It was in the middle of God’s giving a multitude of details about how Israel was supposed to worship that a couple of fellows decided that fire was fire. God had specified a certain place to get the fire that was to be used in the tabernacle, which excluded all other fire. So Nadab and Abihu offered a different fire and God toasted them at the door of the tabernacle right in the middle of the congregation. “So fire went out from the Lord and devoured them, and they died before the Lord” (Leviticus 10:2).
In spite of what seems like the obvious lesson this incident teaches us today (Romans 15:4), people still insist on tinkering with the worship instructions that God has given. The curiosity is in wondering what is going through the mind of a person who believes that God does not care what we do in our worship to Him or that, if He does care, He was so vague that it gives us liberty to change His will to suit ours. Neither one of those assumptions is correct. If God was specific and clear about anything in His revelation to humanity, it was in His instruction about how we approach Him. The question is: just how obvious does God have to be in order to convey the message that He does not accept just anything people choose to offer?
One thing is certain: time has not changed humanity. People today hold the strange and uninformed opinion that God does not really care how we approach Him, only that we do so. So sad! It was the case during Jesus’ ministry that even God’s people were in error in their worship because we hear Jesus reiterating an Old Testament warning: “But in vain they do worship me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men” (Matthew 15:9). Vain worship is not only possible, it is quite common; and the only fix is to ask: what did God say He wanted and then just do that. Nadab and Abihu teach us that much.