“. . . In this way they disobeyed the Lord by burning before him a different kind of fire than he had commanded.”
Leviticus 10:1

Incense is supposed to be the symbol of our worship and prayers that we offer to the Lord. It’s done for the glory of God; a sweet aroma unto the Lord. It also symbolizes the Lord Jesus Christ whose sacrifice at the cross “is a sweet aroma to the Father.” When Nadab and Abihu mixed strange elements other than what the Lord required, what was supposed to be worship became an insult.

The sin that Aaron’s sons committed in men’s eyes would have been no big deal. But it was a big deal in God’s eyes. His wrath was unleashed and their burned cadavers brought a deep sense of fear among the priests of Israel. They didn’t commit an honest mistake; rather, they disobeyed God. This is the sin of familiarity where God is taken lightly, and His commands aren’t taken seriously. How is this sin committed? This sin subtly starts to bud when we make “self ” as the center of worship; and convenience as our goal to worship. In other words, it’s no longer about God. The desire for “feeling good” and the “cleverness” to take some shortcuts become the goal of worshipers and those who lead them to worship. When God is not first, the pressure to find new ways to make things appealing to the flesh is tremendous. When ministers are bored with doing their duties and the congregation is in a hurry to finish the weekly rituals of worship, the sin of familiarity steps in. True worship of God is both intimate and reverent; it’s a mixture of fellowship or communion coupled with fear. When our worship of God isn’t founded on the fear of God, it will not enjoy His friendship and favor. Remember, the sin of familiarity isn’t committed by pagans but by God’s priests. Those who enjoy unique spiritual privileges in serving God in this temple and are entrusted with the secrets of the Almighty are in great danger of committing this sin. It’s not only true of the Old Testament priests or prophets; it’s also true of any believer today.

It’s in this context that God needs to introduce Himself in such a way that refreshes us of His holiness and revives the “fear of the Lord” in our hearts. Each time we gather for worship, do we really believe that God is present? His Presence brings freedom as well as fire. Pleasure and punishment, at the same time, is on hand every time we worship God. Thank God that this doesn’t occur every Sunday; this is grace to give us space to fear again. The next time we treat God lightly; the next time we become obstacles in the path on which God is to be greatly glorified, be reminded of this story. Let the incense of praise and prayer be sweet-smelling to God. Nothing is so sweet in the courts of God than a broken spirit and a contrite heart. This is the offering He won’t despise.

This excerpt is taken from Moments of Grace written by Arnel C. Tan and published by OMF Literature Inc. To get the full devotional in print or digital format, please visit any OMF Lit and Passages Bookshop or go to www.passages.com.ph.