By Leviticus 10, Aaron has been appointed as High Priest, and his sons are all priests – his helpers. These are exalted positions as has been seen from the elaborate ceremony accompanying their consecration. Nadab and Abihu, for a reason not immediately clear, make an offering of incense to the Lord. It does not appear that the coals for burning this incense came from the altar of burnt offerings as God had specified. Further, no one but the High Priest was authorized to offer incense to God – and he was only allowed that offering once a year.
Why would they do such a thing?
In verse 8 and following, there is a seemingly out of place section on not drinking wine during service at the tabernacle, and perhaps these men, intoxicated by their new found position and wine, decided to “think outside the box” and come up with a little ritual on their own.
God killed them.
And here’s the point: All this mind-numbing attention we’ve seen to the sacrifices and work of priests is serious business, holy business, and treating it any less is a capital crime to God. Today, all who are Christians serve as priests, and our work is to offer our lives as living sacrifices to God. It’s no less a serious business, and we trifle with it at great peril.