In the tenth chapter of Leviticus, Nadab and Abihu got creative in worship, and it cost them dearly. Perhaps they were delighted with their new and improved worship, but God was not so pleased. Ultimately, their inappropriate worship cost them their lives.
This story reminds one of another similar passage found in Jeremiah 5:29-31:
Shall I not punish them for these things?” declares the LORD, “and shall I not avenge myself on a nation such as this?” An appalling and horrible thing has happened in the land: the prophets prophesy falsely, and the priests rule at their direction; my people love to have it so, but what will you do when the end comes?
Jeremiah’s Israelite neighbors followed the instruction of their prophets, the liturgy of their priests, and in doing so they were “happy, happy, happy.” However, all was not well in the house of God. The prophets were wrong; the priests were wicked; and God was determined to pour out his punishment and vengeance on these fervent and excited worshipers.
Therefore friends, let us apply this to our worship, and ask ourselves some questions:
First, do we value truth? Preachers and teachers should minister in the fear of the Lord. As spiritual mailmen, their duty is not to write the letters, or improve the content, but merely deliver the Word. When the sermon or lesson is over, those in attendance should be more enamored with the text than the teacher. However, we live in a day when the church is following the lead of American Idol. Ministers are longing for fame and fortune, and congregation members are flittering about here and there trying to find the next great ecclesiastical hero. False prophets are often cute, enjoyable and very popular, but they are abhorrent to God.
Second, do we value good worship? In the above text, the priests were wicked and the worshipers were loving it. Now, I am who believes God has granted men much flexibility in worship. I do not believe there is a God-given order of worship, manner of dress, sanctuary layout, or style of music. However, I do believe that God has given principles that He expects to be followed in the corporate worship of his people. His worship is to be scriptural, excellent, orderly, rational, participatory, Spirit-led, Christocentric and sacramental.
Finally, do we value reform when we find ourselves devaluing God’s truth and God’s worship? The Israelites were pleased, but God was displeased. Their worship was making Him more and more angry, and He was about to lower the heavenly boom.
However, because Yahweh was a God of mercy and grace, He sent a good minister named Jeremiah to call the people to repentance. Perhaps I am playing that role now. What ought we to do when we find ourselves preaching or hearing Scripture-light sermons? What ought we to do when we find ourselves engaged in worship that is mediocre, disorderly, irrationally sensational, entertaining, Spirit-less, and moralistic? What ought we to do when we find ourselves religious, sincere, happy, but in danger? What ought we to do when we have an opportunity to skip the next good and legitimate gathering for worship? We should repent; value good preaching, teaching and worship; and go somewhere to glorify God in the manner He desires.