At the time, I was reading in Leviticus. The portion of Scripture I was reading was Leviticus 9:1 – 11:47. In chapter 9, Moses’ brother Aaron and Aaron’s sons were inaugurated as priests to serve in the tabernacle during Israel’s wandering in the wilderness. In chapter 11, the Lord began to lay out what is clean and what is unclean to eat. But it’s out of chapter 10, and in particular verses 1 – 3, that I want to share with you. The passage reads as follows:
“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. And there went out fire from the LORD, and devoured them, and they died before the LORD. Then Moses said unto Aaron, This is it that the LORD spake, saying, I will be sanctified in them that come nigh me, and before all the people I will be glorified. And Aaron held his peace.” (KJV)
The Lord spent the first several chapters of Leviticus teaching Aaron and his sons about the various sacrifices they would be offering, how they were to offer them, and when. It seems that it was not too long after that though when Aaron’s two older sons, Nadab and Abihu, disregarded the Lord’s commands and took it upon themselves to offer “strange fire”. This, of course, ended disastrously.
Now there are various opinions as to what Nadab and Abihu actually did wrong. Some believe that God struck them down because they used different incense than what the Lord had prescribed. Others believe that their deaths were a result of where they got their fire from. Still others think that maybe it had something to do with what time of day it was or that perhaps they had been drinking. Whether we believe that it was one, all, or any combination of those reasons, however, the bottom line is that the Lord was not pleased—prompting Him to proclaim, “By those who come near me I must be regarded as holy; and before all the people I must be glorified.”
A short while before reading the above portion of Scripture, I had a dream. In the dream, I found myself in a high school football field. I was standing by a set of bleachers. There were a handful of strangers sitting in the bleachers, but there was nothing going on out in the field. It was night time. All the field lights were off and it was dark. For some reason, I thought it a good idea to set my wallet down on the bench while I went out into the field to do dream things—you know, those crazy things that we do in dreams that rarely make sense and often seem a blur. Then suddenly, it struck me that I had left my wallet unattended. As I ran back to retrieve it in fear and panic, I was relieved to discover that it was still there—although, upon closer inspection, I realized that someone had stolen some (but not all) of its contents. While I found all this very upsetting, I was further relieved as I awoke to realize that it was all just a dream. Now you are probably wondering what on earth this dream has to do with Nadab and Abihu, so let me explain. In Genesis 2:15, we read:
“And the LORD God took the man, and put him into the garden of Eden to dress it and to keep it.” (KJV)
The word “dress,” according to the Strong’s Concordance, comes from the Hebrew word abad, which means “to work” or “to till.” The word “keep” comes from the Hebrew word shamar, meaning “to guard, to protect” or “to hedge about (as with thorns).” In other words, the man was placed in the garden to cultivate it and to guard it. So what was he to guard it from? After all, Adam and Eve were the only ones there, weren’t they? They were to protect it from the Serpent, the adversary who (as we all know) eventually slithered his way in.
Consider for a moment that Scripture tells us that God would come down into the garden and commune with man in the cool of the day. This means that the garden was holy ground, as anywhere God steps becomes holy ground. As I thought about this, I remembered a verse in Ecclesiastes:
“He that diggeth a pit shall fall into it; and whoso breaketh an hedge, a serpent shall bite him.” (Ecclesiastes 10:8 KJV)
Whenever I read this verse in the past, I always pictured myself standing on the outside of a hedge trying to break in. Then, it occurred to me: what if I was actually standing on the inside trying to get out? All of sudden, I saw that verse in a different light and it made sense to me in way that I had not previously considered. After all, isn’t that when the Serpent (God’s adversary) tends to strike—when we have removed ourselves from God’s protection? Granted, Adam’s problem was not that he broke down a hedge, per se’. His problem is that he probably never put one up in the first place! As a result, the Serpent not only defiled the garden with his presence but bit the man in the process. The interesting thing about all this is the connection between holy ground and the human heart. You see, the tabernacle in the wilderness that Aaron and his sons served in, Eden, and man are all configured the same.
THE TABERNACLE, EDEN, AND MAN
The tabernacle consisted of three compartments—an outer court, the holy place, and the most holy place or holy of holies. In the beginning, there was Eden, there was the Garden of Eden, and there was the midst of the garden. We are comprised of body, soul, and spirit. The outer court of the tabernacle contained the altar of sacrifice and the laver of washing (the water and the blood). Outside of the garden, in Eden, originated the river that fed the garden. The river was the garden’s life blood, so to speak. Our bodies contain water and blood, essential to life. The holy place in the tabernacle contained the table of show-bread (on which twelve loaves of bread were placed), the golden lamp stand (the menorah), and the altar of incense. It is in our souls that we feast on the bread of life (Jesus/Yeshua). It is the soul that is illuminated by the light of God’s word, and it is the soul that offers up the incense of prayer to our heavenly Father. It was in the garden that God walked and communed with man. Finally, in the holy of holies, the heart of the tabernacle, was the Ark of the Covenant, which contained God’s word. It was there that God’s presence was found. In the midst of the garden was the Tree of Life (a Hebrew idiom for the word of God), and it is in our spirit (our heart) that God chooses to dwell. The desert floor of the tabernacle, the Garden of Eden, and the heart of man were all considered by God to be holy ground.
From the very beginning, God has chosen to draw an analogy between the laws and principles of agriculture, His word, and the hearts of men. In the parable of the sower in Matthew 13, our Lord made a direct connection between ground or soil and the human heart—pointing out that the good ground (that is, the heart that receives God’s word) brings forth good fruit (Matthew 13:24). In the parable of the wheat and the tares in the same chapter, our Lord made reference to the fact that “while men slept” God’s adversary came and sowed tares (a degenerate and poisonous form of wheat) in among the good wheat (Matthew 13:24-25). In Mark 4:14, referring to Himself as the sower, Yeshua said, “The sower soweth the word.” So if our Lord’s word is His seed, we can conclude that the Serpent’s word is the seed of the adversary.
Why was the adversary able to plant tares in among the wheat? He was able to do so because the ones who were suppose to be watching and guarding fell asleep. Consider now Leviticus 19:19: “…thou shalt not sow thy field with mingled seed…,” and Deuteronomy 22:9: “Thou shalt not sow thy vineyard with diverse seeds: lest the fruit of thy seed which thou hast sown, and the fruit of thy vineyard, be defiled.” According to Leviticus 19 and Deuteronomy 22, we are not to mix seeds because it defiles not only the field but also the fruit. So if, biblically speaking, we understand soil to be synonymous with the human heart, what then can we say happened to Nadab and Abihu? As was the case with Adam, they were busy working, they were occupied with the Lord’s business, but when it came to guarding, they fell short. They did not guard their hearts. They did not set a hedge around their sanctuary. Basically, they fell asleep. As a result, they were not even aware that they were offering profane sacrifice until it was too late and they had already defiled holy ground.
Okay, now back to my dream. I believe that the Lord still uses dreams to speak to us on occasion, if we will but listen. The day before I had my dream, I was convicted by the Holy Spirit through a conversation that I had with my wife. For months, she had been dealing with some issues that were weighing heavily on her heart. I had watched helplessly as she struggled through that time of personal heartache, having been betrayed by someone for whom she cared very deeply. As most husbands tend to do, after she shared her pain with me that day, I offered some advice—feeling, of course, that I should be able to fix things. In my zeal, I offered counsel that upon leaving my lips, immediately struck my conscience as wrong because I knew it was not what our Lord would have recommended. In fact, it was exact opposite of what He would have recommended. I beat myself up as I thought about this for the next several days feeling very disappointed with myself. Then one day soon after, I realized what the Lord was showing me when I saw the connection between Leviticus 10:1-3, my dream and the advice that I had offered my wife, the attitude with which I had done so, and the intention of my heart when I did.
You see, our hearts are the sanctuary of the Holy Spirit, but over time I began to tolerate and to harbor all sorts of unclean things in my sanctuary—anger, resentment, bitterness, and unforgiveness, especially where it concerned the individual causing my wife’s distress. I had broken down a hedge unaware; and when I discovered that the word “strange” (as in “they offered strange fire before the Lord”) meant “to turn aside,” it all became clear. In my dream, that is exactly what I had done. I had left my wallet (symbolic of my heart) unattended as I turned aside to something else. But my dream was only a reflection of what had already occurred in reality. Our Lord said in Matthew 6:21: “For where your treasure [wallet] is, there will your heart be also.” Little by little as the night crept in, under cover of darkness, the enemy of my soul had stolen my treasure. He had stolen the affection of my heart, he had stolen my focus. Yet, he didn’t steal all of it! And that is what makes his work so insidious. He stole only just enough to defile my offering.
Any offering we make to the Lord, whether it is praise, thanksgiving, worship, or service of any kind is either holy or profane based on what we harbor in our hearts. If we are careful to guard our hearts and minds as our Lord commands, our offerings will be accepted. If, however, we are not diligent in protecting against the adversary, we can be certain that he will plant his seed where it doesn’t belong, holy ground will be defiled, and our offerings will be in vain no matter how well intentioned. Proverbs 4:23 says:
“Keep thy heart with all diligence; for out of it are the issues of life.” (KJV)
The Lord is gracious, but He is also holy, and He demands that we be holy. He desires that we offer ourselves as living sacrifices, holy and acceptable to Him, according to Romans 12:1. May we always strive to do so, lest anyone of us should one day awake to find ourselves alone in the dark, sidelined on the bleachers, nursing an empty heart or worse.
So here now is a question for you. How important do you think it is to guard and protect your heart from the adversary, and what biblical strategy or strategies have you implemented to achieve this?
If you feel persuaded to do some personal soul searching and to take a personal spiritual inventory of your own, if the Lord is speaking to you and you feel pricked in your heart that there is something you should repent of, please don’t ignore the Spirit’s prompting. Please, take this time to get right with the Lord. You will be drawing closer to Him in the process and He will in turn draw nearer to you. Do your best to protect your holy ground.