Numbers 15-16, Luke 23

Rebellion Against God.

Numbers 15-16, Luke 23

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. – Numbers 16:31-33 ESV

Yesterday we talked about the ever-present danger of doubt in the life of the follower of God. Doubt has a way of turning into disobedience, and disobedience against God is nothing more than rebellion against His Word and His will. In chapter eight of Numbers we see this pattern lived out in the lives of Korah, Dathan, Abiram and On. These men were descendants of Levi and, as such, they were responsible for the care and upkeep of the Tabernacle of God. God had set them apart as His servants and their jobs were essential to the spiritual well-being of the people of Israel. But they were dissatisfied with things as God had planned them. They wanted more responsibility. They wanted a greater role. They doubted God’s order of things and demanded a restructuring of responsibilities and duties. The pointed their fingers at Aaron and Moses, exlaming, “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 16:3 ESV). Like Miriam in chapter 12, these men expressed their doubt in God’s preordained order and it led to their open disobedience and rebellion.

Moses is surprised and shocked. He asks them, “ 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” (Numbers 16:9-11 ESV). Moses makes it clear that their beef was with God, not Aaron. Their rebellion was God-directed. They didn’t like things the way God had set them up.

What does this passage reveal about God?

God was incensed. As a holy, righteous King, He was unwilling to tolerate the open rebellion of these men, so He warned Moses, “Separate yourselves from among this congregation, that I may consume them in a moment” (Numbers 16:21 ESV). God was so angry. And His anger was so great that He was willing to wipe out not only these men but the entire congregation as well. While the rebellion of Korah, Dathan and Abiram was more pronounced and obvious, the reality was that the entire congregation was guilty of rebellion against God. But Moses and Aaron interceded and begged God to spare the congregation and punish the ring leaders. So God allowed Moses to warn the people and have them separate themselves from Korah, Dathan and Abiram. Then His judgment fell, with the ground itself opening up and literally swallowing the men and their entire families. Not only that, the fire of the Lord wiped out the 250 men who had aligned themselves with Korah, Dathan and Abiram and sided against Aaron and Moses. God would not tolerate rebellion among His people. He knew it to be like a cancer that, if left unchecked, would spread among the people. So He eradicated it in a powerful way.

What does this passage reveal about man?

And yet, amazingly, we read, “on the next day all the congregation of the people of Israel grumbled against Moses and against Aaron, saying, ‘You have killed the people of the Lord’” (Numbers 16:41 ESV). Once again, the disbelieve that what had happened was God’s will. And they openly rebel against God’s representatives. So as before, God warned Moses and Aaron to separate themselves from the people because He was about to destroy them. But Moses intercedes yet again, telling Aaron to take his censer and “carry it quickly to the congregation and make atonement for them, for wrath has gone out from the Lord; the plague has begun” (Numbers 16:36 ESV). God was bringing judgment on the people, and Moses’ quick thinking and Aarons’ immediate response spared the lives of many. In spite of their efforts, 14,700 people died that day – at the hand of God. There would have been even more, had not Moses and Aaron acted. Their rebellion was a sin against God, and only the atoning work of Aaron, the high priest, was able to satisfy the righteous judgment of God against them. Doubt is inevitable and, if left unchecked, it will always result in disobedience and rebellion against God. Mankind is prone to unfaithfulness, even those who call themselves followers of God. Disobedience is in our nature. The risk of rebellion is a constant reality for each of us.

How would I apply what I’ve read to my own life?

In the gospel of Luke we see the people of God once again rebelling against the will of God. He had sent His Son as the Savior of the world. But Jesus didn’t come as they had anticipated He would. He failed to meet their expectations. Rather than a conquering king on a white horse, followed by a powerful army, He was a carpenter from the small hamlet of Nazareth and accompanied by a rag-tag group of disciples. Rather than revere Jesus, the religious leaders found Him revolting. They longed to rid themselves of His presence. They arrested Him and dragged Him before Pilate, the governor, for trial and, ultimately, execution. Even Pilate found Jesus to be innocent of any wrong doing. He tried repeatedly to release Him, but the people demanded His crucifixion. And they got their wish. Their rebellion against God’s resulted in the death of the One whom God had sent. They doubted God’s Word and rejected His will. Writing more than 750 years before the events of the crucifixion, the prophet Isaiah predicted, “But he was pierced for our rebellion, crushed for our sins. He was beaten so we could be whole. He was whipped so we could be healed” (Isaiah 53:5 NLT). God sent His Son to deal with our rebellion. But rather than snuff us out, He provided a means by which we could be healed and made whole. He payed the debt we owed, He suffered the death that was meant for us. He took on the penalty for our rebellion against God.

Father, prior to Christ coming into my life, I was a rebel against You. I was a law breaker and fully deserving of death. But rather than wipe me out like You did Korah, You gave me a way out through Jesus Christ. He died in my place. He suffered for my rebellion. My sins nailed Him to the cross. My bore my guilt and took on the penalty for my sins. And I can never thank You enough. Amen

Ken Miller
Grow Pastor & Minister to Men