Korah, Dathan, & Abiram — Complaining about Moses & God’s judgment.
Reading 1: Numbers 16
Reading 2: Psalm 106:9-18
Reading 3: Jude 10-11
Today’s passages continue to make for sobering reading: One of the Levites (Korah), despite being chosen for service at the Tabernacle, decided that he wanted the position of priest. This shows that he saw that position as more important than his own, being motivated by pride to seek a “higher” position. In truth, his role in the nation was set by God, and he would have been wise to accept God’s assignment and submit to God’s wisdom.
Korah conspires with three other men from the tribe of Reuben (Dathan, Abiram, and On) to rebel against the leadership of Moses and the priesthood of Aaron. Pride will always seek to draw others to follow in the path of rebellion and striving for position.
We see the same characteristics in the fall of satan and the angels he drew to him in his rebellion against God.
Rabbinical literature identifies Dathan and Abiram as the two men fighting in Egypt who caused Moses to flee. We have no proof of this in the Bible, but the possibility is interesting – if true they have been Moses’ adversaries for decades!
Our reading in Psalm 106 gives us more insight into the motives of these men and their 250+ followers: they were jealous of Moses (the most humble man on earth) and envious of Aaron (who never wanted to be Priest anyway)! Notice the humility of both Moses and Aaron – rather than flaunting their authority and forcing the men to back down, rather they intercede for them with God.
Nevertheless, they all continue in their proud resistance to God’s order and suffer the consequences. Dathan and Abiram are swallowed up with their families as the earth gives way beneath their tents, and Korah and his 250 followers are burned to death while offering incense (the job of priests) without God’s appointment to that role.
Notice how pride and seeking position is infectious – the jealousy and envy of the rebels spreads to the rest of the nation, and they start to grumble against Moses and Aaron even though they have seen the result of such sinful behavior.
In blaming the leaders God has appointed, the people are really blaming God, and if Aaron had not rushed out among them at Moses’ instruction with incense (symbolizing prayer to God on their behalf) the death toll would have been much higher.
For us, the sacrifice of Jesus means that such dramatic outbreaks of God’s power against rebellion no longer occur. There has been a toning down of the response to sin through grace. From satan being cast out of heaven irrevocably, to the rebels in Israel being killed, there is a major decrease in severity. And now that severity has been further decreased because all sin can be forgiven in Jesus when there is repentance. God is leaving more and more room for us to turn away from sinful behavior.
But this does not mean that God is soft on sin. And jealousy, envy, striving for position, and grumbling against authority are all still sins! Let us allow God to search our own hearts (and maybe our text messages and Facebook news feeds too) to convict us of sin and draw us to repentance. Repentance is a sincere turning away from sinful choices in light of God’s immense grace to us in Jesus. As Jude might say – don’t follow your instincts (they lead you into sin and pride) but let grace change you wholeheartedly.
You are a recipient of that grace today, and every day!
Have a great day!