ADAB A D ABIHU. BY REV. W. THISTLETHWAITE, M.A.

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Levit. X. 1, 2, 3.

And adah and Abihu, the sons of Aaron, took either of them his censer, and put fre thereiuy and put incense tJiereon, and offered strange fire hefore the Lord, which he com^ manded them not. And there went oyi fire from the Lordy and devoured them, and they died before the Lord. Then Moses said unto Aaron, T%is is it that the Lord spakcy sayinffy I will be sanctifed in them that come nigh me, and before all the peo^ ple I wiU be ghrífied. And Aaron held his peace. We read here of one of those áwful visitations by which God has in different ages manifested his resentment against sin, and his power to punish it. Generally he beareth

ADAB A D ABIHU. 149 long; and hence too many are found who presume upon impunity, naj^ who not only do not fear and repent óf their first sin, but repeat it again and again^ aud even proceed to other and greater transgressions. Thus we find it written, " Because sentence against an evil work i^ not executed speedily, therefore the heart of the sons of men is fully set in them to do evil." But the scríptures also record instances in which God has not unfrequently exhibited his ríghteous indignation against sinners and their transgressions in a manner which cannot be mistaken, and which ought to operate as a powerful waming to all who read or hear of them. The present is one of them. May God shed a holy fear

of himself upon all our hearts, as we consider it. I. Let us, in the first place, consider who and what they were upon whom this judgment was executed. They were adab and Abihu, the two eldest sons of Aaron. From the expectations which are naturally entertained of the eldest sons, they would be regarded by Aaron as the hopes of his family.

150 ADAB A D ABIHU. And not only so, but they had already been miich distinguíshed hy God. These two had been expressly pennitted by name to go witli their father to Mount Sinai, when God was , about to deliver the law to him. They were admitted neaier than the rest of the congregation ; they had a glorious n^nifestation of the Lord : we read in Exodus, the twentyfourth chapter and ninth verse, " Then went up Moses and Aaron, adab and Abihu, and sevjenty of the elders of Israel : and they saw the God of Israel : and there was under his feet as it were a paved work of a sapphire ^tone, and as it were the body of heaven in his clearness." What a privilege was this which these young men had enjoyed ! How abidíng a sense of the majesty of God should it have impréssed upon them ! But besides this> they had just been consecrated, along with their two younger brothers, Eleazar aud Ithamar, to be the priests of the Lord, while their father had been exalted to the dignity of high priest, to which office adab, as the first-born, might look forward to succeed. They had just been assístíng

ADAB A D ABIHU. 151 him and M oses in the offeiing of the sacri-

fices for themselves and the people, as we saw in the last sermon ; thej had heard the solemn hlessing pronounced ; they had seeu the glorj of the Lord as it appeared to all the people ; they had beheld ^e fire come oot irom before the Lord, and consume the offerings which had been placed upon the altar; they had heard the people shout for joy, and seen them prostrate themselves before the Lord in the deepest reverence. How much more should they have been filled with all devout emotions ! How inteuselj fixed should their minds have been on the greatness of God, and of his peculiar grace to them ! How spiritual and holj should have been the joy which filled their hearts upon that interesting occasion^ full of such distinguishing honour to them ! And how profonnd should have been their humility under a sense of their own insufficiency for the great office to which they had now been called ! With all such feelings surely their hearts should have been entirely occupied ! These then were the men, such their office.

152 ADAB A D ABIHU. such the things which thej had seen and heard, upon whom this great judgment of the Lord was executed. II. Let us now enquire, in the second place, what was the sin which they had committed. It ^dently consisted in a hasty, unbidden entrance on their office, with great irregularity in their performance of a part of it^ especially in one particular. We are to remember that the dispensatíon in which they were appointed to officiate was such that eyery thing in it was minutely specified^ and all was to be done according to the directíons given and the pattem shewn to M oses in the mount. ow these young men, wUhout waiting for instructíons from Moses and Aaron respectíng their dutíes, and the pro-

per time and mode of performing them, rashly took their office at once upon themselves, hastily seized their censers, and prematurely attempted to offer incense unto the Lord. But, as I observed^ there was one partícular iu which their sin seems to have principally consisted : it is said they " offered strange fire :" that is, they took and used common fire^ not

ADAB A D ABIHU. 153 that which had fallen from heaven, and was burning on the altar of burnt-oflfering, which alone was to be used. They took some other, ^' which he commanded them not." In that was their sin. ow some, who have erronebus views of the character of God and his law, may think that this was a light sin, and that the punishment was bejond the proportion of the offence. Such, no doubt, would also think that the sin of Adam and Eve, in only eating of the fruit of a tree, was a light sin. So the sin of Saul, when he transgressed the commandment of the Lord, seemed in his own eyes, to be a light sin, or even no sin at all. But all these had in them a heinous offence, a disobedieuce of God's command, and contempt of his authority. — Morepver we cannot help fearing that these sins of adab and Abihu were caused or increased by their being heated with wine. We see no other reason for the caution so immediately given to Aaron in the ninth verse, " Do not drínk wine nor strong drink, thou, nor thy sons with thee, when ye go into the tabemacle of the congregation, lest H5

154 ADAB A D ABIHU. ye die : it shall be a statute for you throughout your generatious." If this were the case,

you see the mischiefs which flow írom the sin of ÍDtemperance, which renders a man fit for the commission of every kind of impietjr and wickedness, takes awaj his senses, dnd plunges him headlong into sin. But be this as it maj, directions had been expressly and minutelj given to them by Moses, as he had himself received them from God, and they ought to hare been simply and humbly obeyed. Such obedience is required of us. We have the canon of scrípture. Thid is our rule; and we are neither to add to it, nor diminish from it. The danger is ever the greatest that we do not come up to its fuU requhrements ; and that we are deficient in faith^ or .make manj omissions in practice. But there is also danger lest we overstep the bounds prescribed by scripture. This has often been done through an over-heated zeal, and perhaps most frequently in cases somewhat similar to this which we have been considering, by persons rashly and impetuously seeking or

ADAB A D ABIHU. 165 • executing the office of the ministry. In this way manj have run without heing sent. Some have done this throngh a most culpable negligence of that hígh and holy office. Some have erred thus through a mistaken and iUdirected enthusiasm ; others again from a wilder irregularity of mind and obstinacy of self-will ; and others from a vain overweening opinion of their own piety and talents, and an unjustifiable contempt of all authority. All these thiugs are of that '^ strange fire/' with which God will not be served. May he fiU all his servants with a zeal tempered by knowledge, aud cause their " love to abound yet more and more in knowledge and in all judgment."

III. Let us consider, in the third place, the judgment inflicted upon them. It wí^ severe and terrible. " There went out fire from the Lord^ and devoured them, and they died before the Lord." They had sinned by fire, and they períshed by fire. How different are tfae purposes to which fire írcm the Lord may be applied ! God had just made use of it as a token of his approbatíon and

156 ADAB A D ABIHU. • acceptance of their offerings^ now he makes it an instrument of destruction to those who had offended against him. Thus the same circumstanee in Providence is a blessíng to one, and a punishment to another, and the gospel itself is a savour of life to some> and a savour of death to otíers. What a panic would this awful visitation strike into the whole assembly! What a solemn waming would it afford to every one who beheld it ! Perhaps we think that if such visible and instantaneous displays of God's indignation against sin were made more frequently, there would be less of it But alas the history of this people shews how soon they forgat both these judgments and mercies. And if such baríng of his ríght hand, and such launching of his thunderbolts, are not so frequent in our age, what irreverence, forgetfulness, and ingratitude does it shew, if we pervert this forbearance into an encouragement to sin ! Thus the Apostle expostulates, " Despisest thou the riches of his goodness, and forbearance, and long-sufferíng ; not kuowing that the goodness of Crod leadeth

ADAB A D ABIHU. 157

thee to repentance ! But after tby haxdness and impenitent heart treasurest up unto thyself wrath against the day of wrath and revelation of the righteous judgment of God ?" The judgment revealed in that day will indeed be a righteous judgment. Creation wiU cry at its execution, " Righteous art thou O Lord, because thou hast judged thus." But this is a day of grace, and still his mercy waits. May the blessed Spirit lead you to come unto God in a right manner, that you may find mercy and acceptance with him before it be too late. IV. I will state to you, in the fourth place, the reason assigned by Moses for tliís severe judgment. We read, " Then Moses said unto Aaron, This is it that the Lord spake, saying, I wiU be sanctifíed in them that come nigh me, and before all the people I wiU be glorified." The meaning is that God wiU have a holy awe and reverence of his divine majesty on the mind of all, and more especially of his priests, whenever they draw near to him in any act of solemn worship. He wiU not be approached with disrespéct or

158 ADAB A D ABIHU. familiarity ; he will not have the mind light and trifling on an entrance into his honse; he will be feared and honoored by all his worshippers, as the Psalmist says, " God is greatlj to be feared in the assemhlj of his saints^ and to be had in reverence of all that are about him." But this reyerence of God must be on our minds on ail occasions, and we mnst sanctify the Lord in every circnmstance. We hare already seen, in a former sermon, that it was this particnlar failnre which God punished so severely in Moses and Aaron, when they disobeyed his word in smiting the rock, and did that which he commanded them not. Though he did not break

out upon them and kill them, though he did not even withhold the water from the people, yet he said unto them, *^ Because ye bdieved me not, to sanctify me in the eyes of the children of Israel, therefore ye shall not bring this congregation into the land which I have given them." Thus we see that he wiU be honoured by snch a regard to Us word as shall neither overstep it, nor fall short of it : he will be implidtly believed and obeyed : he

ADAB A D ABIHU. 159 wíll not bear with those who go bejond his commandment anj more than with those who omit to do it : aud if men do not glorífy him by their obedience, he wiU glorify himself by his own judgments. Let us leam then to feel this profound reverence of him, and render him this undeviating obedience, that we maj in all things, as we read in the prophet Isaiah, *^ Sanctify his name and sanctify the hofy one of Jacob, and fear the God of Israel." He declares by the prophet Ezekiel, when he is threatening some most terrible judgments upon a predicted mighty enemy of his church; when he threatens^ ^' I will plead against him with pestilence and with blood; and I wiU rain upon him, and upon his bands, and upon the many people that are with him^ an overflowing rain^ and great hailstones, fire and brimstone;'* then he adds, " Thus will I magnify myself, and sanctify myself ; and I will be known ín the eyes of many nations, and they shall hnow that I am the Lord." This use df the word " Sanctify" is also made by the Apostle Peter, quoting Isaiah, when he is waming

160 ADAB A D ABIHU. those to whom he 'wrote not tQ shrink from bearing their testimonj to the Lord throogh

fear of the persecution of men. He says, " Be not afraid of their terror, neither be troubledy but sanctify the Lord God in your hearts ;" that is, entertain so deep a seuse of his authoritj, power, and grace, and of your own duty and obligations, as to overpower every regard which you might otherwise feel to the threats of men. V. But it is time that we go, in the fifth place, to consider the spirit of Aaron under this severe trial from the death of his sons. It is described in one short, but very emphaljc sentence, " Aaron held his peace." His breast must have been torn with various distressing feelings. Constemation, horror, and grief, must all have laid hold on him. These were his two eldest sons ; he had just been made happy by the distinguished honour which had been put upon them; lie sees them struck dead in an instant; he feels himself dishonoured before the people by their punishment. We who know what angry feelings are ready to rise in our miuds, and what hasty

ADAB A D ABIHU. 161 and passionate complaints rash to our lips in such trials, maj well conceÍYe that he might be ready to accuse God of cruelty or injustice^ and to speak unadvisedly with his lips. But ** Aaron held his peace." He uttered no expression of wrath, or suUen discontent. The consideration urged bj Moses prevented him from charging God foolishly. He became dumb^ and opened not his mouth, for it was his doing. He heard the rod and who had appointed it. He meekly received the punishment of his sons' iniquity. Thus he exhibited a beautiful pattem of submission. The aged Eli, in a similar tríal^ shewed the same spirít. His two sons were also cut o£F in one day for their irreverence and profaneness in the manner in which they executed the príesfs office, in taking the fat,

and other parts of the flesh^ which he commanded them not, and for other gríevous sins of which they were guilty, so that " the sin of the young men was great before the Lord, for men abhorred the offeríng of the Lord." Their punishmeut had been foretold to Ëli by a man of God ; it had been repeated to

162 ADAB A D ABIHU. hím by Samuel, wbo^ when yet but a child, had received it by direct communication irom God. The aged priest^ for Eli also was tbe high priest in regular descent- írom Aaron^ did not indeed hold his peace like his great ancestor; perhaps he did better, he spake^ but tliey were tbe words of the deepest resignation, '^ It is the Lord/' Jie said, ^' let him do what seemeth him good." — In the case of holy Job we see this matter carried still further. Intelligence was brought him irom different quarters of the destruction of his property^- one messenger after another announcing to him in rapid succession that his oxen and asses, his sheep and camels were all carried oflF by enemies, or destroyed by fire from heaven^ and his servants slaín with the sword; and the measure of suffering seemed to be filled up, when immediately after these disastrous tidings he was further informed that by one dreadful blow all his children were killed at once by the fall of their eldest brother's house upon them. In these most distressing circurastauces we read of him, *' Then Job arose, and rent his

ADAB A D ABIHU. 163 mantley and shaved his head^ and feTl down before the Lord and worshipped, and said, aked came I out of my mother's womb, and naked sball I return thither: the Lord gave and the Lord hath taken away, blessed

be the name of the Lord." These are all excellent examples of sufferíng patience. Aaron holds his peacej Eli expresses his entire resignationi Job blesses the name of the Lord. May God enable us to imitate the highest of these examples. But if we cannot ríse so high as to bless God in our afflictions^ then let us endeavour to declare ourselves read j meekly to lie under his hand while he doeth what seemeth him good. Or if this be bejond our faith and strength let us at the least hold our peace, not in suUen discontent^ but in patient sufferíng of his wiU. We must look for sufferings; they are the lot of humanity j they are the necessary accompaniments of sin. And wby should a living man complain^ a man for the pu^ nishment of his sins ? Surely we may rather feel, that it is of the Lord's mercies

164 ADAB A D ABIHU. that we are not utterlj consumed. But affliction and tríals are something else besides being the lot of humanity, and the consequences of sin ; they are needful corrections and salutary chastisements ; the Lord chastens us for our profit. Thus it is good for us to be afflicted ; and hence we may say under all our afflictions^ and if we see them in a proper light we shall say, " Blessed be the name of the Lord." One thing more must be noticed in the spirit and conduct of Aaron. The goat which had been sacrificed for the sin-offering of the people, had not been eaten as it ought to have been, but had been bumt. This was contrary to appointed order, as its blood had not been carried into the holy place. Here was another irregularity for which Moses reproved Ëleazar and Ithamar, the remaining sons of Aaron. Their father answered for them,

" Behold this day have they offered their sinoffering and their bumt-offeríng before the Lord ; and such things have befallen me : and if I had eaten the sin-offering to-day, should it have been accepted in the sight of the

ADAB A D ABIHU. 165 Lord ?" He means, I think, that his sons had offered the sacrífíces in due order in all other respects. He takes the fault of this offence against order upon himself ; and perhaps he had directed them to burn it. He intímates that such a heavy affliction had befallen him that he could not eat with proper cheerfulness and tfaftnkfulness. He expresses his belief that if he had felt no grief and shewn no signs of humiliation, God would not have been pleased with him^ and his taking food would not have been acceptable in his sight. I think that such is the import of Aaron's answer, and we read that Moses " was content." We conclude that the Lord also accepted the reason assigned, and mercifuUy regarded the agitated state of the natural feelings of Aaron and his sons. For our God is very pitiful, and of tender mercy, and wiU not break the bruised reed. Let me here in conclusion wam y ou, my beloved brethren, of a fault into which some fali in their earthly soirows and losses. They desert the house and ordinances of the Lord. Instead of being more exact in the fulfilment

166 ADAB A D ABIHU. of their religious duties and services, they omit them the more, perhaps altogether, and pretend that their minds are so distressed, that they cannot go up to the house of the Lord or attend at his sacramental table. These things ought not to be so. o, my

suffering fnends, let every earthly affliction lead you nearer to God, make you more attentive to all parts of your service to him, and teach you to seek your comfort in the ordinances of his house. Oh ! never sit at home brooding over your bereavements, or whatever other cause may fiU your hearts with grief, but go to the holy house of God, and there shew your submission and love. Go to that house of which he has said, '^ In this place wiU I give peace." There, my brethren, yes there, in the obedient fiilfilment of every duty to God, you wiU be " accepted in his sight,'' obtain also the testimony of an approving conscience, and find your sorrows soothed, and your burdens lightened.

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