Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Learning from Nadab and Abihu ...

Can I say again how grateful I am to the comments I have received regarding the transcripts I recently completed on the "Priestly Clothing". It really means a lot to me to know that Ern Baxter's teaching is being appreciated and soaked up and heard again - I can't express how it thrills me. A big thank you too to Gavin White for sending his readers to the transcripts and also of course to my friend Hugh for making the transcripts available in PDF format. I value you guys so much!

I have been asked by a number of people to say a little bit more about a comment I made as to learning from Nadab and Abihu. There has been a great discussion going on about learning from the ebbs in the Healing Movement and the Latter Rain Movement that Ern Baxter saw in his lifetime. This came through in the autobiographical sketches that I have been posted for the last couple of days and I felt that we can learn much from the sermon at the end of his series of the "Priestly Clothing" called "Strange Fire". I do appreciate that not everyone has the time to read the entire manuscript so for that purpose I am going to try and highlight what we can learn from these two sons of Aaron in light of the movements of the Holy Spirit.

1. "As the Lord commanded Moses".

Ern began his sermon on "Strange Fire" by reading his text: Leviticus 8 and he noted that the phrase, "As the Lord commanded Moses" appeared numerous amounts of times. He read the text in quite a dramatic fashion - all monotone apart from the phrase, "As the Lord commanded Moses" - which he read slowly and loudly. It had quite an effect on the audience at the Bible Week! He then said this:

"Now you may not like me reading that chapter – you say that’s so dull and boring. Why doesn’t he sing a snappy chorus and bless us? Well I’m trying to tell you something – that many of us are in trouble today even as Christians because we have not consulted our authority on how to handle some aspect of our life. And it’s all in the Word! That’s why God went to trouble of giving us an inscripturated Word which He has supernaturally perpetuated down through the centuries and preserved to us in the face of the devil and all his demons and all the lost ness of men who’ve tried to destroy it because it’s a constant rebuke to them. You and I owe to ourselves to let the Word of Christ dwell in us richly in all spiritual wisdom and understanding so that we will know how to handle our lives in a godly way. Okay?

So you read Leviticus and Exodus and Deuteronomy and all those other books because in them you will find that God is a God of detail and He didn’t waste all that paper and ink just to confuse us. I’m dead serious. I appreciate your jovial response – but I am dead serious. I think I would have been a much better Christian if I’d given more attention to this Word and I’ve attended to it fairly well. But I think I could have attended to it better. This is a tremendous Book! Man this has got everything in here. This holy almanac – it’s tremendous!"

So the clear message is that the Word of God is ESSENTIAL to God manifesting His glory. Absolutely essential!

2. Three Essentials to the Manifestation of God's Glory.

Ern noted:

"i. The Word. Moses said when you have followed the Lord’s instructions; His glory will appear to you. Now that’s very simple. Do you think that’s still a valid recipe? Does that make you suspicious like it does me that there may be some areas where we are not following His Word?

ii. The Blood. You know I’m tempted tonight to get off on everyone of these points and do an hour. The importance of the blood! The basic importance of redemption! Don’t ever forget that the blood is basically important! You and I are here tonight because of the blood. You and I have the Holy Ghost tonight because of the blood. You and I have a Bible in our hands because of the blood – we have pastors because of the blood. We have ongoing blessing because of the blood. We have heaven because of the blood, everything we have – we have because of the blood. The Word and the blood are basic to the manifestation of the glory.

iii. Obedience. The Word, the Blood and obedience. Christianity is not the consensus viewpoint of a lot of professional religious leaders. Christianity is a divine supernatural revelation of the holy requirements of the holy requirements of a holy God imposed on unholy creatures which they can respond to or not respond to or not respond but will not be changed".

3. Nadab and Abihu's Sin.

This is the essence of what I believe we must learn if we are to experience another move of the Holy Spirit and behave properly. I think it is absolutely essential the more and more I meditate on these things. Charisma does not negate the need for character! Ern Baxter saw two aspects to Nadab and Abihu's sin:

i. They usurped their office. It was not enough that they were ordinary priests; they tried to fill dad’s shoes. Can I pause there and make an observation and I do this with considerable pain. I travelled with William Branham and he was probably the most gifted of all the healers. His supernatural gift was absolutely astounding and astonishing and 100% accurate within its boundaries. But William Branham always fancied himself as being some kind of a Bible teacher, and he left a bad legacy of error. The Bible says you are to remain in your calling. God has given you a calling and He has given you a measure of grace. When you find out what your measure is, you stay in that measure. When a miracle worker tries to be a Bible teacher or a Bible teacher tries to be a miracle worker you’ve got problems because God didn’t call a miracle worker to be a Bible teacher and vice versa. When they cross over the boundaries of their calling, they’ve got to deal with the God of their calling.

How many understand what I’m saying now? This is solemn business. When I travelled with William Branham, well meaning friends of mine would says; “Oh brother Ern wouldn’t it be terrific if God gave you brother Branham’s gift?”. “No” I said, “I don’t want brother Branham’s gift! I don’t think I could handle it. I like my own gift. I know what I am, I’m happy with what I am. I’m just a Bible explainer and exhorter and I’m just happy with it. I don’t want his gift”. But you see they were already baiting me! The suggestion was, well have you tried it? You don’t try a gift – you exercise a gift! A lot of people try gifts – you’ve got to have one, before you can use it. You don’t get the same effect by simulating. Now Nadab and Abihu were not Aaron. Well why do you want to be Aaron if you’ve already got an obvious gifting? Already they’d be anointed – their earlobe, their big thumb and their big toe. They were anointed to walk with God in their calling. That’s the meaning of the blood on their earlobe, thumb and their large toe of the right foot. To hear His voice, to do what He says and to go where He wants you to go because the blood is on you! And the anointing oil! Not only the blood brought to do it, but the anointing to enable you to do it. And that’s all you’re to do! Stay in your calling.

That wasn’t all. When they were going to do what they shouldn’t do and that is to go in and offer incense on this altar which was the prerogative of their father and not their prerogative. Instead of taking the supernatural fire off this burnt altar which was part of the divinely ordained liturgy, they went over here and got some fire probably from one of the big boiling pots used for boiling the sacrificial meat. They got ordinary fire that man had kindled. And they brought that incense in, usurped father Aaron’s place and brought in strange fire. As they were about to offer it on this altar – fire came out from God and consumed them. Now here’s an interesting thing dear people.

ii. They had the right incense but the wrong fire and they were the wrong people. What is the right incense? Well the right incense is the content of our worship. You can read about that incense in Exodus chapter 30 verse 34 to the end of the chapter and I haven’t time to talk to you about it other than to say that God told Moses that this incense was to be made from God’s recipe and that it wasn’t to be used for man. It was specifically for God. Now I talked to you a little last night about prayer. I simply need to say to you that the content of our worship and approach to God must come from the Word of God. It must be divinely ordained incense. I can’t develop this other than to say I shudder as I hear what some people bring into the Presence of God in the name of worship, in the name of prayer – yes and in the name of praise. Some of the carnal, ungodly shenanigans that are done presumably in the Presence of God to worship God are not the incense of God’s divine recipe.

Now they had the right incense but the wrong fire. What is the right fire? Well the right fire is the supernaturally once-for-all kindled fire that shall never go out. For us in the New Testament it’s having access to God by the Holy Spirit. God is seeking those to worship Him who will worship him in spirit (that’s the right fire) and in truth (that’s the right incense). One more thing they did and then we’ll talk about it and close. When they took that incense – the right incense, but the wrong fire – they came in father Aaron’s place. Do you know what they were doing? They were coming in their own name. Aaron was the only one who had a right to come. Now what does this mean? Why is the Bible so insistent that we come to God through Jesus Christ? Why is that? Because I cannot come to God apart from Jesus Christ. They tried to come to God apart from Aaron. The only way incense on the altar had any meaning to Nadab and Abihu and Ithemar and all the rest of them – the only way that had value to them was through their high priest. When they tried to bypass their high priest they were killed. You and I only can come to the Father by Jesus Christ – there is no other way".

iii. They were under the influence of 'strong drink'. It is clear that the Lord knew that strong drink would be a temptation to His people because in verse 9 of Ern's text, it says; "Now the Lord instructed Aaron; ‘Never drink wine or strong drink when you go into the Tabernacle lest you die!". If it was true then, then it must be true now - and that doesn't mean necessarily literal alcohol. Ern defined 'strong drink' as:

"I think strong drink stands for any stimuli that you and I permit in replacement for the Spirit of God".

He then went on:

"I am saying to you that when you’re coming to the Presence of God just like this – you’re coming into assembly. You’re coming in with the community of God’s people and you better come in prepared and then live in the light of the supernatural Spirit of God, feed upon the anointed Word and offer your supernatural praise to a supernatural God. You don’t need false stimulus for that! There’s enough light from the menorah and there’s enough energy from the Word to give you all that you need to raise holy hands and magnify God. You don’t need to be stimulated by false stimuli – certainly not strong drink or anything else".

This whole aspect of "simulating the Spirit" is something that Ern Baxter touched on again in his outstanding message that he preached in Dunstable called "Sovereign Surprises". It is incredible but I have seen it happen in churches and I am amazed at how easily it can happen. The temptation seems to occur in churches who call themselves "charismatic" or claim to have a "charismatic dimension". I have stood in times of worship when the Spirit of God was clearly not moving and the piano player was deliberately encouraged by the pastor to carry on playing ... waiting for something. Nothing happened apart from the continued piano playing and I was puzzled when the pastor stood up with water-filled eyes and said how wonderful "it" was. What was "it"? Nothing happened! Most of the congregation - like myself - were looking around.

Now there is a careful balance here. I am absolutely in favour of "lingering in the Presence of God". That is not disputable. But the question in my mind as I consider Nadab and Abihu is this: when does lingering become simulating? I remember Dr R T Kendall said he believed that God once spoke to him and said, "I'm not speaking much these days but everybody thinks I am". I think that we must allow God the Holy Spirit His right not to do anything or speak if He isn't speaking or doing anything. It is hard! Especially if we call ourselves charismatic! But simulating the Spirit is a sin - and Nadab and Abihu died for it. What is abundantly clear to me from the "Priestly Clothing" series is that God is eager to demonstrate His glory and manifest Himself to us. "I will be their God and they will be My People". We are nothing without His Presence! As I have quoted many times before, Terry Virgo said: "I hate church that isn't church!". What did he mean by that? I suspect he meant that he hated church where the Presence of God was little known!

Let us never EVER be satisfied with anything less than the genuine manifest Presence of God! But if God chooses in His sovereignity not to manifest Himself then let us NEVER EVER try and simulate Him. Let me close with Ern Baxter's prayer from the sermon, "Sovereign Surprises". It sums up beautifully what I have been trying to say:

"God I’m a candidate for a surprise! I can’t make it happen. God I deplore the pornography, the sexual perversion, the permissiveness in society! I deplore it God! But unless you rend the heavens and come down and I’m saying to you this morning, God I’m not going to lift a carnal finger to make a good meeting – I will worship you and keep my spirit open but I won’t simulate a prophecy and I won’t manufacture a healing. But God, like the ancient king with the women and children when our enemies are so vast that they intimate and appal us – here we stand. Our eyes are upon you! God this morning our eyes are on you! We’re not match for international problems – we’re no match for this thing or that. We’re Abraham in Ur – we’re a little boy in a manger! We’re a child in a carpenters shop! As far as the world is concerned they walk right past our door. They don’t hate us! We don’t even deserve their hatred. They ignore us. If they hated us it would mean that we drew their attention but they don’t hate us because they don’t even know we’re here.

And God there is no way we are going to try and make it happen. We’re not going to go out and confront them on the street – no we don’t want that Lord! But oh! Rend the heavens and come down! Visit this vine which Thou hast planted! This is Your people Lord! You said you’d prune and visit and water them! You said you’d make them flourish and make them grow! And God we want to open our hearts to that element of surprise that has characterised You from that moment when You spoke worlds into existence right down to the time when you incarnated Yourself in the virgin womb of a peasant girl! Right down to that time when You came into our lives with such an impact of Your glory that we didn’t expect. Do it again Lord! Do it again!"


James said...

Awesome post - thanks. That really "joins the dots" for me as I haven't yet got to the sermon "Strange Fire". I am still basking in the "A Kingdom of Priests". How on earth can we realise that we truly are a "Royal Priesthood, a holy nation" if we fail to see our Risen and Exalted King where He is NOW - seated and reigning?! Mel Gibson did a good job reminding us of Calvary but I would personally love to see a film about Christ's work in heaven!

Anyway ... I got diverted. You see Dan you are having an influence on me! I want to join the "Avid Resurrectionist" club that guy spoke of! ;)

But I have felt really awed reading those comments about how our character must MUST conform to God's laws whatever the power and anointing that is moving. And this post is so great for just clarifying that.

I am so so appreciative that Ern (and you Dan) were aware of the dangers, the excesses, but I love the way you closed by that prayer; "Do it again Lord!". Our view of the excesses shouldn't dull our passionate prayer for God to move in the slightest. We are now armed with history! We can go forth in even greater prayer because history has taught us that whatever the move of the Spirit, the Word of the Lord must always be our watchword and our constant companion.

Great stuff.

Anonymous said...

I believe that this posting has taken our conversation deeper and to a more significant level. I don't know about anyone else but I have been feeling an increasing sense of anticipation when I read passages of such glory like, "The latter glory will exceed the former" and suchlike. Something is coming! Yet our reaction especially as Calvinists is to either ignore it and become knowledge-obssessed or to become passive and to just wait "for His timing".

No indeed. Our prayers must rise to heaven like the sweet incense that they are. As Dan has written, "Do it again Lord! Do it again!". The Bible is full of divine intervention after divine intervention and God knows the time is ripe for another. He has touched us in the Charismatic Movement and withdrawn Himself because we have quenched and grieved His Spirit. And the proof is so plain and so clear - we just cannot do it by ourselves.

Oh I praise God to read of conferences of unity for the gospel - but I ask myself - where is the expectation that God will come down?

So our prayers must rise. But as has been written and transcribed here so carefully, we must wait and watch armed with this knowledge from history. That however great the move of God, we don't just cancel the sermon! Or become silly Corinthians! Word and Spirit must come together!

Dr S A J Burgess

ollie said...

I know this isn't directly related to the subject but I thought it was a subject of interest maybe for a future post.

Mahaney loves the title of their conference - well he would wouldn't he?! But he wants to talk about the "greatest threat" to the gospel. Now that rang a bell of remembrance in my mind - and I looked up Dan's post on "Pioneers versus Settlers". Bearing in mind Mahaney's threat to the gospel question, how does this quote from Dan's post sit and compare?

"Settlers see eternal life is to be safeguarded and truth defended.

Pioneers see eternal life is to be enjoyed and explored and truth released".

I may be barking up a gum tree - but do we really need to defend the gospel? It has survived centuries of attack without our help, so shouldn't our attitude be to enjoy eternal life and release truth? It was Spurgeon who put the Word of God under a hat and pointed at it and said "It's alive!" wasnt it?!

This isn't meant as a dig at Mahaney, for all those angry people who may drop by. It's a genuine question that I want to tease through - and I am quite ready to be proved wrong. But where's the biblical framework for defending the gospel? Didnt Paul just say we are to "stand firm" in it?

As the great Jedi Master Yoda said, "A thought? An idea? Anyone?". :)

jul said...

Well, just off the top of my head I would say that rather than the Gospel being the "Alamo" we're desperately trying to defend, it's more like the banner we hold high in the frontlines of the battle as we march out victoriously reclaiming ground back for God's kingdom. The Gospel is the declaration of Christ's absolute victory over Satan, death, and sin. Do we need to defend victories? However, we need to always hold up our banner and never forget why we march. I can perhaps see C.J.'s concern that we don't get our banners mixed up, as this would ascribe glory something or someone other than Jesus.

Baxter's Boy said...

I think there's elements of truth to both sides of the coin. I can understand why Mahaney's comment sounds a bit "Settler-ish", maybe he phrased it badly. On the one hand you are absolutely right - the gospel is the inspired Word of God and requires no intervention, favour or protection from us. God has indeed preserved it through the centuries and will continue to do so.

But on the other hand Scriptures do spring to mind like 1 Peter 3:15; "always be ready to give a defense to everyone who asks you a reason for the hope that is in you, with meekness and fear". What is the hope? Well clearly it is the Gospel! Also Philippians 1:7; "I have you in my heart, because, both in my bonds and in the defense and confirmation of the Good News, you all are partakers with me of grace". Again defence of the Good News or the Gospel.

I think Jul has it right - that our defence mustn't be a desperate, negative, fearful apologetic. We can rest in complete hope (the biblical hope) that this is God's Word and He has given promises like "My Word will not return to me void". We do need apologists who are skilled in the Word of God and can answer critics but victory is an assured thing!

So Mahaney wonders what the greatest threat to the gospel is? I am sure the other three gentlemen will come up with their answers, but really does it matter? Threats come and go. Our task is to LIVE gospel live and indeed enjoy eternal life and release the truth that has been imparted to us. For myself I would contend that the greatest threat to the gospel is actually legalism - why else would Paul get the angriest in Galatians? Legalism attacks the gospel from within and that is a threat. That Christians are living hypocritical lives claiming freedom and not living it.

jules said...

Interesting post and a very interesting diversion. I think I don't need to comment on the gospel issue - both Dan and Jul have done an excellent job. Yes there are truths on both sides. We've won but we still defend. Already but not yet.

I am hugely interested in this example where we have to learn from Nadab and Abihu. I actually found myself understanding a little bit more of why they did what they did. Picture it! The glory of God had descended! And they were there proudly at the head of the people by their father's side in beautiful linen. And so I can indeed understand how the rules that God imparted to Moses could have been lost in the moment - in the height of the glory!

Yet it is inexcusable. The sons had to die for it. Because the rules of God are indisputable!

dave skip said...

What did Jesus say about the gates of hell not prevailing? Rhetorical question: do gates do the attacking?

Sheila said...

I think a better term is that "the gospel needs preserving". Like Timothy, who received a pure gospel from his mentor, was himself exhorted to pass it on to "faithful men". There will forever be "winds of doctrine" coming down the pike - but I don't think we need to don our war paint for that. Just faithfully preserve what we've been given.

As for the strange fire...nothing irks me more than to watch a charismaniac try to create a move of God. I think we in the charismatic movement have to spearhead a whole hearted return to proper pneumatology...(did I spell that right??)

WHY was the Spirit poured out? WHY would He be poured out today?

I can tell you this much: NOT TO MERELY SPRUCE UP A MEETING.

Baxter's Boy said...

Good point Dave! I remember Ern saying, "I have not ever been attacked by a gate. I've never seen a gate jump off it's hinges and chase me down the street!". So what then does Jesus mean by "The gates of hell will not prevail"? He means that there is no gate, not even the gates of hell itself that will stand against the advancing church - the church militant!

Sheila - once again you've hit the real point in an awesome prophetic way that I'm coming to expect from you! ;) WHY WAS THE HOLY SPIRIT POURED OUT? That's the issue of any charismatic life, dimension, department or whatever you want to call it! Why has He come? And yes as you said so rightly, yet so many mistakenly think - He hasn't come just to spruce up a meeting and if He doesn't turn up then ... ah well. He is GOD!

And I long for a return to the desperation of Moses when he prayed. If we can learn from Nadab and Abihu in negativity then let's learn from Moses in positive intercession. He knew that without the active and manifest Presence of God, Israel was nothing! And we too - without the active and manifest Presence of God are NOTHING! And that must guide our prayers. Why was He poured out? Because without Him we are NOTHING!

Anonymous said...

Ah once again I feel a snuggly warmth coming over me as I logged on and brought up "Life on Wings" (which is my homepage by the way) and I saw yet another outstanding article with comments that begin to dig into the issues raised.

I love it. I have grabbed my latte and and am reading through the comments and enjoying the feeling as my brain begins to click into gear. Some blogs you log onto, and quite frankly find them shallow dull and disinteresting. By the way - why do so many blogs just review book after book? I don't really find that useful. But thats just me being fussy. I prefer to read theology.

Once again I marvel at how we have been discussing the importance of CHARACTER over CHARISMA and yet it is great to see how a victorious, positive eschatology has come shining through. That the contributers to this discussion are by no means cynical about the mistakes of the past - the charismania if you will - but are confident in the sufficiency of the Word that God has provided. And yes indeed Hell's Gates stand no chance ... if that is the church would wake up and realise that we are meant to be marching somewhere. The church is like a sleeping giant! And we need prophetic watchmen like some of the men and women I read here to utter the clarion wakeup calls.

I am vastly encouraged.

And the gospel question does indeed fit into this I think! The answer has already been given, but yes, rather than a desperate "drawbridge" kind of mentality that Mr Mahaney seems to be wondering about, I too see the picture as a victorious triumphant flag waving - let the glorious Gospel speak for it's glorious self!

Dr S A J Burgess