Although Numbers 16 is a difficult passage, it is also a beautiful display of God’s holiness and Moses and Aaron’s godly leadership. And, as is always the case with God’s Word, it contains some valuable lessons for modern-day me (and you!) as well.
To summarize the passage, three groups within the nation of Israel expressed their discontentment with the leadership of Moses and Aaron: Korah (a Levite), Dathan and Abiram (from the tribe of Reuben), and 250 “well-known community leaders” (NIV) who Korah managed to rile up and convince to join him in his rebellion against God’s chosen leaders. In the end, God vindicated Moses and Aaron and struck down Korah and his supporters.
A few observations (necessary reminders for me!):
God is patient. In Numbers 16:4, Moses first reaction to the uprising is to pray and seek God. He gives Korah and his cohorts until the following morning to consider whether they want to rebel and be judged or repent and be spared. They choose rebellion, but God in His patience gives them an opportunity to see the error of their ways and choose differently. He exhibits the same patience with me.
God cares about my motives. Korah, Dathan, and Abiram were envious of Moses and Aaron. This, combined with their selfish ambitions, created a perfect environment for rebellion. They were seeking their own greatness rather than the glory of God. Although their outward rebellion was against Moses and Aaron, their hearts were rebelling against God’s appointed leadership for Israel. I may not have mounted any insurrections lately, but simple disobedience to God’s Word because I think my plan is better is a form of selfish rebellion as well.
God requires humble peacemaking. Rather than approaching Moses humbly and sharing their concerns, Korah and his cohorts decided that accusations and confrontation would be better. They lost their lives because of that decision. Is my life characterized by a prideful desire to create dissension, or do I prayerfully and humbly approach those with whom I disagree?
God provides wise counsel. Numbers 16:1 mentions a man named On. On is never mentioned again in Scripture. What happened to him? Did he change his mind? Jewish tradition holds that On’s wife rebuked him for taking part in a rebellion and because he listened to her, his life was spared. Am I humble enough to seek and listen to godly counsel, or do I prefer to forge ahead with my own plans not caring about the potential fallout?
God avenges sin. Moses did not try to vindicate himself; he lets God defend him. This is a hard one for me. My sin nature wants to see anyone who hurts me or my family “get their due”, preferably immediately. When I slow down long enough to be obedient and pray for those who have hurt me, God does amazing things in MY heart even if I don’t see any evidence of God “judging” like I would prefer.
God blesses abundantly. In Numbers 16:8-10, Moses essentially says to Korah “You already have so much! Why are you coveting the priesthood, too?” Korah’s discontent ultimately caused his death. God has blessed me immeasurably, and yet I often find myself wanting the positions or possessions of others. How would my outlook change if I were simply grateful for ALL I have already been given?
God is forgiving. Twice in Numbers 16, God was prepared to destroy the entire nation of Israel. Twice Moses interceded on their behalf, and they were spared. God has shown me the same mercy–many more than two times!
God is holy. Yes, God is patient and forgiving, but He is also holy. Those who were unwilling to repent and accept God’s appointed leadership for Israel were judged accordingly. God’s holiness demands MY obedience in the same way.
Father it’s so easy to fall into my own form of “rebellion”. Thank you for the lessons I can learn from the story of Korah. Remind me that my sins are as hurtful to you as Korah’s were. And thank you for offering me the same grace and forgiveness if I am humble enough to repent and accept them.