instead of exultation, we seek humility. In that humility, we put to death all of our own desires and ambitions and lusts and dreams. We put it to death to take up the cause of Christ, and whatever it is that He would have us to do. In this, we find that the seeds within that fruit spring up to life and life abundantly.
Does everything that you do reflect that tree of life? Strange fire is constituted by the life lived from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. This isn’t that difficult to identify. We simply need to be willing to examine ourselves. Does my prayer represent something sacrificial? Does it seek other’s benefit over my own? Does my worship of God seek the absolute glory of God, or is there fudge-room where I’m able to also get a name? Does my life represent humility, or does it represent the desire and ambition of “being successful”?
In putting to death our own desires, ambitions, lusts, and dreams, we don’t find that it is simply about “putting to death”. I went to college to be a graphic designer. I haven’t designed anything since then. I just picked up drawing again a few months ago (see some of my art at https://instagram.com/tjustincomer89/ ). After failing out of art college, I went to a community college to pursue a degree in physics. I dropped out. I started seeking for Christian education. I never made it to any Bible college. My desire was to get a degree, even if that degree was in ministry. It was God’s desire that I would learn by prayer, devotion, meditation, and generally spending time alone with Him.
My desire was to become a teacher. God’s desire was that I would live in the wilderness and pray for whoever needed it. It was my desire when I came to Christ to be a prophet. It was God’s desire that I become a homesteader. It was my desire that I would somehow be successful, and that money would never be a problem. It was God’s desire that I would continually have to watch the bank account go from a few hundred dollars to nothing, and then continue in prayer that God might sustain my life for my wife’s sake.
In all of these things, I wouldn’t trade what I have for the world. I might not have anything close to the American dream, nor do I have anything at all, actually… In possessions, I have few. In security, none but Christ. I’ll tell you what I do have, though: joy, love, peace, faith, communion with God, a broken heart of the Father, holiness – of these things that will never perish.
I love my life, even though I find myself in constant battle and struggle. I say this honestly, knowing that just a yesterday I was complaining about my life. It takes a reality check to be woken up. Life is difficult no matter which way you go. The reason for this is because we have an enemy of our souls. Life will never be easy with Satan attacking us. If it won’t ever be easy, then why should I search for easiness at all? I would rather commit all to Jesus and let Him sort out the details. He does a lot better job than I do.
What is strange fire?
Strange fire is anything and everything that does not come from the Spirit of Christ. When our lives are lived out of our own-ness, instead of out of the Spirit, we are offering strange fire. It leads to death. But the Spirit brings eternal life, even now in this moment.