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. 2 And there went out fire from the Lord, and devoured them, and they died before the Lord. Lev 10:1-2 (KJV)

It is a disturbing image – two priests destroyed because they offered “strange fire” before the Lord. Apparently there was nothing wrong with the incense or the burners – the problem seems to be with the fire…

While we are not legally bound to Old Covenant systems, they teach us of spiritual constants. The underlying truth is that there are consequences for relying on “strange fire” to execute worship or ministry. What does this mean to me?

In Leviticus 16:12-13, we see that the fire to be used in the burning of incense was to be taken from the altar. It seems that this fire was to be kept alive, with the coals from earlier sacrifices setting fresh fuel ablaze. If this is the case, future generations of priests would still be working with the result of God’s inaugural outpouring of fire in Leviticus 9:24.

As I go about my service to God and to others, I must consider: Is my act of worship born in repentant humility, or am I showing the world what I have to offer? In other words, did I get the fire from His altar, or from my fireplace?

If my ministry passes through the altars of true repentance and sacrifice, it engages the same active ingredient that fueled revivals past. Both God and the people I minister to will experience a fragrance that was born out of the Upper Room (Acts 2). But if I minister out of my own resources, my own intellect, my own strength – a fire of my own making – the very ministry that I am engaged in may be my destruction.

Unfortunately, we’ve all seen too many ministries fail in weariness, disillusionment, or even scandal. Regardless of the nature of the eventual failure, somewhere inside the incense burner was a personal agenda, an ambition, a quest for valuation by some other measure than God’s.

Lord, keep me from engaging in a ministry fueled by a fire of my own making. Let me worship and serve only in the strength of the direction, anointing, and commendation that comes from Your Presence.

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