How often are problems caused because people want to be the one in charge, the one telling others what to do? This is not only a problem today, but one that Moses had to deal with. Keep in mind that Moses did not want to be the leader of the Israelites, but God had selected him and got rid of all his excuses at the burning bush. God selected Moses’ brother Aaron to be his spokesman and later to be the high priest for Israel in the worship of God.
A couple of years after leaving Egypt, the Israelites arrived at the border of the Promised Land. After sending twelve men to get the lay of the land, they were so disheartened by the strength of the inhabitants that they refused to conquer the land. This led to a number of problems including challenging the leadership of Moses and Aaron.
“Now Korah the son of Izhar, son of Kohath, son of Levi, and Dathan and Abiram the sons of Eliab, and On the son of Peleth, sons of Reuben, took men. And they rose up before Moses, with a number of the people of Israel, 250 chiefs of the congregation, chosen from the assembly, well-known men. They assembled themselves together against Moses and against Aaron and said to them, ‘You have gone too far! For all in the congregation are holy, every one of them, and the LORD is among them. Why then do you exalt yourselves above the assembly of the LORD?’” (Numbers 16:1-3 ESV).
The leader of this rebellion was of the tribe of Levi, the tribe God had selected to be holy. Those rebelling said that they were as much leaders as Moses and Aaron were. In reality they were challenging God’s authority.
Moses told the rebels that God would indicate who was to be their leader. Each of the 250 leaders, along with Aaron, were to bring their censor filled with burning incense. God would then let them know who his chosen leader was. Although they initially refused to come, they showed up at the tent of meeting the next morning. They came, but they had stirred up the entire congregation against Moses and Aaron.
“So every man took his censer and put fire in them and laid incense on them and stood at the entrance of the tent of meeting with Moses and Aaron. Then Korah assembled all the congregation against them at the entrance of the tent of meeting. And the glory of the LORD appeared to all the congregation” (Numbers 16:18-19 ESV).
God does not take rebellion lightly. After warning all the Israelites to get away from the rebellious Levites, God showed his ultimate authority.
“And as soon as he had finished speaking all these words, the ground under them split apart. And the earth opened its mouth and swallowed them up, with their households and all the people who belonged to Korah and all their goods. So they and all that belonged to them went down alive into Sheol, and the earth closed over them, and they perished from the midst of the assembly…And fire came out from the LORD and consumed the 250 men offering the incense” (Numbers 16:31-35 ESV).
How do we respond to leadership among God’s people today? Although we have very detailed descriptions of the character that those who lead must have (see 1 Timothy 3:1-7 and Titus 1:5-11), often those who do not meet this criteria want to be the one to lead. Even today God wants a very specific type of person to lead his people. And he wants his people to follow them.
“Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they are keeping watch over your souls, as those who will have to give an account. Let them do this with joy and not with groaning, for that would be of no advantage to you” (Hebrews 13:17 ESV).
Rather than rebelling, we need to respect and cooperate with our leaders. In this way we not only make their responsibility easier, we are also being obedient to God.
Readings for next week:
6 March – Numbers 16
7 March – Numbers 17
8 March – Numbers 18
9 March – Numbers 19
10 March – Numbers 20