Strange Fire

by | Jan 22, 2024

This writing speaks of a matter that is critical for all believers to understand if they desire to attain to the fulness of the stature of Christ that Yahweh has set as the standard for all of His children. If any body of believers is to fulfill God’s plans and purposes for them, they must understand and practice that which is spoken of here. It is impossible for any group of believers to be accounted among the overcomers in Christ if they consistently violate these principles.

Do you want to attain to the fulness of the stature of Christ? Do you want to fulfill God’s plans and purposes for your life? Do you want to be numbered among the overcomers? Then I entreat you to prayerfully consider these words.

One of these deep lessons is recorded in the book “Sabbath,” as it speaks of what it means to enter into the Sabbath rest of God. Those who have entered this rest have ceased from their own labors (Hebrews 3, 4). Those who have entered the ‘rest’ of God have given up their own initiative and have entered into a conformity to Christ who said, “I never do anything of My own initiative, I only do the will of the Father.” As it is recorded in the Gospel of John, Yahshua was so perfect in this matter that He did not even speak a word of His own initiative, but only spoke those words that the Father commanded Him to speak.

It is hard for us to imagine such a perfect obedience today, and we have little example of it before us in the church. Yet Christ has set the pattern for all the saints to attain unto. If we would reach the fulness of His stature then we must also come to a place where we can say, “I never do anything of my own initiative, I only do the will of the Father.” This is a critical matter, for in another place Yahshua stated:

Matthew 7:21-23
“Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven; but he who does the will of My Father who is in heaven. Many will say to Me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in Your name, and in Your name cast out demons, and in Your name perform many miracles?’ And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness.’”

It does not matter if you are casting out demons, prophesying, or performing miracles. If you are doing these things of your own initiative, having no command from the Father, then you are practicing lawlessness, for you are out from under the rule and authority of God. Yahshua makes it plain that only those who do the will of His Father in heaven will enter the kingdom of God. For a fuller treatment of these things, I suggest reading the book “Sabbath.”

Many years ago, to my great consternation, I found, after seeing God miraculously move us to a home in a community where the saints are presently located that He had brought us to fellowship with, that through a lack of diligence and watchfulness I had violated the things the Spirit had been teaching me about Sabbath rest. Right on the heels of a great victory of waiting upon the Spirit to perform all that He had promised to us concerning our move, through carelessness I stumbled badly and had to repent and commit myself to a greater watchfulness in the future.

We had only been in our new location a week when we attended a Wednesday night fellowship, and as part of the meeting a video was shown that shared about the suffering of saints in parts of the world dominated by Muslim belief. The video was put out by an organization that worked to bring relief to those suffering, and a presentation was made for the members of the body to embark upon a missions project to send relief and encouragement to these people.

After the video was shown, the saints were asked during the dinner portion of the meeting to consider what their participation should be in this missions project, and after dinner they were told that we would discuss how to proceed with carrying it out. I confess that I spent the dinner paying more attention to the food on my plate, and the conversations around me, than I did seeking the mind of God as to what my participation should be in this project. After we had cleared the tables, the very sincere saint who was leading up this effort asked for input from the gathered believers.

There was much discussion about how we should carry out this missions effort, either as individuals, by families, by Sunday School classes, etc.. Much attention was given to the nuts and bolts of this project, and various ideas were written down on a large sheet of butcher paper that was stretched out across the front wall. As the discussion continued I considered what I could contribute to the success of the project, and I thought of a way that I could use my computer skills, and a digital camera that we own, to take pictures of all the church members to be included with the relief packets to be sent out to the saints, along with letters of encouragement. I shared this idea and it was enthusiastically received.

As the meeting progressed, and the discussion wore on, it was decided that everyone should vote on different aspects of the project to decide how it was to be carried out. I began to be troubled in my spirit at this time as I sensed that the very procedure being followed to determine the best way to carry forth this mission was devoid of the leading of the Spirit and was instead relying upon the initiative of man. I began to get this gnawing feeling in the pit of my stomach that often arises when I sense that something is amiss. As I turned my attention to the voice of the Spirit I began to hear Him say that I had been presumptuous in the matter, in that I had not asked Him if I were to be involved in it.

I refrained from giving any more input that evening, but I knew that I had already spoken amiss. Later when I was home and in bed, I tossed and turned until about 3 AM as the Spirit convicted me of my transgression and bore witness to me that this project was not something He desired me to participate in, for it would prove to be a distraction to the real work He had called me to. I knew that I would have to go back to the men of the body and repent of my presumption and ask to be excused from the project. This I did at the next meeting where we met to discuss the missions project.

During the time between meetings, the Spirit brought to mind many thoughts concerning this matter. One Scripture He spoke to me through was from Acts.

Acts 16:6-10
Now when they had gone through Phrygia and the region of Galatia, they were forbidden by the Holy Spirit to preach the word in Asia. After they had come to Mysia, they tried to go into Bithynia, but the Spirit did not permit them. So passing by Mysia, they came down to Troas. And a vision appeared to Paul in the night. A man of Macedonia stood and pleaded with him, saying, “Come over to Macedonia and help us.” Now after he had seen the vision, immediately we sought to go to Macedonia, concluding that the Lord had called us to preach the gospel to them.

When Paul, and those traveling with him, sought to go into Asia to preach the gospel we are told that the Spirit expressly forbade them to do so. Also, when they tried to go into Bithynia, the Spirit did not permit them. Paul was not seeking to go into these areas to loot and pillage and murder and commit various transgressions. He was desiring to preach the gospel of Yahshua the Messiah. There were multitudes of men, women and children who could have benefitted from hearing the gospel, and his desire was to bring the light of Christ into a darkened corner of the world. Yet the Spirit said, “No!”

In the same way, the missions project discussed among the brethren I was fellowshipping with is not an evil thing. Having watched the video and having heard of the suffering of the saints in Muslim lands, a child of God’s heart should go out to them. The Scriptures state that when one part of the body suffers, all suffer, and when one part rejoices all rejoice. It is not evil to desire to aid those who are suffering. Being made aware of such suffering we should seek the mind of the Spirit to know what we might do to aid our brothers and sisters in Christ. Yet we must also be open to the Spirit saying “No!”

The Spirit had a different calling for Paul. He desired Paul to go to Macedonia and to proclaim the gospel there. We don’t know why the Spirit forbade Paul to preach in Asia and Bithynia, other than that He desired him to go to Macedonia. We know that the Spirit did send others to the Asian continent, one of them being the apostle Thomas who spent much time in India.

Part of the work of the Spirit is to direct the saints into the specific work that He has appointed to them. The Amplified Bible renders Ephesians 2:10 in this way:

Ephesians 2:10
For we are God’s [own] handiwork (His workmanship), recreated in Christ Yahshua, [born anew] that we may do those good works which God predestined (planned beforehand) for us [taking paths which He prepared ahead of time], that we should walk in them [living the good life which He prearranged and made ready for us to live].

The Spirit directs us to those very works that have been prepared beforehand for us as individuals. He both gives us gifts and callings as He chooses, and then He leads us into the places where we are to exercise these gifts and callings. Even in the life of Christ we read that He was directed by the Spirit to the places He was to go, and this leading began at the moment of Yahshua’s baptism.

Mark 1:10-12
Immediately coming up out of the water, He saw the heavens opening, and the Spirit like a dove descending upon Him… Immediately the Spirit impelled Him to go out into the wilderness.

Luke 4:1
Yahshua, full of the Holy Spirit, returned from the Jordan and was led around by the Spirit in the wilderness.

When we are conformed to Christ, and when we too are full of the Holy Spirit, we will find ourselves being led around by the Spirit concerning where we are to go and what we are to do.

Romans 8:14
For all who are being led by the Spirit of God, these are mature sons of God.

My transgression was that I had failed to seek the mind of the Spirit regarding involvement in this missions project. It may be God’s will for everyone else in the body of believers to participate in this project, but the Spirit was expressly forbidding me, for He desired me to be free to do those things He had prepared beforehand for me.

It is not a slight thing in the eyes of God to fail in this matter. Yahshua declared that we could do many things that appeared godly, even casting out demons and performing miracles, but if we failed in the matter of discerning the will of the Father then we would be considered lawless and would be outside the kingdom of God. It was not sufficient in the eyes of God that Paul should spend his life preaching the gospel, the Spirit of Christ demanded that Paul preach only where He led him to preach. We read elsewhere that this leading of the Spirit continued in Paul’s life.

Acts 20:22-23
And now, behold, bound in spirit, I am on my way to Jerusalem, not knowing what will happen to me there, except that the Holy Spirit solemnly testifies to me in every city, saying that bonds and afflictions await me.

To the end of his ministry Paul was directed according to the leading of the Spirit. He testifies that he was “bound in spirit” to go where the Spirit directed. These words express the very thing that I experienced on that night that the Spirit dealt with me so severely. I knew that I was bound, and could only do as He led.

It is a very easy thing to become careless in this matter. Some saints have never known what it is to seek the mind of the Spirit in their activities. They are in the habit of choosing for themselves what they will do and what they will speak, but this is lawlessness. As bondservants of Christ we are called to follow the precise instructions of our Lord. Tragic will be the end of many saints who stand before Christ on the day of judgment and He declares, “Depart from Me you who practice lawlessness. I never knew you.”

Many saints will realize too late that when they offered to God works of their own choosing, that they were offering to the Lord strange fire that He has no regard for. In the Old Testament we find the type for which our own initiative and our own works form the anti-type.

Leviticus 10:1-2
Now Nadab and Abihu, the sons of Aaron, took their respective firepans, and after putting fire in them, placed incense on it and offered strange fire before Yahweh, which He had not commanded them. And fire came out from the presence of Yahweh and consumed them, and they died before Yahweh.

Nadab and Abihu were two of the four sons of Aaron, and as his sons they were appointed to be priests before God. Yet they were given specific duties to perform, and their father Aaron was also given specific duties, since he was the High Priest. The responsibilities of the High Priest had to be performed by the High Priest, and no other. One of these duties is described in the following passage:

Leviticus 16:11-13
“Then Aaron shall… take a firepan full of coals of fire from upon the altar before Yahweh and two handfuls of finely ground sweet incense, and bring it inside the veil. He shall put the incense on the fire before Yahweh, that the cloud of incense may cover the mercy seat that is on the ark of the testimony, otherwise he will die.”

Aaron was given command to offer fire, taken from the altar, before Yahweh. His sons were given no command in this matter. It was not for them to do this task. Nadab and Abihu acted presumptuously in this matter, for they considered that it was not a great matter in Yahweh’s eyes who did this task, as long as it was done. In this they failed to treat Yahweh as holy, for they gave little attention to His will in the matter. They paid for their presumption and their lack of reverence toward God with their lives. Moses spoke to Aaron regarding this matter and declared that the action of these two sons was a reproach to God’s holiness.

Leviticus 10:3
Then Moses said to Aaron, “It is what Yahweh spoke, saying, ‘By those who come near Me I will be treated as holy, and before all the people I will be honored.'”

As saints, we too have been given commandment as to how we are to live, and we are told that those things recorded by the prophets in the Old Testament were written for the instruction of the saints (I Corinthians 10). What is the message of this account of the strange fire as it applies to us? Is it not that we are to treat God as holy, and that we are to do only those things we are commanded to do?

I suspect that many saints will read this and think that what is shared is legalistic and narrow in it’s interpretation. They may feel that the saints have great liberty to choose the works that they are to be involved in, yet strict obedience to the will of God is not some example of Old Testament legalism, for it is in the New Testament that we find Yahshua perfectly fulfilling His role as High Priest. He did only those things the Father commanded Him, and He was very meticulous in this regard.

John 5:30
“I can do nothing on My own initiative. As I hear, I judge; and My judgment is just, because I do not seek My own will, but the will of Him who sent Me.”

John 8:28
So Yahshua said, “When you lift up the Son of Man, then you will know that I am He, and I do nothing on My own initiative, but I speak these things as the Father taught Me.”

John 8:42
Yahshua said to them, “If God were your Father, you would love Me, for I proceeded forth and have come from God, for I have not even come on My own initiative, but He sent Me.”

John 12:49-50
“For I did not speak on My own initiative, but the Father Himself who sent Me has given Me a commandment as to what to say and what to speak. I know that His commandment is eternal life; therefore the things I speak, I speak just as the Father has told Me.”

John 14:30-31
“I will not speak much more with you, for the ruler of the world is coming, and he has nothing in Me; but so that the world may know that I love the Father, I do exactly as the Father commanded Me.”

John 4:34
Yahshua said to them, “My meat is to do the will of Him who sent Me and to accomplish His work.”

If doing the precise will of the Father is such a light matter, then why did Yahshua declare over and over that He was walking perfectly in this matter? It would not have pleased the Father for Yahshua to be led of His own will and initiative. He could not come to earth and do miracles as He chose, and cast out demons according to His own will, and prophesy as He saw fit, and then return to the Father and expect a blessing. Yahshua did only what the Father commanded Him to do. He could not begin His ministry until He was baptized in the Spirit, for it was the Spirit of God that would direct Him to do all the Father’s pleasure.

Many saints err greatly in thinking that they have received a commission to do the works of Christ in casting out demons, prophesying and proclaiming the kingdom of God. They believe that as long as they do these things, and many other good works, that the Father will be pleased. They have not discerned that Yahshua did none of these things at His own initiative, but that He followed the leading of the Spirit in all things. He was a mature Son, and we read in Romans that “All who are being led of the Spirit of God, are the mature sons of God.”

I have mentioned elsewhere that Christ did not give His disciples some mandate to do good works as they chose. He knew that they could only be pleasing to the Father as they also were led of the Spirit into all their activities. This is revealed in the following passage of Scripture.

John 20:21-22
So Yahshua said to them again, “Peace be with you; as the Father has sent Me, I also send you.” And when He had said this, He breathed on them and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit.”

Yahshua sent His disciples out in the same way that the Father sent Him, in the power of the Spirit and under the obedience of the Spirit. The Father did not send the Son to do according to His will, and neither did Christ commission His disciples to walk according to their will. Like Paul, we are all to be bound in our spirit by the Spirit of Christ.

Yahweh’s judgment on Nadab and Abihu was severe due to their performing a work that they were not commanded to do. We may think that in the church age that there is great grace to do as we please, but this is a misunderstanding of the purpose of grace. Grace is given to enable us to do the will of God, not to do our own will. We see that the judgment for those who transgress in this matter is just as severe as it was for Nadab and Abihu, for Christ has said,

Matthew 7:21-23
“Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven; but he who does the will of My Father who is in heaven. Many will say to Me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in Your name, and in Your name cast out demons, and in Your name perform many miracles?’ And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness.’”

Is this not a severe penalty for failing to do as God commands? Is this not written to the children of God in this current age? As God calls His children to maturity in these last days, He will lay a stricter obedience upon them. If any body of believers is to attain to God’s plans and purposes for them then they must practice great diligence in pressing in to know the will of the Father for them. To fail in the least regard in this matter will lead to a failure to accomplish all God’s purpose.

During the past few weeks the Spirit has led me to contemplate numerous Scriptural examples of this type of failure in order that I might be instructed and be able to share this instruction with others. This next example is particularly relevant to any saints, or community of saints, who have begun to walk in the power of the Spirit. Once we have seen the Lord accomplish a few victories over the enemy, we may have a tendency to grow confident and to let down our guard. It is at this time that the enemy can come in deceitfully and, unless we are remaining in a place of watchfulness, he may thwart us from accomplishing all of the purposes of God.

It happened that as Joshua led the Children of Israel into the land promised to them, that they attained two stunning victories. They overthrew Jericho, and then completely destroyed Ai. This must have emboldened the Israelites, but in their boldness they grew less watchful. Yahweh had commanded them to drive out all of the inhabitants of the land, and to leave none alive.

In the middle of the land God had promised them was a people called the Gibeonites, and when the Gibeonites saw that God was with Joshua and the Israelites, they knew that they could not prevail against them in battle. So they sought to preserve their place by deceit. They sent emissaries to meet Joshua and the leaders of Israel, and they disguised themselves to appear as if they had come from a far land beyond the borders of the land promised to Israel. Joshua and the elders of Israel fell for the deception, and when the Gibeonites asked them to make a covenant of peace with them, Joshua failed to consult God first. If he had sought the mind of God, he would surely have learned of the deception of the Gibeonites.

Joshua and the elders of Israel made a covenant with these men, and then they later learned that they had been deceived and that the Gibeonites dwelt right in the midst of their land. Their covenant could not be broken, however, so they were unable to drive this people out of their land and fulfill the will of God. This story can be read in Joshua chapter 9.

The Spirit spoke to me through this event that has been recorded for the church today. If we would keep ourselves from the deceit of the enemy, as saints, or as a body of believers, we must remain vigilant. We must seek the mind of the Spirit in all decisions, big or small. We dare not trust to sight, for the enemy has snared many in this way. We must walk by the Spirit, submitting all matters to Him, and moving only as He commands.

The most spiritual of saints are prone to fail in this matter. It is easy to answer a matter, to form a decision, or render a judgment, based upon sight. It seemed sensible to me that if saints were suffering somewhere in the world, that it would be a good and acceptable work before God to send them some encouragement and relief. Yet, when I turned my heart to seek the witness of the Spirit, the Spirit said “No!” The Spirit has led me to meditate upon one further example that shows a man who walked in great spiritual authority and sensitivity, but who missed the will of God when he answered a matter before consulting with God.

II Samuel 7:1-5
Now it came about when the king lived in his house, and had given him rest on every side from all his enemies, that the king said to Nathan the prophet, “See now, I dwell in a house of cedar, but the ark of God dwells within tent curtains.” Nathan said to the king, “Go, do all that is in your mind, for Yahweh is with you.” But in the same night the word of Yawheh came to Nathan, saying, “Go and say to My servant David, “Thus says Yahweh, “Are you the one who should build Me a house to dwell in?”

Yahweh had determined beforehand that David’s son Solomon should build a temple for Him. No matter how much David desired to be the one to build the temple, this work was not given to him. David could only do those things that God had prepared for him to do. Anything else would be displeasing to the Father. Nathan the prophet was used in many instances in David’s life to proclaim the will of God, and he performed his call with great integrity. Yet in this instance he spoke presumptuously. What David proposed seemed right and good to Nathan, and Nathan answered David from his own soul. Nathan had not yet heard the voice of God.

I imagine that Nathan felt the burning of conviction in his stomach that night as well, when the word of Yahweh was revealed to him. I am sure that he knew tremendous consternation and disappointment with himself, knowing that he had answered the king from his own soul.

In all of these examples we see men doing something that they felt qualified to do apart from the Spirit of God. Nadab and Abihu felt they were capable of offering fire before God. Joshua and the elders of Israel felt qualified to render a judgment regarding the Gibeonites. Nathan felt that he was able to judge the correctness of David’s request without consulting with God first. I also felt that I could contribute something to this missions project based upon the skills and abilities that I had acquired in years of working with computers.

This is the real error of such presumption. We think that we can perform the work and will of God through human effort and abilities. This is what makes this fire “strange fire.” The Hebrew word that is rendered “strange” is Strong’s OT:2114:

zuwr (zoor); a primitive root; to turn aside (especially for lodging); hence to be a foreigner, strange, profane; specifically to commit adultery:

This word relates to something being foreign, and because it is foreign it is strange and profane. That which we offer to God must not be foreign to Him, and the only thing that is not foreign is His own Spirit. Everything we offer to God must be initiated by His Spirit and performed according to the leading of the Spirit. If any activity finds its origin in the will of man, then God will consider it to be profane.

In Strong’s definition of this word, he reveals that it also can refer to committing adultery. The act of adultery is entering into sexual intimacy with someone who is not your own spouse. It is a union of two people who are foreign to one another according to the covenant of marriage, and because of this it is a profane act.

When we bring some work to God that is initiated by the flesh of man, rather than by the Spirit, then we are seeking to enter into a place of intimacy with God through something that is foreign to Him and which He considers profane. The flesh of man is foreign to God, and it is akin to an adulterous act to offer to God that which arises from the flesh.

There are many things we can do in our own strength, and they may appear to us to be good and righteous, but the word of God declares that all of our righteousness is as filthy rags (menstrual rags) in His sight. I could take stock of my talents and abilities and choose an array of activities to pursue in the name of Christ and then offer them up to God. Many churches and individuals operate this way. Yet such offerings are as strange fire to Him. They are foreign and profane because they do not have their origin in the Spirit. Yahweh desires for us to not choose our works in this way.

We have seen the pattern that the Lord desires us to follow. He longs for us to be led of His Spirit in all things. We are to listen to His voice, and act in accordance with His leading. This forces the saint to press in to know the voice of the Spirit, and encourages him/her to grow to spiritual maturity. When we constantly determine our own way then we become spiritually stunted, and we become dull to the voice of the Spirit.

We have looked at the words of Christ where He spoke to those who were doing many good works in His name, but not according to the command of the Father. He said, “I never knew you.” This is an indication that He considers them foreign and profane, even as their works were foreign and profane. Like one who is not His bride, He considers their works and desire for intimacy to be an unclean and adulterous thing.

As believers, and as communities of Christians, we must guard against this error. Things may appear right and good to us, but the appearance may be as contrary to the will of God as the case of Nathan and David above. Our only safeguard against this error is to remain watchful and to pray about all matters. If we are to be saints who are led by the Spirit of God in all things, then we must remain in a place of continually seeking the mind of the Spirit. God is seeking a people in this hour who will accomplish all His pleasure. If we would be such a people then we must refrain from embarking upon works that arise from man’s initiative. We must be surrendered to the will of God.

There is grace available, and room for repentance. Let us seek to be perfect even as Christ was perfect in doing only that which He was commanded.

May you be blessed with peace and understanding in these days.

1 Comment

  1. Marcos

    Makes me think of Myles Munroe, told people not to teach about Jesus but rather to teach the kingdom and how to get money to pay their rent.

    His (Myles) jet with his wife and many others splattered into a junkyard when on his way to teach another seminar………

    Which seemed to me to show what God thought of that message.

    Reply

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