Summary: Nadab and Abihu were born to great privilege as servants of the Living God, they reached for more, leading to death. Though He is patient, God does not play games with rebels. Let the people of God hear the Word of the Living God and take heed.
“Now Nadab and Abihu, the sons of Aaron, each took his censer and put fire in it and laid incense on it and offered unauthorized fire before the Lord, which he had not commanded them. And fire came out from before the Lord and consumed them, and they died before the Lord. Then Moses said to Aaron, ‘This is what the Lord has said: “Among those who are near me I will be sanctified, and before all the people I will be glorified.”’ And Aaron held his peace.” 
Scripture warns believers, “[Divine judgements against God’s people] took place as examples for us, that we might not desire evil as they did” [1 CORINTHIANS 10:6]. Again, the Word of God reminds followers of the Christ, “These things [judgements against the community of faith] happened to them as an example, but they were written down for our instruction, on whom the end of the ages has come” [1 CORINTHIANS 10:11]. We ignore the accounts of those who preceded us in the worship of the Living God at our own peril. Even the presumptuous sin of professed worshippers can be instructive for the people of God.
Many people imagine the church of the Living God to be a democracy. Nothing could be farther from the truth. The attitude, prevalent among a surprising number of the churches of our Lord, is not new. The idea that the congregation of the faithful shows itself from earliest days of the faithful, the idea that pastors, or even deacons, can be elected without giving thought to God’s work in the lives of individuals, inevitably leads to disaster. Worse still are individuals who presume against God and against His people, promoting themselves into positions of leadership, who are then allowed to occupy those positions through the silence of the people. Whenever a congregation forgets, or worse still, ignores the fact, that God appoints whom He wills to oversee the work of His people, it leads inevitably to disaster.
Nadab and Abihu are the names of brothers that shall live in infamy for all the days of mankind on the earth. Born to great privilege as servants of the Living God, they reached for more, leading to death. Though He is patient, God does not play games with rebels. Let the people of God hear the Word of the Living God and take heed.
SEEDS OF REBELLION — Rebellion doesn’t just happen. Long before the rebel’s acts, the plot was formulated in the heart. People do not just “fall into” sin; the heart of disposed to sin before ever the individual sins. A willingness to sin always precedes the sinful act. Let me explain what I mean by looking at three areas of concern.
Sin in the individual is the area I will first consider. We are born in sin, according to the Word [see PSALM 51:5]. We go astray from our youth as the “self” demands first place. Children must be trained to think of others, learning to treat their fellow beings with respect. Even as children, we know there is a God, but we seldom know our responsibilities toward God unless we are instructed. This is a vital reason why parents must train their children in foundational truth as presented in the Word of God. There is a need for instruction in righteousness as parents take their children to the House of God rather than merely sending their children to church.
Sinful acts originate in the mind. I mean that people are open to allowing the particular sin before that sin is committed. Though the context does not precisely fit the issue at hand, the truth is nonetheless revealed when the wise man writes: “As he thinks within himself, so he is” [PROVERBS 23:7 NASV]. Think about that for a moment.
On one occasion, the Master was challenged by the Pharisees because they claimed that Jesus’ disciples were defiled because they failed to wash their hands before eating. As was often the case, Jesus seized the opportunity to instruct those who were following Him. “What comes out of a person is what defiles him. For from within, out of the heart of man, come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, coveting, wickedness, deceit, sensuality, envy, slander, pride, foolishness. All these evil things come from within, and they defile a person” [MARK 7:20-23]. That is a dreadful, a frightful catalogue of evil actions; and Jesus said they begin in the heart!
Though the heart is deceitful above all things and desperately sick [see JEREMIAH 17:9], it is only as one surrenders to the temptation to dwell on these things that the wicked acts are performed. Make no mistake, lurking in the dark shadows of the mind are horrible sins that will be expressed if you feed on them. Though you guard the front door to your heart, resisting the wicked one and refusing to succumb to evil, make no mistake, there is a backdoor to your heart. And Satan knows precisely how to enter through the backdoor. Tragically, while we are celebrating victory because we repelled a frontal assault, the enemy is storming the unguarded backdoor to gain entrance into our lives.