Scripture Texts: Leviticus 9; Leviticus 10:1-7; Revelation 1:5-6
Death because of the wrong fire in the incense burner seems drastic. It seems like the punishment does not even remotely fit the crime. Perhaps the death penalty speaks to the level of importance God placed on the moment as opposed to the level of importance it appears to have. It is also possible the issue was not about the wrong type of fire at all.
Is God overreacting? At first glance perhaps, however upon further review we find that God has been sharing through Moses in amazing detail how all of this was supposed to work. Not a single detail was left out, and there was great clarity about the importance of getting each detail right. We have an intense desire to let the sons of Aaron off the hook with the thought, "They are only human and are bound to mess up, there is no way they can be perfect." This desire to let them off the hook and see God as harsh might have more to do with us than with God. It opens the door for us to offer to God less than the absolute best we can offer.
Giving the absolute best we have to offer is not limited to God. To cultivate a fulfilling marriage we need to give the very best we can to our spouse. This means the best we have to offer in terms of our time, attention, effort and energy. When the times arrive that we fall short of our best we do not have to fear death like Aaron's sons because of the grace and love of God as seen is Jesus Christ. However, we can still offer our very best through owning our falling short and making the effort to improve.
Part of this equation is the person offering their best. Another part is the person receiving the best from another person. The person receiving would do well to remember the times when they have come up short. Giving and receiving the best we have to offer is about giving and receiving grace and forgiveness. So, when a detail if forgotten, rather than levy a death sentence, offer grace, forgiveness and understanding. We have the example in this in that God no longer hands out the death sentence because of the work and ministry of Jesus on the cross. Offering our very best is not about being perfect in our actions, it is about being hopelessly dependent on the love and grace of Jesus Christ and our spouse.