Bible · heresy · Old Testament · religion

Haphazard worship: lessons from the deaths of Nadab, Abihu, & Uzzah

In a post I did months ago, I warned about control freaks in the church who wish to place us in bondage to their religious rules even though we are called to liberty in Christ. On the other hand, Paul also warned us to “use not liberty for an occasion to the flesh, but by love serve one another,” (Gal. 5:13). Not only is there a danger of putting God in a box of man-made tradition, there is also a danger of thinking we can come before God to worship him any way we see fit.

However, to worship God in spirit and in truth, we must recognize he has set up certain parameters that are required within the liberty we experience in Christ. A modern day example is how law-abiding citizens in just nations enjoy freedom by living within the confines of just laws. Several examples of violating his parameters are given in scripture as follows:

Nadab and Abihu

Aaron and his four sons, including Nadab and Abihu, were given specific instructions on how they were to carry out the sacrificial system of worship. The main thing they had to do was consecrate themselves in their hearts first with the determination to approach God according to his ordinances–outward examples of what took place for them inwardly. But Nadab and Abihu in Leviticus 10 totally ignored what God told them and they haphazardly approached him with “strange fire” that they conjured up themselves in violation of what God asked for. And he burned them up in response.

Then he told Aaron and the Israelites why in Lev. 10:3 through Moses–“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.” Nadab and Abihu showed contempt for God and his ways and thought to glorify themselves because their hearts were not sanctified, so they suffered the consequences. It couldn’t have been easy for any of them to witness, but it was necessary to insure the purity of the worship ceremonies going forward.


The Philistines stole the ark of the covenant when they defeated Israel many years before Uzzah came along and God put a curse on the Philistines because of it. When they knew they had to return it because of God’s curse (1 Sam. 6), they in their pagan minds thought it would be a good idea to put it on a cart pulled by two cows with golden images and jewels to accompany it. When the cart arrived back in Israel, it was placed in the house of Abinadab.

It stayed there until many years later when David summoned it to be brought to Jerusalem. However, they did not look to the Lord for how the ark was supposed to be handled and followed what the pagan Philistines did and put it on a cart pulled by two cows (2 Sam. 6). God had instructed that only Levites who sanctified themselves for God should handle it and that they only carry it with the bars that were made to go through the rings on it. So the ark shook on its way to Jerusalem and Uzzah touched it in violation of God’s commands. And God ended his life. David got upset with God over it, but later realized it was his bad for following what pagans did and not following God’s instructions to begin with (1 Chron. 15:11-14).

This same theme plays out in the New Testament with Ananias and Sapphira, the seven sons of Sceva, and the believers at Corinth who died for doing Communion in an unworthy manner. The Mosaic law that the three men above were under in no way applies to the Church, but the principles behind it do, and they are:

  1. God doesn’t want man to approach worship of him in any way that glorifies humans instead of him ;
  2. God doesn’t want humans to worship him in any way that incorporates pagan beliefs.

Sadly, so many churches today are in violation of both principles. But we as individual saints have the choice not to follow their ways.

Harry A. Gaylord


5 thoughts on “Haphazard worship: lessons from the deaths of Nadab, Abihu, & Uzzah

  1. [Sadly, so many churches today are in violation of both principles]

    In what way? Can you give specific examples? When you’re involved in church regularly for years, it’s difficult to tell what’s for real and what isn’t.


    1. Jaleel,

      Thanks for your question. There are so many things to point out on how churches incorporate glorifying humans and pagan doctrine it’s difficult to pick a place to start. One example is the popularity of The Alpha Course that is taught in many churches. It has roots in Eastern mysticism and ecumenism, teaching that only unity matters, not doctrine. Then there’s rampant Nicolaitanism that Christ warned us about in Revelation. It’s a pagan gnostic doctrine that teaches that those who obtain secret knowledge by becoming leaders through various channels (such as seminary) are ascended masters superior to all others in the group and should therefore be placed on pedestals as demigods.

      Then there’s Christmas and Easter, both of which are founded on pagan ritual days. Just as David & the Israelites assumed God would accept transporting the ark of God by re-purposing what the pagans did for Judaism, Christians assume if we Christianize pagan holidays, he’ll accept it.

      Many churches have even adopted the routine of holding hands in a circle to pray when prayer circles originated with witchcraft (search “prayer circle witchcraft” in your favorite search engine and you’ll see what I mean).


    1. Jaleel,

      There’s really no way to verify that a prayer circle caused a prayer to be answered. People often pray about the same situation alone or in a group outside of a prayer circle and that could be the prayers that God answers. Just because it seems God answered a prayer because of a pagan ritual doesn’t mean he actually did. 1 Samuel 28 is a similar example of this when Saul went to a witch to contact the dead prophet Samuel. God allowed Samuel to speak to Saul from the dead apart from the witch’s power (she was actually shocked it happened), but this didn’t justify Saul’s consulting of a pagan practice.


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