Strange Fire

Strange Fire

Does worship matter? More specifically, does HOW you worship matter? Numbers 3-4 are filled with details about the priests (those responsible for teaching) and the Levites (those responsible for leading in worship). Aaron was the first high priest in Israel, and his descendants would carry on that priestly line. Aaron was a part of the tribe of the Levites. Any Levite who was not a direct descendant of Aaron would not be a priest, but was still tasked with leading Israel in worship that pleased God.

We make it only 3 verses into chapter 3 before we find that not everyone did what they were supposed to do. Exodus 30 and Leviticus 9 had laid out the way in which the sacrifices to God were supposed to be made. The censers of fire were filled with fire from God. That was a sign of his approval. However, we read in Leviticus 10:1 “And Nadab and Abihu, the sons of Aaron, took either of them his censer, and put fire therein, and put incense thereon, and offered strange fire before the Lord, which he commanded them not.” They chose not to follow God’s prescription for worship. They chose to do what was convenient for them, what they wanted. But they missed an important detail: worship wasn’t about them, it was (and is) about God! Their worship was not accepted. Instead, we find in verse 2 that God’s fire consumed them. God takes worship very seriously.

Many today like to worship God how they like. “It’s more convenient”, “it’s more exciting,” or “I just feel better when I worship God this way.” But worship isn’t about us. God doesn’t approve worship that is man-centered. I believe there are 6 principles that should guide our worship. Worship should be intentional in each aspect. It shouldn’t just be something that happens, or we accidentally get right. We must worship God on purpose and make sure that the sacrifice of praise we offer is acceptable in HIS sight.

Here are the 6 principles:

  1. Worship must be intentionally Scriptural. If we ignore God’s Word, we are bound to fail in offering acceptable worship.
  2. Worship must be intentionally God-glorifying. God’s glory is the whole reason you and I are here (Revelation 4:11) so it stands to reason that our worship should be the pinnacle of that purpose.
  3. Worship must be intentionally Christ-centered. From Genesis 1 to Revelation 22, Christ is the focal point as the remedy to man’s sin, God’s love on full display. If we neglect to center our worship where the Gospel originates, we fail to see God’s work in its fullness.
  4. Worship must be intentionally Congregational. You see from Numbers 3-4 that worship was not for the priests alone, but for all of Israel. The priests and Levites were simply leading the rest of the people in worship.
  5. Worship must be intentionally fervent. A complaint that many lodge against worshiping God in God’s way is that it feels dead. This is more an indictment of God’s people than against biblical worship. If we allow our hearts to fall into complacency in worship, we will not fulfill the first and great commandment: “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind.” Worship is not to be passive or mundane, but something that we passionately do out of intense love for the One who gave all for us!
  6. And finally, worship must be intentionally distinct. God is unique. “The Lord our God is one Lord.” He is one of a kind. There is none like Him. For this reason, our worship for Him should not resemble the world’s philosophy or method of worship. It should be different on purpose. Blending the world’s worship and God’s holiness only serves to lure the world into thinking that worship for God isn’t that big of a deal. But we see from Numbers 3:2 that worship is a big deal!

We desire that our worship be intentionally biblical, God-glorifying, Christ-centered, congregational, and distinct.

Bonus Nugget: Proverbs 12:10 in English reads “A righteous man regardeth the life of his beast…” What was probably clear to the English reader in the 17th or 18th centuries, but is not so evident to the modern reader is that this communicates the idea of taking care of or nursing an animal. Someone who doesn’t take care of his animals falls into the second category of that verse!

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