When we are not satisfied with the position God placed us and we covet someone else’s job or position, we are in grave spiritual danger and we may experience physical consequences for our rebellion, maybe in the extreme way these rebels experienced, but God does not like complainers. Any insight we have about our condition comes from God.
What was God doing in the events of Numbers 16-17? The people were rebelling against Moses and Aaron but they were really rebelling against God.
Remember that this happened AFTER they had accepted the bad report and God had refused to let them enter the Promised Land. They were blaming Moses and Aaron for the fact they were not entering the land instead of themselves.
The first group, lead by Korah, were rebelling against Aaron and his status as priest. The second group, lead by the leaders of the tribe of Reuben were rebelling against Moses. Both groups were really rebelling against God but using Moses and Aaron as surrogates.
The clan of Korah (as referred in Numbers 3:31-32) were in charge of the Ark, the table, the menorah, the altars and the implements of the Tabernacle. Korah was challenging God’s right to appoint Aaron and his sons as High Priests.
The clan of Korah had a very special job, that the other Levites were not allowed to do. They were entrusted with the most holy items, those items that dwelled in the most holy place.
Each group of rebels tested God for different reasons and were tested by God in different ways. The rebels who sided with Korah, 250 men, were told to bring censers for burning incense. The rebels of Reuben were not given this test.
The clan of Korah wanted to be the High Priest. They did not like the appointment God gave them, they wanted Aaron’s appointment.
Here is the core of Korah’s accusation:
“They assembled together against Moses and Aaron, and said to them, ‘You have gone far enough, for all the congregation are holy, every one of them, and the LORD is in their midst; so why do you exalt yourselves above the assembly of the LORD?'”(Numbers 16:3 NASB)
What happened to Korah? We don’t know yet. Moses has another group of challengers to address first: Dathan and Abiram, the sons of Eliab of the tribe of Reuben. Their gripe was totally different. They didn’t care about the role of High Priest. Moses was their target.
They didn’t like the way Moses was leading the people. They wanted to lead the people back to Egypt. Didn’t they learn from the last group who tried to do that? Apparently not because pride blinded them. They were going to appoint themselves as leaders of the people.
God was in the Tabernacle and when God wanted to meet with someone, they came to His house, God did not leave His house to meet with them. The one with higher status summons those with lower status to meet with him in his home.
They refused Moses’ summons to meet with him because they refused to honor Moses as God’s chosen leader. We might call this treason.
Moses responds by addressing God, not the rebels.
“Then Moses became very angry and said to the LORD, “Do not regard their offering! I have not taken a single donkey from them, nor have I done harm to any of them.”” (Numbers 16:15 NASB)
When God rejects an offering, it’s usually not because of the offering but because of the heart of the person offering it. Moses asks God not to accept their rebellion.
“Thus Korah assembled all the congregation against them at the doorway of the tent of meeting. And the glory of the LORD appeared to all the congregation.” (Numbers 16:19 NASB)
When God shows His glory, it’s not just something beautiful, it’s a display of power. The glory of God killed the 250 people who brought their censers.
After this Moses went to the homes of Dathan and Abiram, with the elders of Israel following him. God shows up as well.
“Moses said, ‘By this you shall know that the LORD has sent me to do all these deeds; for this is not my doing. If these men die the death of all men or if they suffer the fate of all men, then the LORD has not sent me. But if the LORD brings about an entirely new thing and the ground opens its mouth and swallows them up with all that is theirs, and they descend alive into Sheol, then you will understand that these men have spurned the LORD.'” (Numbers 16:28–30 NASB)
God commanded the earth to open up and they were swallowed up. It put the fear of God (and of Moses) into the congregation.
“All Israel who were around them fled at their outcry, for they said, ‘The earth may swallow us up!'” (Numbers 16:34 NASB)
God has to use fear sometimes so we will respond and obey His wishes in our lives. He doesn’t do it out of hatred but for our good.
“Fire also came forth from the LORD and consumed the two hundred and fifty men who were offering the incense.” (Numbers 16:35 NASB)
Fire takes life quickly and these people were killed instantly. Their incense and censers were gathered up and made into a cover for the altar, as a visual reminder of what happens when people rebel against God.
After all this, the people still continued to murmur. Our insight comes from God’s hindsight. Wisdom comes only from God. This is for us to learn not to take God’s mercy for granted.
“But on the next day all the congregation of the sons of Israel grumbled against Moses and Aaron, saying, You are the ones who have caused the death of the LORD’S people.'” (Numbers 16:41 NASB)
How did Aaron respond? He ran into the midst of the people with his incense and censer and he was able to stop the plague. Moses couldn’t stop it, it wasn’t Moses’ job. Aaron didn’t quibble, he didn’t question, he just did it. Aaron showed by his actions that God chose the right person to be the first High Priest. He set the tone for his descendants in his sacrificial compassion.
“Moses said to Aaron, ‘Take your censer and put in it fire from the altar, and lay incense on it; then bring it quickly to the congregation and make atonement for them, for wrath has gone forth from the LORD, the plague has begun!’ Then Aaron took it as Moses had spoken, and ran into the midst of the assembly, for behold, the plague had begun among the people. So he put on the incense and made atonement for the people. He took his stand between the dead and the living, so that the plague was checked. But those who died by the plague were 14,700, besides those who died on account of Korah.” (Numbers 16:46–49 NASB)
Aaron’s actions made atonement for the people sin, just as Messiah Yeshua made atonement. God wasn’t done proving to the people Who He was the One Who chose Moses and Aaron to be their leaders and that Moses and Aaron did not choose themselves.
“Then the LORD spoke to Moses, saying, ‘Speak to the sons of Israel, and get from them a rod for each father’s household: twelve rods, from all their leaders according to their fathers’ households. You shall write each name on his rod, and write Aaron’s name on the rod of Levi; for there is one rod for the head of each of their fathers’ households. You shall then deposit them in the tent of meeting in front of the testimony, where I meet with you. It will come about that the rod of the man whom I choose will sprout. Thus I will lessen from upon Myself the grumblings of the sons of Israel, who are grumbling against you.'” (Numbers 17:1–5 NASB)
God took Aaron’s dead rod and brought it back to life. Aaron was God’s rod, just as Messiah Yeshua is God’s rod.
“Now on the next day Moses went into the tent of the testimony; and behold, the rod of Aaron for the house of Levi had sprouted and put forth buds and produced blossoms, and it bore ripe almonds. Moses then brought out all the rods from the presence of the LORD to all the sons of Israel; and they looked, and each man took his rod. But the LORD said to Moses, ‘Put back the rod of Aaron before the testimony to be kept as a sign against the rebels, that you may put an end to their grumblings against Me, so that they will not die.'” (Numbers 17:8–10 NASB)
The High Priest is the one who decides who is clean or unclean, not a king, not a general, only the High Priest. It’s an important position. The rod was put into the Ark, covered by the mercy seat.
The rod that was dead that was brought back to life, it blossomed and produced fruit is a message for us. Now the rod has a different meaning, a different purpose than a staff. A staff guides, a rod corrects. Aaron’s resurrected rod is there as a reminder that God corrects those He loves.
Reader: Jeff. Speaker: Richard Agee. Summary: Tammy.