5. Immediate Feedback
In the Leviticus record, there is a short passage about the reaction of Moses and Aaron to the event. They were Aaron's own sons, and one can well imagine this event would be upsetting to Aaron. Moses had a short and simple response:
Lev 10:3: And Moses said to Aaron, "This is what the LORD spoke, saying: 'By those who come near Me I must be regarded as holy; And before all the people I must be glorified.' " So Aaron held his peace. NKJV
By just these words, Aaron knew that God was right in what he did. It reminded Aaron of his place, and that he was God's high priest, and not a priest of his own world.
From that, one value that we can see of the punishment of Nadab and Abihu is that it was a strong example. Direct action like that makes it easy for us to know right and wrong. The basic human instinct of fear and survival reminds us to not do the things that are wrong. If we saw this happening every time that someone sinned, we would certainly sin less often, and have God in our minds all the more.
We see this aspect of education as the chapter continues,
Lev 10:8: Yahweh spoke to Aaron, saying, 9. "Drink no wine nor strong drink, you, nor your sons with you, when you go into the Tent of Meeting, that you don't die: it shall be a statute forever throughout your generations: 10. and that you are to make a distinction between the holy and the common, and between the unclean and the clean; 11. and that you are to teach the children of Israel all the statutes which Yahweh has spoken to them by Moses." WEB
Here Aaron and the people were given a lesson about God, and the respect that He was due.
Although it seems hard, it would make life easier. There would be less choice, and it would be easier to make decisions. The options of straying from God would become all the less attractive. So from this aspect, does it make the immediate and decisive judgement of God a Good Thing?
In Psalm 109, David also called for judgement on the wicked
Psalm 109:1: God of my praise, don't remain silent, 2. For they have opened the mouth of the wicked and the mouth of deceit against me. They have spoken to me with a lying tongue. 8. Let his days be few. Let another take his office. WEB
Surely there is a strong case for the immediate punishment of Nadab and Abihu.
- It was God's action
- It sends a strong lesson
- It makes life easier by seeing sin's consequence
- It would silence the enemies of God.
But yet, as humans, a grain of doubt should stay in our minds about that whole incident. That's because we too are sinners. Paul's writing in 2 Cor 1, reminds us of that,
2 Cor 1:8: For we don't desire to have you uninformed, brothers, concerning our affliction which happened to us in Asia, that we were weighed down exceedingly, beyond our power, so much that we despaired even of life. 9. Yes, we ourselves have had the sentence of death within ourselves, that we should not trust in ourselves, but in God who raises the dead, 10. who delivered us out of so great a death, and does deliver; on whom we have set our hope that he will also still deliver us; WEB
They had been deeply persecuted and it brought home the realisation of the sentence of death. As sinners, we are all subject a sentence of death. God has delayed judgement on us personally that we may have a chance of being saved.
That is a great blessing, that God has spared us, and we need to ever keep in mind that our life is a testimony to God's mercy, and not to his tolerance. God is still justified in striking us down immediately in fire from heaven - and it would teach us greatly if he did.
But instead we have been given the time to instead stop making our own choices through our own individuality, and instead become part of Jesus: that priest without sin.