Day 5

The Disobedience of Nadab and Abihu

from the Leviticus reading plan


Leviticus 10:1-20, Psalm 51:17, Isaiah 6:1-7, Romans 12:1, 1 Peter 2:1-5


As a boy, one of my favorite summertime activities was to go “creeking” with my friends. Just behind my childhood house lay a creek that ran throughout the neighborhood. During the summer months, the waterline became low, revealing rocks, logs, and sandbars, making it possible to traverse the creek without getting your shoes wet. And so, we’d set out on a journey to see how far we could make it without leaving the creek bed. 

The fun came in deciding your route through the creek. There was always an easy path to take. Still, my friends and I enjoyed being as creative as possible and arguing over whose path was the “right” one—laughing hysterically when someone who took a “wrong” path inevitably fell headlong into the water. 

I found myself thinking about those days after reading the tragic story of Nadab and Abihu. If Leviticus is a book explaining the “right” way to approach God, then this story must be an example of the “wrong” way. And yet, I believe there is more here than just a warning to be heard. 

God is passionate about living with His people. It is His great desire to share His holiness, goodness, and justice. But because our lives are plagued by sin, wickedness, and injustice, it is dangerous for us to draw near to the holy God. This danger is surely demonstrated by the fate of Nadab and Abihu, who attempted to draw near to God on their terms. The Lord’s explanation for what happened to Aaron’s sons highlights the gravity of being in God’s presence: “I will demonstrate my holiness to those who are near me, and I will reveal my glory before all the people” (Leviticus 10:3). 

You see, knowing the obstacle that was their sin, in His compassion, God provided for Israel a way to safely enjoy the goodness of His presence. But importantly, the way to draw near to God was provided and openly disclosed by God Himself. Israel didn’t have to search out a path to God. Rather, in love, it was gifted to them. 

This is what Nadab and Abihu ignored, but we know that they are not alone. There is a universal human desire to craft our own creative pathway to God. We imagine paths to God that are based on personal morality, specific spiritual practices, or our favorite social issues. But there is one and only one way to draw near to God, and we don’t need to search it out because He came looking for us. The way into the good presence of the holy God is through Jesus Christ alone. 

So the next time you are tempted to believe that you have to muscle your way into God’s blessings by your good works or biblical knowledge, remember the compassion that lines this tragic story: the way into the joy of God’s presence has been gifted to you in Jesus Christ. Alleluia!

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One thought on "The Disobedience of Nadab and Abihu"

  1. Jray says:

    At first glance the way God struck the sons of Aaron seems merciless but what a great analogy here by Colin. We will suffer total shipwreck of faith if we try to come to God through our own ways and not relying completely on Christ to provide the way to the Father. Ephesians 2: 8 For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— 9 not by works, so that no one can boast.
    Upon further looking the Lord was merciful in in this act of stopping self religion in it’s infancy. How common the god of self is in the world today even in the churches where we’ve created a god fashioned in our own liking and called it the god of the Bible. We think we can come by faith in Christ and then begin to live by our strength but this is folly. Christ is the root and we are but a branch. Without the nourishing of the root the branch dies. Let us return to faith alone in Christ alone!

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