A quick change of plans. I got on my chronological reading plan and realized that I was supposed to have us read Psalm 40 with Numbers 14 and 15- so I tacked in on to today. And I’m really glad for the mistake. I think it was a God thing. It really helps highlight one of the big lessons of this chapter.
Let’s do a quick summary of where we’re at. No long ago in chapters 13 and 14 the Lord asked the Israelites to send out scouts to check out the Promised Land. There they saw a very fertile land, but after seeing the people that already inhabited the land, and their fortified towns, the large majority of the scouts decided that it wasn’t possible to take the land. Caleb and Joshua, however, held on to the belief and faith that God could help them do it. The scouts that were afraid began to spread lies within the Israelite camp so that the people would be on their side to not try and take the land. In the end, the Lord struck dead the scouts that had lied and after that some of the people tried to take the land, but it was too late- the Lord had already told them that they were not going to inherit the Promised Land, but instead their children would. So the Lord said He was going to let what they were afraid of happen to them- they were going to die in the wilderness.
It is on the heels of this that we read the passages of yet another rebellion (you think they would learn their lesson! But I guess we don’t really either…). This time three men rise up and challenge Moses and Aaron’s authority the first day, and after they (and their followers) face the wrath of God another group comes to protest and challenge Moses/Aaron the next day! God had clearly picked Moses and Aaron to be in authority. But what I want to focus on here is not whether or not we challenge authority but the reasons why they decided to. Every group that rebelled faced some serious consequences and we don’t want to be a part of that! So I think it will help us to see the thinking, emotions and motives that led these people into joining the mob. There are multiple groups of people rebelling against authority for different reasons, so let’s break it down. I think it will help us see some good traits of guys like these that we don’t want to follow.
The first guy mentioned in leading the rebellion is Korah, a Levite. It says he had 250 well known council members and community leaders that were with him. How do you get that many people on your side? Trait of who not to follow #1: people that run their mouth against others. Now women, I think we are more prone to behave this way. We tell a story in a Bible study about how we’ve been wronged and then all of a sudden all these other people don’t like the person you’re sharing about. I’m not saying that it’s a clear line, but all of us need to be careful to not follow people that live this way (or be one). Not that everyone is perfect and a leader will never slip or say something inappropriate, but in order to gain 250 important people that were willing to go challenge Moses and Aaron, Korah ran his mouth for a long time, and to a lot of people. I think it’s also important to note that just because he had 250 community leaders on his side, didn’t mean that he was right. Don’t judge who to follow by the size of their followers- the ones that run their mouths the most have the largest recruiting pool.
Moving on, let’s look at Korah’s big complaint against Moses and Aaron in 16:3.
They came as a group to oppose Moses and Aaron and said to them, “You have gone too far! The whole community is holy, every one of them, and the Lord is with them. Why then do you set yourselves above the Lord’s assembled?
What Korah is really fighting about is status. Maybe it started well intentioned. Maybe it started with him seeing someone else that he thought deserved to be in leadership and wasn’t. We don’t know. But whether he is fighting for his position or some one else’s- it is still about status. Trait of who not to follow #2: someone that thinks they deserve to be heard and/or lead. I would encourage you to look at Moses’ response in verses 8-11, and The portions of Psalm 40 below. These are great passages to check against whose story you’re believing.
I know there’s more, but I want to now move to looking at Dathan and Abiram in verses 12, 13. I think this one sheds some light on some trickier topics. Traits of who not to follow #3 & #4: people that are fighting for their own justice & people that just share about how they’ve been wronged. Now, I know these are harder topics, and remember that I’m no theologian, but I do think that this lines up with the rest of Scripture. We are taught in our culture to stand up for our rights, and I’m not disagreeing with that here. But people that are gathering people around them because they want their own justice is different than people that have experienced injustice and are fighting to keep others from experiencing it. There is a huge difference that I hope you understand. Along with this comes trait #4, people that just share about how they’ve been wronged. There are times that we are all very legitimately wronged, and we have to deal with that. But there are people that don’t seek healing, but sympathy- and that is a very dangerous thing. It is easy to hitch your wagon to these people because they aren’t what you would consider a leader to be. But they gather people around them just as a leader would. It is also hard to discern when real true hurt and injustice have happened. It’s not that they’ve been hurt that makes them dangerous to link arms with, but it’s what they do with their hurt.
Starting in verse 41 we see the last group of people that challenge Moses and Aaron. It says that the next morning all of the assembly gathered to challenge them. Their outrage- that Moses had killed some of the Israelites. Well… Yeah! I totally get this one! But they are still punished just like the previous groups were. So we still need to look at see what wisdom and instruction we can take from this. Trait of who not to follow #5: people that only accept the grace of God. I think our lesson here is that the people were uncomfortable with how God had punished the people before. When the ground opened and swallowed only those people whole, it was clearly God doing it (unless they also were wrestling with who was giving the orders, God or Moses). If we sin against God, the punishment and consequences are His to give. We should not be uncomfortable with these being a part of who God is, He is a Father. But now, we frequently see/hear a twisted version of God that is all grace and forgiveness with nothing that feels negative or could hurt someone’s feelings. The irony of this group is that they were punished for rebelling about the injustice of others getting punished! This is how this works. If we aren’t comfortable with others being corrected and facing consequences, we easily can take up their cause and then we are willingly joining in with a group that needs God’s correction. We don’t want to take up someone’s cause when the afflictor of their ‘injustice’ is Almighty God.
Sorry this post is long. As always, take it before the Lord and see what He says to you about it. I hope there is something that He has for you in there… There was a lot for me!
Blessed is the one
who trusts in the Lord,
who does not look to the proud,
to those who turn aside to false gods.
But as for me, I am poor and needy;
may the Lord think of me.
You are my help and my deliverer;
you are my God, do not delay.
~ Psalm 40: 4, 17