Date:         Tue, 21 Mar 1995 11:00:55 +0100
Sender:       Christian explanation of the Scriptures to Israel
From:         Teus Benschop 
Subject:      The Scriptures opened, 23
  1. Weekly reading, Lev.10:1,2 - Strange fire
  2. Psalm 141:2
  3. New Testament, John 4:19-26 - The Samaritan woman
  4. Books
  1. Weekly reading, Lev.10:1,2 - Strange fire
  And Nadab and Abihu, the  sons of Aaron, took either of them  his censer,
  and put fire therein, and  put incense thereon, and offered strange  fire
  before the LORD,  which he commanded  them not. And  there went out  fire
  from the LORD, and devoured them, and they died before the LORD.
  What is happening here, in our text?  The fire of the LORD went  out, and
  devoured Nadab and Abihu, sons of Aaron, and they died. God's fire killed
  them. Why that? What  have they done?  They "offered strange fire  before
  the LORD"; that was their fault. What  does that mean, strange fire? This
  will be explained.  Nadab and Abihu took  either of them his  censer, put
  strange fire therein, and put incense thereon, and offered  that unto the
  LORD. They took strange fire, but  God had commanded that the fire had to
  be taken  from the ever-burning fire on the altar. That ever-burning fire
  was God's fire.  Nadab and Abihu however, took  strange fire. That means,
  they took not  fire from the ever-burning  fire, but from  elsewhere. God
  had commanded that the priest, when offering, had to take it from off the
  altar, like is  written: "And Moses said  unto Aaron, Take a  censer, and
  put fire therein from off the  altar, and put on incense, and  go quickly
  unto the congregation, and make  an atonement for them." (Num.16:46) "And
  he shall take a censer full of  burning coals of fire from off  the altar
  before  the LORD,  and his  hands full  of sweet  incense  beaten small."
  (Lev.16:12) So,  this priests were not  accurate in their work,  but took
  (for whatever reason)  strange fire. This was  their fault, and therefore
  they were killed by God's fire.
     One may  ask if this  was such a  great sin? The  priest had done  all
  according God's commandment, except  the origin of the fire.  They took a
  censer, used  incense, and offered.  Only the  fire was strange.  Is this
  such a great sin? The answer will be this: Though is might seem  a little
  error  in humans'  eyes,  yet,  God judges  otherwise.  God does  see  it
  otherwise.  He is  a holy  God. He  had  given a  clear command,  but the
  priests transgressed it.  God does not tolerate that  His service will be
  defiled or neglected. That the priests took strange fire, and not exactly
  followed God's commandments, show us that they  did the service of God in
  an  unholy  way. They  thought that  it was  not necessary  to do  all so
  precisely. Just some offering, and all was well, thought they. But let we
  learn from this that God is holy, and that also we have to be holy. "I am
  the LORD your God:  ye shall therefore sanctify yourselves,  and ye shall
  be holy; for I am holy." (Lev.11:44) God's people will be holy, for He is
     Just in the  beginning of the tabernacle-service, God  showed that all
  had to be done exactly according to His will. Human inventions were to be
  rejected. When God had  allowed this error, just in the  beginning of the
  service, where had been the end? When God allowed this error, more errors
  would follow.  The priest  would forget that  the tabernacle-service  was
  holy. Therefore, to remind the people of His holiness, God punished  this
     Today, the tabernacle is not there, neither the temple. Is it possible
  that  we, in our times, do sins  like that of Nadab and  Abihu? Yes it is
  possible, even without a temple. Some examples will show you that.
  - When we  use other ceremonies than  God expressly has commanded,  we do
  the same sin. For example, God commanded that the people must be baptized
  in the Name of the  Father, of the Son, and of the Holy  Ghost. When some
  people  use other names,  they sin, and  will be devoured  by God's fire,
  either in this life or in the times hereafter.
  - Another  like sin is when some people use  other offerings than God has
  commanded. While  the temple is  destroyed now, the  people have invented
  their  own offerings, instead  of them. Praying  and learning is  the new
  offering. They have  invented that the new offerings  have the same value
  as the old,  as the burnt-offerings for  example. But we know  that these
  self-invented  offerings are an abomination  in the sight of  God. He has
  commanded  to  offer  offerings  according to  His  commandment,  and not
  according  to our distorted  will. You will  answer: Yes, but  we have no
  temple, therefore we do  it without the  commanded offerings now. I  know
  it, nevertheless, we cannot be without offering. How must this be solved,
  will you  ask? The  answer is that  we now  have the eternal  offering of
  Jesus  Christ, Who  offered  Himself  on the  cross.  Therefore, the  old
  offerings have ceased  and the temple, while it has lost its function, is
  destroyed.  Rejecting the eternal  offering of Jesus  Christ will deprive
  you of your offering, and also of  your expiation of your sins. Rejecting
  Christ is rejecting  God's offering. See in  the priests Nadab  and Abihu
  what will happen to the people who invent their own way of offering.
  - Spoiling the purity  of the worship of God is another  like sin. Adding
  something of  ourselves  unto the  worship  is the  same as  taking  some
  strange  fire and  offering by  that.  All things  which are  invented by
  ourselves, are like strange fire. All  what we do in the service of  God,
  must have a  solid foundation in the  Holy Writings, lest we  add strange
  2. Psalm 141:2
  Let my prayer be set forth before thee as incense; and  the lifting up of
  my hands as the evening sacrifice.
  A Psalm of David. This man says:  LORD, I cry unto thee: make  haste unto
  me; give ear unto my voice, when I cry unto thee.  He cries unto the LORD
  his God, and  asks if God will hear him. Therefore, he asks if his prayer
  might be set forth before God as incense, and the lifting up of his hands
  as the evening  sacrifice. These offerings  were pleasant in the  eyes of
  God, and David asks if also his prayer may please Him.
     "Let my prayer be set forth" before thee. He says not: I set my prayer
  before thee, but he uses the wishing voice: "let my prayer be set forth".
  This shows us that  David was not able  to make his prayer  pleasing God.
  Therefore he asks if it might be  done by someone who as able to do that.
  He wishes it, but is not able to do  it by himself. We see herein how  we
  have  to pray unto God. Not in a self-assured  manner, for we do not find
  in the Scripture that godly men have prayed in that way. Only the ungodly
  pray so. We ought not to pray proudly, but we must do it like David. "Let
  my prayer be set forth before thee".
     Let  my prayer be  set forth "before  thee". David prayed  not to some
  man, but unto God.  God, who dwells  in the high,  and looks down  lowly.
  When we pray, we will keep in mind that we pray unto God, which will give
  us the necessary reverence. Not reverence as for  a tyrant, but reverence
  as for  a high God.  Yet, he takes  notice of His  chosen, and though  He
  lives in heaven, He comes unto us.
     Let my prayer  be set forth before  thee "as incense". What  does that
  mean, that the prayer was as incense?  David refers to the daily offering
  of  the incense. The smell  of the incense was  sweet before God, like is
  written:  "And Aaron  shall  burn thereon  sweet incense  every morning."
  (Exod.30:7) The  burning of  the incense  was pleasant before  God. David
  asks if his prayer might  be as pleasant in God's eyes as the  burning of
  the  sweet incense. He asks therefore if God  will hear him, like he also
  had done in the first verse of this Psalm:  "Make haste unto me; give ear
  unto my voice, when I cry unto thee." (Ps.141:1)
     "The lifting  up of my hands" as the  evening sacrifice. It was common
  among the men to lift  up their hands when praying unto  God. The Word of
  God contains  many examples  thereof. "I  will lift  up my  hands in  Thy
  name."  (Ps.63:4) Another  example is  there in  the  book Job:  "If thou
  prepare thine heart, and stretch out thine hands toward him;" (Job 11:13)
  This shows  us what the  lifting up of  the hands  means. It is  like the
  lifting up  of one's heart unto God. The outward  lifting up of the hands
  shows the inward preparing of one's heart  unto God. In great longing for
  God, one stretches out his hands to Him. Compare  this with an example of
  the common  life. A woman will  stretch out her hands in  longing for her
  husband, her beloved. When she stands  before him, she stretches out  her
  hands,  and hangs on his neck. This clearly  shows how much she longs for
  her beloved man, to be with him. Likewise must it be  in our prayers unto
  God. With a great desire to be with God we will pray unto Him.
  There are more  examples in the Bible. "If we have  forgotten the name of
  our God, or  stretched out our hands  to a strange god;"  (Ps.44:20) They
  have not  forgotten their own God,  the LORD, neither have  the stretched
  out their hands to a strange  god. Strange gods aren't worth the  longing
  of us. At  this moment, a question will  arise. How is it  with us? Do we
  stretch out  our hands unto strange gods, or only  unto the one God? Many
  stretch out  their hands to  the worldly goods,  in great desire  to have
  them. These are their strange gods. Some long not for God, but for a wife
  or husband. They long  to another, but not to God. These  are the strange
  gods, for God has  said that He must have the  first place in our  lives.
  Some  stretch  out  their hands  to  the  goods of  their  neighbour, and
  embezzle them. These are the strange gods.
  There are still more  examples in the Scripture.  Look unto Solomon,  who
  stretched out his hands: "And Solomon stood before the altar of  the LORD
  in the presence of  all the congregation of Israel, and  spread forth his
  hands toward heaven." (1 Kin.8:22).
     Let  the lifting  up of  my hands  be set  forth  before thee  "as the
  evening   sacrifice".  Each  evening,  the  priest  offered  the  evening
  sacrifice, according to God's commandment: "The one lamb thou shalt offer
  in  the  morning;  and  the  other  lamb  thou  shalt  offer   at  even."
  (Exod.29:39) Because the  evening sacrifice was  instituted by God,  when
  the priests did  so, it was pleasant  in the sight of  God. David asks if
  his  prayer might  be as  pleasant as  the  evening sacrifices.  In other
  words, O God, let my prayer please Thee; hear my voice.
     Both  the incense  and the  evening sacrifices were  valueless without
  fire to  burn it.  David compares his  prayer with  the incense,  and his
  lifting up of the hands with the evening sacrifice. But, as we just said,
  they were without any worth when  there was not fire. Was David's  prayer
  his fire? No, for he compared it with the incense. Was his stretching out
  of his hands the fire? No, for he compares it with the evening sacrifice.
  So,  we  ask,  where  is the  fire?  Of  course,  we  must  take this  in
  comparison. The  prayer was compared  with the incense.  Likewise we ask,
  what could be compared  with the fire? The fire of David's prayer was the
  grace of  God's Spirit.  Without this grace,  our prayers are  but words,
  cold and without any value. I think, reader, that you experience how cold
  your prayers are. Therefore, God's fire is necessary. Ask for His grace.
     The Jewish teaching is that now the prayers are the new offerings. The
  service of the temple has  ceased, and therefore God accepts our  prayers
  as the  new sacrifices. This  however is absolutely  false. This teaching
  cannot be derived  from David's  saying in our  text. Though David  says:
  "let my  prayer be  set forth  as incense",  this does  not mean:  let my
  prayer be instead of incense. Neither does  the second part mean that the
  lifting up of  his hands come  instead of the  evening sacrifice.  Saying
  this is inventing something what the text not says. Let my prayer be "as"
  incense, and the lifting up of my  hands "as" the evening sacrifice. That
  means, let my prayer be pleasant  in God's eyes, like the offerings  are.
  Further, there is another reason why the prayers cannot come in the stead
  of the sacrifices. When  that had been the case, then  the sacrifices had
  to be  stopped already  in David's time.  But we  know that is  was quite
  otherwise. In David's times, the great temple of Solomon was still  to be
  built. So, the sacrifices were far from holding up in his time.
     David's prayer needed the fire of God's Spirit, otherwise it could not
  be set forth before the LORD as incense. Incense which is not burning has
  not the sweet smell  as burning incense has. Likewise, our  prayers, sent
  up unto God in our own power, that is, without fire, have no smell before
  God. They  are absolutely unacceptable before  Him. The fire  of the Holy
  Spirit is necessary. Our prayers have to  be done with a believing heart.
  When we pray our prayers in own strength, then we use strange fire to let
  them smell. Our prayers, done without belief, are a stench in God's nose.
  The following will  happen unto the  users of strange  fire, that is  the
  prayers  in own  strength: "And there  went out  fire from the  LORD, and
  devoured them, and they died before the LORD." (Lev.10:2)
     Therefore, let us do like David the prophet, and say: Let my prayer be
  set forth before thee as  incense; and the lifting up of  my hands as the
  evening sacrifice.
  3. New Testament, John 4:19-26 - The Samaritan woman
     19 The woman saith unto him, Sir, I perceive that thou art a prophet.
  Jesus has  just said  to this  Samaritan  woman, that  she has  had  five
  husbands,  and that  her present  husband  was not  hers.  Therefore, she
  answers: Sir,  while Thou have said my wicked  life, which Thou could not
  know, therefore I  perceive that Thou are  a prophet. She knew  well that
  prophets know  more than common  people, for God does  reveal some things
  unto them. This woman was an adulterer, and Jesus knew her  ungodly life.
  Perhaps this  woman shamed herself for  her wicked life,  and she quickly
  changed  the subject.  She  changed the  talk  from  her evil  life to  a
  religious question. She begins to speak about the place for worship.
     20  Our fathers  worshipped  in this  mountain;  and ye  say,  that in
     Jerusalem is the place where men ought to worship.
  The  Samaritans say  that we  ought to  worship  on this  mountain, mount
  Gerizim, but the  Jews say  that it must  be done  in Jerusalem. Say  me,
  which mountain is the true? Are we right, or the Jews?
     21 Jesus  saith unto her, Woman, believe me,  the hour cometh, when ye
     shall  neither in  this mountain,  nor yet  at Jerusalem,  worship the
  Jesus says: Woman, believe me, the hour comes, but is not at this moment,
  that the  special place  of worship  is  neither on  this mount,  nor  at
  Jerusalem. So, be no longer concerned about the place of worship.
     22 Ye worship ye know not what: we know what we worship: for salvation
     is of the Jews.
  This is Jesus aswer on her  question: Where must we worship? Our  fathers
  said here, and the Jews say at Jerusalem. The answer is that the Jews are
  right. The true  religion was given to  the Jews, not to  the Samaritans.
  The Jews knew what they worshipped, but the Samaritans worship  what they
  know not. Ye  worship ye know  not what. That  is, you have not  a clear,
  expressed command  for your worship  on mount Gerizim.  The Jews however,
  have God's expressed  command, that Jerusalem is the  place where He must
  be worshipped. The salvation is of the Jews. They have God's  Word, which
  describes the  way of true  salvation. The Samaritans,  though having the
  books of Moses, were yet later; the salvation is not of them.
     23 But the  hour cometh, and now  is, when the true  worshippers shall
     worship the Father in spirit and in truth: for the Father seeketh such
     to worship him.
  Woman, be no longer concerned about the place, here or in  Jerusalem. For
  the hour comes, and even is now,  that the true worshippers shall worship
  the Father no longer using the  special rites connected to the temple  in
  Jerusalem, but  in spirit  and in  truth. Those  are the  people who  the
  Father seeks. Be concerned, not about the  place where, but about the way
     24 God  is a Spirit:  and they  that worship him  must worship him  in
     spirit and in truth.
  I just said  that you ought to  worship the Father in  spririt and truth,
  isn't it?  Now,  I'll say  why.  The reason  is  that  God is  a  Spirit.
  Therefore, He  must be  worshipped in  Spirit and  in truth.  God is  not
  bodily. For when He was bodily, He would  be connected to one place, here
  or in Jerusalem.  You, woman, have too low ideas about God. Just as if He
  is a man, and can but be in one place at once. No, it is quite otherwise.
  He is a Spirit, and fills the whole earth. He  can be worshipped wherever
  you are; but remember: in Spirit and truth.
     25 The woman  saith unto  him, I  know that Messias  cometh, which  is
     called Christ: when he is come, he will tell us all things.
  I know  that Messias  comes. All  problems, which  we now  have, will  He
  solve. When He is come, He will tell us all things.
     26 Jesus saith unto her, I that speak unto thee am he.
  Jesus  says unto  her: I  that speak  unto you am  the Messiah,  which is
  called Christ.  I will tell  you all things,  for therefore I  am come. I
  will tell  you all things,  namely those who  are necessary for  the true
  religion,  the salvation of  people, and for  the true worship  of God. I
  will tell you how to  worship God, namely in Spirit and in truth.  I told
  you  just that  God is  not so bodily  as you thought,  but that  He is a
  The woman went  back unto the city, and said to the  people: "Come, see a
  man,  which told me all things that  ever I did: is not this the Christ?"
  (John 4:29)
  4. Books
  Stephen Charnock, The New Birth
  This re-publication of Stephen Charnock's masterly study is of first-rate
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  ISBN 0 85151 500 2
  544 pp. Cloth-bound.
  Price around $23,00.
  Ordering:  ask   your  local  bookstore  or  reply  this  description  to  - Your  order  will  be  forwarded  to  a
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     Chr-Exp, a Christian explanation of the Tanach and the New Testament
              Editor: Teus Benschop  -
                      No copyrights on this publication
            Institution Practical Bible-education, the Netherlands
     End of  The Scriptures opened, 23

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