In one sense, I just I don’t get it. But in another sense, I do — and that scares me.
This morning, I read of the rebellion of Korah in Numbers 16 and I couldn’t help but whisper to myself, “What were they thinking?” And yet, the more I chew on it and get in touch with my “inner flesh”, if I’m totally honest with myself, I probably know exactly what they were thinking.
First thing that hits me is that it’s kind of a repeat story. I read something like this yesterday morning. Not 250 chiefs of the congregation standing up to and challenging Moses, but two members of his own family. Back in Numbers 12, Miriam and Aaron challenge their little brother, “Has the LORD indeed spoken only through Moses? Has he not spoken through us also?” (12:2). They wanted in on more of the leadership recognition. They got recognized, all right. The LORD came down in a pillar of cloud and recognized them directly. And what Miriam had to show for it was a really bad skin condition for a week (Num. 12:5-16).
Okay, so that didn’t go so well. And the story of what happened must have got around the camp if for no other reason than people must have been asking why the seven day delay before setting out again. But how quickly do people forget? Apparently, pretty quickly.
Numbers 16, and this time, what had been a challenge by two who were near to Moses personally, has morphed into a challenge by 250 who are near to Moses professionally.
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?”
When Moses heard it, he fell on his face, and he said to Korah and all his company, “. . . You have gone too far, sons of Levi! . . . Hear now, you sons of Levi: is it too small a thing for you that the God of Israel has separated you from the congregation of Israel, to bring you near to Himself, to do service in the tabernacle of the LORD and to stand before the congregation to minister to them, and that He has brought you near Him, and all your brothers the sons of Levi with you? And would you seek the priesthood also? Therefore it is against the LORD that you and all your company have gathered together. What is Aaron that you grumble against him?”
(Numbers 16:3-4, 7b, 8-10 ESV)
For Korah & Co., they were already in the inner circle. As sons of Levi they were the chosen tribe from among God’s chosen people. While others had to work for a living, they got to serve the Lord full-time in the things of the tabernacle, the tent of meeting, and the holy place where God resided in the midst. But just like Moses’ brother and sister, they wanted in on more — or at least wanted to be exalted more.
So, in a sense, I don’t get it. They were as close as you can get to the holy of holies without actually entering the holy of holies. Already distinguished from the rank and file and entrusted with ministering to those who could enter the holy of holies. And, to boot, did they not remember what had gone down with Miriam’s and Aaron’s challenge to God’s divine and determined chain of command? Give your head a shake, guys!
But then, a chill runs down my spine — ’cause I do get it. Self has a way of wanting to be supreme. The flesh wants others to see it as being foremost. Contentment can so easily give way to resentment. Having already been made much of by grace, how prone am I to wanting to be made more of by grumbling? Knowing what’s right, but finding within myself this propensity to pursue what’s wrong.
Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death?
(Romans 7:24 ESV)
But then, within this text, a glimpse of the Savior.
When Moses heard it, he fell on his face . . .
Three times in this chapter Moses goes face down (v.4, 22, 45). Interceding for the people, that God wouldn’t completely destroy them for their rebellious hearts, of which Korah & Co. were just the tip of the iceberg. And it brings to mind another Intercessor. Who on the cross cried, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do” (Lk. 23:34). Who knew firsthand, yet without sin (Heb. 4:15), the frailty of the flesh and the never ending demands of the ego, and so, sent His Spirit that we might walk in a new way (Jn. 16:7). And He continues to make intercession (Heb. 7:25) through His shed blood for those times when we don’t.
Don’t get it, but get it.
Grateful for grace. Wanting to live more for His glory.