Today in Leviticus God’s anger arises. This is, for most of us, a little uncomfortable. Don’t mistake me—I’m not trying to judge God in my discomfort. Rather, I recognize that taking the Bible seriously means that I must have a healthy fear of God. My discomfort stems from realizing how often I break God’s commands, and thus I wonder how I have avoided the same fate as Nadab and Abihu. Reading about their destruction reminds the reader that what we have seen in Leviticus isn’t some contrived initiation rite. The sacrificial system, tabernacle, and priesthood show God’s demand that Israel be Holy like He is Holy; Israel is to obey God in everything. Though I can empathize with Nadab and Abihu as sinners (not to mention Aaron in seeing his loved ones so destroyed), we ought not forget why God does this. God unleashes His wrath precisely because loving what is good in an evil world necessitates such anger. Remember, we all experience death because our first parents treated God’s commands lightly. We all experience pain and hardship because we and our neighbors do the same also. We all know frustration because others are so flippant with their promises.
God treats our evil with much patience and forbearance. On some occasions in scripture God gives offenders what they deserve immediately. It seems this is especially true when God is moving in history to establish new institutions (see 1 Samuel 4:12-22, Acts 5). Also, lest we forget while reading stories like this, God the Son did experience worse wrath than Nadab and Abihu. In taking the wrath of God, Jesus shows that our evil must be punished for us to have peace with the God of perfect justice. Jesus delivers that peace through suffering, bleeding and dying in the flesh.