“They gathered together against Moses and Aaron, and said to them, ‘You take too much upon yourselves, for all the congregation is holy, every one of them, and the Lord is among them. Why then do you exalt yourselves above the assembly of the Lord?’" (Numbers 16:3).
As Americans, many have difficulty wanting to respect authority. Many of us grew up in a generation which encouraged us to “question authority”. One of our founding fathers Thomas Jefferson said, “I hold it that a little rebellion now and then is a good thing”. However, how does God feel about those who rebel and fail to respect His authority or those whom He has appointed to positions of authority?
Following their spies evil report about the Promised Land and their own lack of faith in God’s promises, Israel begins their 40 years of wandering in the wilderness (Numbers 14:33-34). Some among them began to blame Moses’ leadership instead of their own lack of faith for their having not reached the Promised Land (cf. Numbers 16:13-14). As the opening verse above indicates, Korah, who was of the tribe of Levi, leads a group of 250 other leaders in Israel and challenges the authority of Moses (Number 16:1-3). God did not take this matter lightly.
God has each of these 250 men bring a censer filled with fire and incense and come before the Lord at the tabernacle of meeting (Numbers 16:4-19). Moses tells the people why God had them do this: “And Moses said: ‘By this you shall know that the Lord has sent me to do all these works, for I have not done them of my own will. If these men die naturally like all men, or if they are visited by the common fate of all men, then the Lord has not sent me. But if the Lord creates a new thing, and the earth opens its mouth and swallows them up with all that belongs to them, and they go down alive into the pit, then you will understand that these men have rejected the Lord’ ” (Numbers 16:28-30). Korah and his family are swallowed up by the earth and the 250 men who participated in the rebellion with Korah are devoured by fire (Numbers 16:31-35).
Following this, God has Eleazar the priest take the bronze censers that these men had used and hammers them out as a covering for the altar of burnt offering to serve as a memorial (Numbers 16:36-40). Every time an Israelite came to the tabernacle, they would see these bronze censers which now covered the altar of burnt offering outside the tabernacle. This would remind them the importance of respecting God’s authority and those whom God has placed in positions of authority.
As Christians, we are told that these events we read about in the Old Testament, such as Korah’s rebellion against Moses, were written for our learning (Romans 15:4). It is fundamental for us as Christians to learn to live within the boundaries God has set for us. We need to respect God’s authority and those whom God has placed in positions of authority (cf. John 12:48; Romans 13:1; Hebrews 13:17). We are told to submit to God so that the devil may flee from us (James 4:7).
A little rebellion against God, His authority, and those whom He has placed in positions of authority is not a good thing. I need to remember that God is God, not me. I realize that God knows best and I accept that God has all authority. I will not be like Korah and those who rebelled along with him against Moses by “questioning” his authority. I will strive to have the attitude of Samuel who said, “Speak, Lord, for your servant hears” (I Samuel 3:9). Today, I rejoice in God’s authority as He guides me in my walk with Him!
“Make Your face shine upon Your servant, And teach me Your statutes” (Psalm 119:135).