"If the Tide is Turning - What Should Be Our Response?"
In his Firstline article from the latest Newfrontiers magazine, Terry Virgo asked this extremely relevant question. It is my hope in this blog to consider that question and to use Ern Baxter to begin to try and answer it. When change is in the air and prophecies of promise begin to occur, the atmosphere is rich with excitement and expectation but I wonder if the danger is that consideration isn't given to how to sustain the hoped for move of God that may be coming. Or to put it Scripturally - is the wineskin ready for the longed for wine?
During the end of his ministry and life, Ern Baxter spoke of a weariness with seeing revivals flow and ebb and a deep longing for a sustained move of God that comes, revolutionises the society in which we live and leaves a deep effect that lifts the church up into a higher dimension of fellowship with the Spirit of God along with a deep impact on the unbelieving community in which we live. If we are truly to benefit from the prophetic teachers that God has gifted the community with, then perhaps this warning needs to be heard.
The answer that I think could form part of the answer to Terry Virgo's question comes from the transcript of the series, "The Priestly Clothing" that Ern preached at the Anglia Bible Week 1983. Ern's text was Leviticus 6:13 and he was speaking on Aaron's sons - Nadab and Abihu - coming into the Presence of God and offering "Strange Fire".
"Nadab and Abihu’s Sin.
What did they do? They placed unholy fire in their censors and laid incense on the fire. Now let’s talk about that for a few moments. The KJV says they offered “strange” fire. I’m not going to turn to it but I’ll give it to you – in chapter 9 and v24 and Leviticus 6:13 we have the story of what happened. Are you listening now? When this was all ready to God – God supernaturally ignited this fire. There was a supernatural fire that ignited this altar and the order of God was that it was never to go out. Now to bring incense in from this altar which incidentally – listen now – the incense which was brought in from here, all the way through here on certain occasions – morning and evening and offered here on this altar – that was the prerogative of Aaron.
Now Nadab and Abihu did two things wrong; 1. 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 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. 2. 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.
Okay now let’s go to verse 9. I’m not going to say this categorically happened but its very interesting to me that v9 came so quickly after this awful event. It says; “Now the Lord instructed Aaron; ‘Never drink wine or strong drink when you go into the Tabernacle lest you die!”. I’m just going to make this suggestion. God will correct me in that day if I’m wrong – maybe sooner. I’m going to suggest that perhaps Nadab and Abihu had been drinking strong drink maybe in the celebration of the great inauguration – the fact of their great placing and nobody is more vulnerable to this kind of thing than men and women who are in positions of leadership. It can go to your head! Being a leader can be heady wine.
I want to say something to you. Specifically male leaders – you will have an attractiveness that God gives you because He wants you to attract people for His glory and you can make the awful mistake of thinking; “Look at all these people coming to me after I preach and pray for the sick. Look at them all coming. My there must be something wonderful about me”. And you take their gratitude and their adulation and that’s why ministers are constantly getting into trouble because they don’t realise that their attractiveness is not for the purpose of self-aggrandisement but it’s to the glory of God. I am suggesting that Nadab and Abihu probably in the excitement of the great inauguration day violated the rules of sobriety and that’s what led them to take strange fire, to usurp father Aaron’s place, take incense in and to die before God.
You say ‘What do you think strong drink stands for?’. I think strong drink stands for any stimuli that you and I permit in replacement for the Spirit of God. I remember in my native Canada a certain minister who was a very eloquent unregenerate minister and they said he was especially good in the pulpit, he was a man with a certain gift of languages but in the pulpit he was tremendous. They eventually fired him because they found out that he demolished a fifth of Scotch every time he got up to preach and that loosened his tongue and he was eloquent! He was full of the spirit. (*laughter*). Now I didn’t say that to illicit a response of humour. Primarily it is humorous but it is tragic. ‘Be not drunk with wine wherein is excess BUT’ – you see that’s just not a plain command without a reason. ‘BUT be filled with the Spirit’. Wine stands there for any false stimulus.
Have you noticed today that our whole society is dependent on false stimuli? Alcohol – drugs – sex kicks – aberrations – perversions – distortions – pornographic entertainment. They are so bereft of the one true source of enthusiasm and right stimulation that they have to turn to the one thing that killed Nadab and Abihu. How many are hearing what I’m saying now? I don’t want to put you under bondage but I’ve said enough things this week that you understand, 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".