The Abiding Warning of the Wilful
1 Chronicles 24:2
But Nadab and Abihu died before their father, and had no children: therefore Eleazar and Ithamar executed the priest's office.

The narrative of Nadab and Abihu which is here recalled is given in Leviticus 10:1-5. The wording of the verse is taken from Numbers 3:4. It is a story which we find it difficult to understand. Probably its explanation depends on an intimate acquaintance with the Jewish system, and the sentiments prevailing in those earlier times. Nadab and Abihu had been honoured with special privileges (see Exodus 24:1, 9, 10); by reason of this they may have become unduly exalted, and have been tempted by spiritual pride to imagine that they were not bound by ordinary rules in the discharge of the duties of the priest's office. Kitto gives a brief but sufficient sketch of the incident. "Among the priestly services was that of offering the precious incense upon the golden altar within the tabernacle, at the very time that the daily sacrifice was being consumed upon the brazen altar in the court without. At the time the ritual service had been inaugurated, the fire of the great altar was kindled from heaven; and it was made an ordinance that this holy fire should always be kept up and preserved, and that this, and this alone, was to be used in all the sacred services. The priests who offered incense had, therefore, to fill their censers with fire from the great altar when they went into the tabernacle to burn incense. It was in this matter that Nadab and Abihu sinned. Treating this ordinance as of no importance, thinking to themselves that common fire would burn their incense quite as well as the other; or, perhaps, as there is reason to fear, having been led into a mistake, or neglect, by inebriety, they filled their censers with 'strange fire,' unhallowed fire, not from the altar, and ventured to bring it into the tabernacle? Permanent instruction may be drawn from this incident by regarding wilfulness as the very essence of these men's sin. When there was a distinct, definite, and well-known Divine command, it pleased them to act on the dictate of their own feeling. In view of that full loyalty to Christ, and daily waiting upon him for guidance and direction, which are necessary features of the Christian life, wilfulness is as perilous and as wicked in the modern dispensation as in the older. In setting forth this evil and its fatal influence, consider -

I. WILFULNESS AS A DISPOSITION OF CHARACTER. It is the bias left on humanity from our first father's fall. We see the signs of human depravity mainly in this - that men's wills are set against God's will, and have to be subdued to his obedience. This is true of man as an individual, and equally true of men when acting together in society or in the nation. But there are different degrees of wilfulness, and in some the self-will is a master-passion. Some measures of wilfulness in the common affairs of life ensure energy and mastery of circumstance; but it is wholly out of place in the religious spheres, where energy must depend on the spirit of service to Christ.

II. WILFULNESS FINDING EXPRESSION IN ACTS. Illustrate from King Saul in his later and worse moods, or from Judas Iscariot, who, with views of his own, came to betray his very Lord. The apostle warns us concerning those who "will be rich, and so fall into temptation and a snare." Wilfulness expressed in acts brings us at once under Divine notice, because it then affects the comfort and well-being of others.

III. WILFULNESS CORRUPTING THE WHOLE RELIGIOUS LIFE. It puts a wrong tone upon all the relations, and spoils the whole life by possessing it with the spirit of self. God the Spirit cannot rule the life, and self rule at the same time; and if it be self that really rules, then we are "dead while we live." Practically dead, because none of the "means of grace" can prove the soul's nourishment when wilfulness rules.

IV. WILFULNESS BRINGING US UNDER DIVINE JUDGMENTS. Illustrated in the case of Nadab and Abihu. Where wilfulness is but growing, Divine chastisements come for correction. Where wilfulness has gained full mastery, there must be Divine judgments, such as utterly crush down the pride. Exactly what Christianity proposes is the "conversion of self-will," and the bestowment of the spirit that worships, and follows wholly, the "sweet will" of God. - R.T.

Parallel Verses
KJV: But Nadab and Abihu died before their father, and had no children: therefore Eleazar and Ithamar executed the priest's office.

WEB: But Nadab and Abihu died before their father, and had no children: therefore Eleazar and Ithamar executed the priest's office.

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