“Clap your hands all you peoples; shout to God with a jubilant cry. He chooses for us our inheritance – the pride of Jacob whom he loves.” Psalm 47:1,4
As Kyle mentioned yesterday, the book of Numbers is anything but boring. And today, we got acquainted with the interesting – and deadly – story of Korah’s rebellion. In chapter 16, Moses and Aaron are approached by a group of Levites led by Korah who had had enough of Moses and his leadership. He confronted them and said, “You have gone too far! Everyone in the entire community is holy, and the LORD is among them. Why then do you exalt yourselves above the Lord’s people?” (Numb. 16:3).
Moses, raised by Pharaoh’s daughter, had led the Israelites out of Egypt. Not only was he the main leader, but he also acted as a go-between for the Israelites and God, speaking to God frequently on the Israelites’ behalf and receiving the law and the commandments from God. From the outside looking in, Moses could seem to be a pretentious guy giving meaningless commands to the Israelites people with fatal consequences for the people who broke them like the man stoned to death for breaking the Sabbath in Numbers 15:32-36. Korah, the man at the head of the rebellion, was also from the tribe of Levi and had the support of 250 leaders of the community. At this point, they had probably had enough of Moses’ rules and spoke out against what they believed were unjust commandments.
But, little did they know what that would cost them. Moses cried out to God and trusted in God to deliver him. He prayed that the people would see them who was the true messenger of God based on what God did. When they both came to present offerings in firepans to God, the ground opened up and swallowed Korah and all his household with all of their possessions and they went “down alive to Sheol” (v. 31-35). Then, fire came from the Lord and killed the 250 leaders who were presenting offerings in firepans to God. The Israelites, who still believed that the real men of God were Korah and his followers, began to complain about Moses and Aaron. God sent a plague to kill the Israelites, and that plague killed 14,700 before Moses put a stop to it by standing between God and the people.
This chapter in Numbers is a whirlwind, full of intrigue, suspense, and vengeance. What’s striking to me is the complaint of Korah that sparked this chain of events that led to the death of close to 15,000 people. Korah and his followers complained about Moses and Moses’ power. And like I said, from an outsider who didn’t understand the true purpose and meaning of the law, those complaints would seem valid. But, Korah was missing the whole point of the message Moses was communicating, because that message centered around God. Korah wanted to the power for himself. He didn’t realize that Moses wasn’t doing those things for himself, but instead, he was acting in complete humility and obedience to God. To Korah, those commandments seemed meaningless, arbitrary, and harsh, because he didn’t truly know God. Thus, he wasn’t willing to be obedient to his commands.
The world looks at the message of Christ and says similar things. It asks us, “Who do you think you are? Don’t you know we all have a little bit of God in us? How dare you try to tell us what to do?” Little do they know that the message we are following is not based on us and our likes and dislikes. It’s not something just made up by human hands. This is a message from God! And that makes all the difference.
When you find yourself feeling the force of all the world’s questions, you can stop and remind yourself of the promise found in the psalms: You are chosen by God to be his holy set apart people.
Links to today’s Bible reading – Numbers 15-16 and Psalm 46-48