Numbers 16

He Took His Stand.

“He took his stand between the dead and the living, so that the plague was checked. – Numbers 16:48 NASB

The story of the Israelites’ journey through the wilderness is a fascinating one, filled with plenty of twists and turns, plot changes and story lines. It is easy to read this chronicle of the lives of the people of God and wonder how they could be so slow to learn. How could they refuse to obey God after all He has done for them? Why would they continue to whine, complain, and moan about their lot in life when the God of the universe is leading them, providing for them, and revealing Himself to them day after day? But the truth is, we have the Spirit of God living within us and the Word of God made available to us and we still struggle with obedience and belief. So we probably shouldn’t be too quick to judge the Israelites harshly.

Yet in today’s story from chapter 16 we have another occurence of jealousy and rebellion. It seems that Korah, a grandson of Kohath, and a member of the tribe of Levi, has decided that he wants to be free to take part in the priestly responsibilities. As a Kohathite, he was responsible for the transportation and care of all the vessels and utensils of the Tabernacle. They had been assigned that role by God. But Korah was not content. He wanted more. And he appealed to other men in the camp to join him in his rebellion. He stirred up men from the tribe of Reuben by getting them to see that Moses had taken away the right of the firstborn of every tribe to serve God and replaced them with the sons of Levi. His argument was that they were all holy, not just Moses, Aaron, and the Levites. He accused Moses of exalting himself above everyone else. He and his compatriots went to Moses and said, “You have gone too far! Everyone in Israel has been set apart by the LORD, and he is with all of us. What right do you have to act as though you are greater than anyone else among all these people of the LORD?” (Numbers 16:3 NLT).

Moses proposes a test. He tells them to gather at the Tabernacle and to bring incense to burn before the Lord. God appears and tells Moses and Aaron to separate themselves from the entire congregation because He is going to destroy them all. God is going to wipe out everyone. But Moses and Aaron intercede. They plead with God to spare the people and not punish them all for the sins of a few. God responds by telling Moses to separate the people from the rebels. Then He opens up the ground and literally swallows Korah and his compatriots alive. The amazing thing is that the people blame Moses and Aaron for the deaths of these men. They rise up against Moses and Aaron even though the deaths of Korah and his fellow rebels was a sign from God to validate Moses’ leadership. “By this you will know that the LORD has sent me to do all these things that I have done––for I have not done them on my own” (Numbers 16:28 NLT). Once again, God determines to destroy the Israelites for their rebellion, but Moses and Aaron intercede again. God has already begun a plague among the people that is quickly spreading, killing them instantly. Moses sends Aaron out among the people with a censer and fire on it from the altar. In order to stop the wrath of God from wiping out the people, Aaron must make atonement by waving the censer in their midst. So Aaron ran into the midst of the assembly and TOOK HIS STAND between the dead and the living. And the plague was checked. In doing so, Aaron prefigures the role that Christ played when He took His stand between us and death. He made atonement for our sin and stopped our inevitable destruction. At the risk of His own life, Aaron took his stand among the sinners and pleaded their case by making atonement for their sin. He interceded. He stepped into the gap. He met the need that they could not meet on their own. He satisfied the righteous wrath of God. That is exactly what Christ has done for us. At one time, all of us were rebels, living in open rebellion against God. We were under a death sentence. And we could not save ourselves. So God sent His priest, Jesus Christ, to intercede for us by offering His life as a fragrant aroma to God. Jesus took His stand between death and us. He stopped the inevitable and made possible the unbelievable – eternal life.

Father, forgive me for rebelling against You so often. I sometimes refuse to listen to You. I choose to go my own way. I sometimes think I know better and reject Your will. But I don’t live under a death sentence. Because of Jesus Christ, I am forgiven. I am alive and have eternal life secured for me. I don’t get what I deserve. Instead, I get what I don’t deserve – eternal life. Thank You Christ for taking a stand for me. Amen

Ken Miller
Grow Pastor & Minister to Men