Num 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 assembly?”
Comparison and Contentment
Korah, a Levite, got together with certain Reubenites, and 250 leaders among the people, and rebelled against Moses and Aaron. Their contention was that they and everyone in Israel, were holy to the Lord. Therefore, they all should be able to serve as priests. They accused Moses and Aaron of going too far by exalting themselves over Israel.
God’s appointed leaders were challenged, this chapter details their rebellion and the aftermath, where God vindicated Moses and Aaron and brought frightening judgment on those who rebelled.
One of the things these rebels mention that qualifies the whole community as Holy and to be priests was that the Lord is with them. What does it mean to have the Lord with you? Does the Lord being with us make us better than others, does it negate the need to submit to and respect those who the Lord keeps in authority over us or does it so elevate us, that we carry our desires above the Lord’s.
God’s presence with us speaks more of His grace, love, faithfulness and mercy than our righteousness. Our best does not qualify more than filthy rags (Isaiah 64:6).
Num 16:8-10 “Moses also said to Korah, “Now listen, you Levites! Isn’t it enough for you that the God of Israel has separated you from the rest of the Israelite community and brought you near himself to do the work at the Lord’s tabernacle and to stand before the community and minister to them? He has brought you and all your fellow Levites near himself, but now you are trying to get the priesthood too.”
These rebels propelled by pride, ego and jealousy fail to see that it was God who appointed Moses and Aaron to their roles. And God also did put Korah and the rest of them in their respective roles.
Contentment is hard to have when our motive is not for the Lord.
Motive is everything in our service for the Lord. Why do you do what you do for Him? Often our true motives are uncovered when we feel that we should have a better position of service or receive more recognition than what is currently been given. When we serve, we can at times feel disgruntled, but we have to ask ourselves, am I doing this for the Lord, are my motives to bring him glory or is it more self-serving? There are times when I have reflected on these questions myself and the Lord has helped me right my perspective. When the enemy cannot get us away from serving the Lord, he attempts at ruining our motives, as it is then that God is no more in the very centre of why we serve.
Complaining and consequences
As a result of their rebellion, the earth opens up and swallows them and their whole households. And fire comes down from the Lord and consumes the 250 men that joined in the rebellion (verses 31-35).
Despite having watched what happens, the people of Israel grumble against Moses and Aaron.
Num 16:41 “The next day the whole Israelite community grumbled against Moses and Aaron. “You have killed the Lord’s people,” they said.”
The glory of the Lord appears over the tent of meeting and the Lord is angry and says, “Get away from this assembly so I can put an end to them at once.”
What do Moses and Aaron do – They fall facedown (verse 45).
Humility and Submission
I want us to draw our attention to this response of theirs. Thrice through this passage we see Moses respond this way, the first is in verse 4, just after the group of rebels go and complain to Moses, the verse reads “When Moses heard this, he fell facedown.”
Second, in verse 22 when the Lord is about to swallow up everyone, they intercede for the people “But Moses and Aaron fell facedown and cried out, “O God, the God who gives breath to all living things, will you be angry with the entire assembly when only one man sins?”
Third, as mentioned above is in verse 45, when all the people grumble again, the Lord intends to punish the people, Moses and Aaron fall facedown. Moses instructs Aaron to take his censer and burn incense on it. Aaron does so and rushes in the midst of the people.
Num 16:47-48 “The plague had already started among the people, but Aaron offered the incense and made atonement for them. He stood between the living and the dead, and the plague stopped.
Moses fell facedown before God, his instant reaction was to turn to God. He demonstrates humility and reliance on God in the face of accusation. How often do our hackles rise when we are confronted or accused or grumbled about? Moses shows us how to respond. He challenges us to take things to God first and not to respond from our emotions. Be slow to speak and slow to become angry (James 1:19).
Did Moses not get angry in this situation? He did, in verse 15 we read “Then Moses became very angry and said to the Lord, “Do not accept their offering. I have not taken so much as a donkey from them, nor have I wronged any of them.”
But what did Moses do with his anger? He took it straight to God and spoke to him about it. We too might get frustrated or angry with people or situations, what should we do? Just as Moses did, take it first to the Lord, because when we give it to God, we are led by him and not our emotions. If Moses responded on his own, would he have been yielding to God? I think not, and it also protected him from sinning himself if he responded in anger.
Moses also demonstrates love for the people. Jesus said love your enemies and pray for them (Mathew 5:43-45). Moses lived out that attitude. His response teaches us to humble ourselves and intercede for those who stand against us. And God hears his prayers. James 5 says “The prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective.”
Moses was rebelled against, but he chose a facedown response. He was not weak or passive, but he took the best way to respond, with humility and surrender to God.