From “Growing in the character of a disciple”: Chapter 2 – A closer look at how God develops us as disciples
Likewise, in 1 Samuel we are told about the priest, Eli, whose sons, Hophni and Phinehas were wicked. They worked in the Tabernacle like their father, but they abused their positions and exploited people. Therefore the Bible says that it was God’s will to put them to death:
Eli’s sons were scoundrels; they had no regard for the Lord.1 Samuel 2:12 (NIV)
This sin of the young men was very great in the Lord’s sight, for they were treating the Lord’s offering with contempt.1 Samuel 2:17 (NIV)
22 Now Eli, who was very old, heard about everything his sons were doing to all Israel and how they slept with the women who served at the entrance to the tent of meeting. 23 So he said to them, “Why do you do such things? I hear from all the people about these wicked deeds of yours. 24 No, my sons; the report I hear spreading among the Lord’s people is not good. 25 If one person sins against another, God may mediate for the offender; but if anyone sins against the Lord, who will intercede for them?” His sons, however, did not listen to their father’s rebuke, for it was the Lord’s will to put them to death.1 Samuel 2:22-25 (NIV)
Of course, the passage from Exodus, which we saw earlier, comes from the Law of Moses. But none of us are under that. It was fulfilled, and therefore rendered obsolete, by Jesus’ death and resurrection. So, the above passage from Exodus is no longer operative. Nonetheless, I include it here because it illustrates this principle. It demonstrates the way God thinks and how drastically He is prepared to act in certain situations.
The Law of Moses is no longer in operation, but God does still sometimes do what He describes above. He still ends the lives of certain people, as He did with Hophni and Phinehas, the wicked sons of Eli. He does not do so today in order to comply with the Law of Moses. He does it because that is how He is.
We see another example of how God sometimes reacts to sin in the account of the deaths of Nadab and Abihu in Leviticus chapter 10. These two brothers were sons of Aaron, i.e. Moses’ brother. Therefore, they were priests, as was their father, Aaron. It was therefore part of their duty to offer sacrifices and to burn incense in the Tabernacle.
One day they did something which angered God. They disobeyed God’s instructions in some way, the exact details of which are not given. At any rate, they offered fire to the LORD in the Tabernacle in a way which God saw as unholy. In other words, they disrespected God by their actions, or by their neglect to do as He had commanded them. Therefore, as Nadab and Abihu were doing this, fire came forth from God and consumed them. God ended their lives Himself, there and then, at the very scene of their wrongdoing:
Now Nadab and Abi′hu, the sons of Aaron, each took his censer, and put fire in it, and laid incense on it, and offered unholy fire before the LORD, such as he had not commanded them. 2 And fire came forth from the presence of the LORD and devoured them, and they died before the LORD.Leviticus 10:1-2 (RSV)
Finally, look at what the Bible says about King Saul. He was appointed by God but he was unfaithful. Therefore, in the end, God did not merely demote or remove him. We are told that He ‘slew him’:
13 So Saul died for his unfaithfulness; he was unfaithful to the Lord in that he did not keep the command of the Lord, and also consulted a medium, seeking guidance, 14 and did not seek guidance from the Lord. Therefore the Lord slew him, and turned the kingdom over to David the son of Jesse.1 Chronicles 10:13-14 (RSV)