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.
"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!"