Numbers 15:1-3 “…make an offering by fire to the Lord, to make a soothing aroma to the Lord.”
Numbers 16: 5-7, 35 “Tomorrow morning the Lord will show who is His…take censers for yourselves…and put fire in them, and lay incense upon them in the presence of the Lord…fire also came forth from the Lord and consumed the two hundred and fifty men who were offering the incense.”
Numbers 17: 8 “…the rod of Aaron for the house of Levi had sprouted and put forth buds and produced blossoms, and it bore ripe almonds.”
Why was God pleased with man’s offerings of incense? What made Moses confident that his offering would be accepted and Korah’s would not? Does God still show favor in tangible ways like when He caused Aaron’s rod to sprout overnight and bear ripe almonds?
Looking for answers to these questions reminds me of the saying, ‘the devil’s in the details.’ The idiom implies that we should look out for the small details in life to greatly reduce the risk of surprise. Not all surprises are unpleasant, but those planned by the devil certainly are. For instance, Korah came to Moses to complain that Moses and Aaron were not the only ones given charge of the holy things of God. Korah indicated that anyone could do the work of Moses. Moses, however, knew that God’s glory was not an abstract idea, and that God involves Himself with man’s concerns. So Moses set up a detailed plan for all to bring incense in their burners and wait for God’s holy fire to choose among them who are His anointed ones. God lit the incense of Moses and Aaron, but judged 250 of Korah’s men by consuming them with fire. By obeying God to the letter, Moses pleased God.
Being careful and thoughtful, that is – attending to the details – can net true gain. I spent this past weekend attending to the details necessary to help a family member get signed up for social security. I thought I had brought all the paperwork necessary, but within the first ten minutes I was asked for additional documents. Fortunately, I carried the rest of the papers in the car and was able to bring them in. The clerk was willing to show favor in this situation partly due to the completeness of the records.
I wonder then, is there a formula for gaining God’s favor? Can we find instructions in the Old Testament descriptions on what moved God? Is God anthropomorphic in that He is pleased with certain odors, so finding the right mixture of perfume is the answer to gaining His affection? Obviously, I am being foolish. What is revealed in these stories of old is that God is not One who winks at some and furrows His brow to others. Psalm 113: 5-7 says, “Who is like the Lord our God…Who humbles Himself to behold the things that are in heaven and in the earth? He raises the poor from the dust, and lifts the needy from the ash heap…” Instead of waiting for me to reach up with armloads of prepared arguments or rationalizations, Christ has come down from His throne to look for the poor and needy to rescue. I am limited in seeing the needs of people here on earth, but the secret formula is Colossians 3:2 “Set your mind on the things above, not on the things that are on earth.” Attending to the details of our everyday lives may be necessary to our survival, but without the God who knows our past, present, and future, we are forever seeking the magic formula to the age old problem of letting God be in control of the plan.