I was reading in Numbers this morning and came across the “unauthorized fire” Nadab and Abihu offered before the Lord. Quickly I was reminded of Cain’s offering before the Lord in Genesis 4, which the Lord rejected. In addition, I thought of Saul’s hasty and foolish offering he sacrificed to the Lord in 1 Samuel 13. In each of these situations what was offered to the Lord as an act of worship was rejected by the Lord. All four men failed to provide and give God what he desired and required. Or in Saul’s case, he felt he would perform the sacrifice that was reserved for someone else, namely Samuel. What do we learn from this? these men? We learn that we need to be very careful in our own life not to offer up anything to God or for God that he himself has not authorized or required. In other words, we must let God take the lead and dictate what we do, rather than taking it upon ourselves to give to God what we want to give him, what we want to do for him.
Many in the church world today are overly-zealous to “do” for God. They give, serve, attend, pray, etc. What happens many times is that our “doing” for God, our sacrificing or worshipping him, turns out to be—us “doing” for ourselves. At the heart, these men (above) worshipped or sacrificed to God as a selfish act. They gave worshipfully to God out of a selfish, self-centered heart. No matter how right our actions or worship are, or look like on the outside, doing them for our own well-being and selfish ambition is unauthorized worship.
Let me give an imperfect example, but one I think may make the point. Every parent wants good kids, well-behaved, non trouble-making, kids. Many times believing/Christian parents, in their parenting, make strides to make sure that their kids go to church, are moral, treat people nicely, and are obedient to those in authority. What happens [sometimes] is that our attempts, as parents, to raise our children “in the ways of the Lord,” neglect to make all our good actions as worship to and for the Lord; but rather for the protection of our reputation. In other words, many times the goal for good Christian, well-behaved kids, is not for the glory and worship of our great God and King, but for ourselves and household, and the benefactor is God. We should raise our children with the awareness their good actions and behaviors is not for their parent’s well-being, but for the glory and worship of God our Lord and Savior. That is authorized worship.
Unauthorized worship is good, moral, and even godly behavior and actions that outwardly appear fine, but inwardly are done for wrong, impure, and unauthorized motives. Today, I am challenged that all the good I would do, the godly living I aspire to, is rooted not in a selfish, self-centered heart, but rooted in God’s glory and fame. I know when this happens my worship to him, that is performed in all spheres of life, will be a pleasing acceptable aroma in his nostrils.