Saturday, April 16, 2011

Numbers 16: 1-32

1One day Korah son of Izhar, a descendant of Kohath son of Levi, conspired with Dathan and Abiram, the sons of Eliab, and On son of Peleth, from the tribe of Reuben. 2They incited a rebellion against Moses, involving 250 other prominent leaders, all members of the assembly. 3They went to Moses and Aaron and said, "You have gone too far! Everyone in Israel has been set apart by the LORD, and he is with all of us. What right do you have to act as though you are greater than anyone else among all these people of the LORD?"

4When Moses heard what they were saying, he threw himself down with his face to the ground. 5Then he said to Korah and his followers, "Tomorrow morning the LORD will show us who belongs to him and who is holy. The LORD will allow those who are chosen to enter his holy presence. 6You, Korah, and all your followers must do this: Take incense burners, 7and burn incense in them tomorrow before the LORD. Then we will see whom the LORD chooses as his holy one. You Levites are the ones who have gone too far!"

8Then Moses spoke again to Korah: "Now listen, you Levites! 9Does it seem a small thing to you that the God of Israel has chosen you from among all the people of Israel to be near him as you serve in the LORD's Tabernacle and to stand before the people to minister to them? 10He has given this special ministry only to you and your fellow Levites, but now you are demanding the priesthood as well! 11The one you are really revolting against is the LORD! And who is Aaron that you are complaining about him?"

12Then Moses summoned Dathan and Abiram, the sons of Eliab, but they replied, "We refuse to come! 13Isn't it enough that you brought us out of Egypt, a land flowing with milk and honey, to kill us here in this wilderness, and that you now treat us like your subjects? 14What's more, you haven't brought us into the land flowing with milk and honey or given us an inheritance of fields and vineyards. Are you trying to fool us? We will not come."

15Then Moses became very angry and said to the LORD, "Do not accept their offerings! I have not taken so much as a donkey from them, and I have never hurt a single one of them." 16And Moses said to Korah, "Come here tomorrow and present yourself before the LORD with all your followers. Aaron will also be here. 17Be sure that each of your 250 followers brings an incense burner with incense on it, so you can present them before the LORD. Aaron will also bring his incense burner."

18So these men came with their incense burners, placed burning coals and incense on them, and stood at the entrance of the Tabernacle with Moses and Aaron. 19Meanwhile, Korah had stirred up the entire community against Moses and Aaron, and they all assembled at the Tabernacle entrance. Then the glorious presence of the LORD appeared to the whole community, 20and the LORD said to Moses and Aaron, 21"Get away from these people so that I may instantly destroy them!"

22But Moses and Aaron fell face down on the ground. "O God, the God and source of all life," they pleaded. "Must you be angry with all the people when only one man sins?"

23And the LORD said to Moses, 24"Then tell all the people to get away from the tents of Korah, Dathan, and Abiram."

25So Moses got up and rushed over to the tents of Dathan and Abiram, followed closely by the Israelite leaders. 26"Quick!" he told the people. "Get away from the tents of these wicked men, and don't touch anything that belongs to them. If you do, you will be destroyed for their sins." 27So all the people stood back from the tents of Korah, Dathan, and Abiram. Then Dathan and Abiram came out and stood at the entrances of their tents with their wives and children and little ones.

28And Moses said, "By this you will know that the LORD has sent me to do all these things that I have done--for I have not done them on my own. 29If these men die a natural death, then the LORD has not sent me. 30But if the LORD performs a miracle and the ground opens up and swallows them and all their belongings, and they go down alive into the grave, then you will know that these men have despised the LORD."

31He had hardly finished speaking the words when the ground suddenly split open beneath them. 32The earth opened up and swallowed the men, along with their households and the followers who were standing with them, and everything they owned.

Points of Interest:

· What right do you have to act as though you are greater than anyone else?’—as far as we can see, Moses is not in this because of his own ambition. He is in his position because he said, ‘Here I am,’ to God’s call. Apparently, he’s a rather humble man; and he’s often wished that he didn’t have the role he has. But people are convinced that Moses is on a power trip.

· the LORD will show us who belongs to him’—Moses plan seems pretty reasonable: why don’t we just let God choose who will serve him and how?

· You Levites are the ones who have gone too far’—Moses has never grasped for a role that God did not give him, but the Levites—under the guise of correcting Moses—are doing so now. They’ve actually been given a pretty special place in God’s plan: they are the ones who are given the job of serving in the Tabernacle. But it’s not enough for them. So, while appearing to be speaking up for the whole people, they are actually trying to seize more power for themselves. Incidentally, both of the attempts to overthrow Moses have come from those close to him: first it was his own siblings; now it’s his own tribe. Aaron, Miriam, and the rest of the Levites have already been given prominent roles in the community, perhaps partially because of their connection to Moses, but they are not grateful. Instead, they compete with Moses.

· We refuse to come!’—Dathan and Abiram will talk about Moses behind his back, but they lack the courage to meet him face to face in the presence of God.

· Egypt, a land flowing with milk and honey’—Dathan and Abiram are insinuating that they’ve been hoodwinked. They were persuaded to leave the wonderful land of Egypt (where, it seems they’ve forgotten, they were slave labor on the verge of genocide) by false promises that they were being led to an even better place. It turns out that there is no great promised land, and they’ve been tricked into wandering the desert their whole lives—all so that Moses can feed his own ego.

· Get away from these people so that I may instantly destroy them!’—the only thing stopping God from destroying the rebels is the fact that he doesn’t want to hurt Moses and Aaron in the attempt.

· But Moses and Aaron fell face down on the ground’—Moses and Aaron mercifully intervene on behalf of the very people who are trying to overthrow them.

· and everything they owned’—it’s as if they are completely blotted out of existence. Their entire lives are simply swallowed up by the ground.

Taking it home:

· For you: Because God trusts Moses’ humility, integrity, obedience, and compassion, he entrusts him with an amazing amount of influence. Pray that God would help you build the sort of character which would allow him to trust you with the purposes that are close to his heart.

· For your six: Greed and envy end up swallowing up the lives of Korah, Dathan, and Abiram. Pray that God would protect your six from the temptations of greed and envy.

· For our church: Moses trusts in his own blamelessness and God’s faithfulness to defend him from attacks on his leadership. Pray that God would give us as a church and all the leaders in it the grace to hold any status or position we have lightly, trusting God to defend us if it is ever necessary.