What is an “unauthorized fire”?


Aaron’s sons Nadab and Abihu took their censers, put fire in them and added incense; and they offered unauthorized fire before the Lord, contrary to his command. So fire came out from the presence of the Lord and consumed them, and they died before the Lord.  Leviticus 10:1-2
            The burning of incense at the tabernacle was a sacrifice, a perfume, and a way to please God.  Exodus 30 made it very clear that only a certain “recipe” (gum resin, onycha and galbanum, frankincense) could be used.  It was considered holy.
            Nadab and Abihu probably experimented with their own incense and offered it in a way not according to God’s commands.  Maybe they sought their own glorification.  Any time we want to do things “our way” we tell God His way is insufficient.  God didn’t want any deviations from his commands to escape punishment.  He’s serious about pastors and ministers using holy practices for selfish gain.