The Danger With Discontentment

1 Now Korah the son of Izhar, son of Kohath, son of Levi, and Dathan and Abiram the sons of Eliab, and On the son of Peleth, sons of Reuben, took men. And they rose up before Moses, with a number of the people of Israel, 250 chiefs of the congregation, chosen from the assembly, well-known men. 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, “In the morning the Lord will show who is his, and who is holy, and will bring him near to him. The one whom he chooses he will bring near to him. Do this: take censers, Korah and all his company; put fire in them and put incense on them before the Lord tomorrow, and the man whom the Lord chooses shall be the holy one. You have gone too far, sons of Levi!” And Moses said to Korah, “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, 10 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? 11 Therefore it is against the Lord that you and all your company have gathered together. What is Aaron that you grumble against him?”

12 And Moses sent to call Dathan and Abiram the sons of Eliab, and they said, “We will not come up. 13 Is it a small thing that you have brought us up out of a land flowing with milk and honey, to kill us in the wilderness, that you must also make yourself a prince over us? 14 Moreover, you have not brought us into a land flowing with milk and honey, nor given us inheritance of fields and vineyards. Will you put out the eyes of these men? We will not come up.” Numbers 16:1-14 ESV

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 had done for them? Why would they continue to whine, complain, and moan about their lot in life when the God of the universe was leading them, providing for them, and revealing Himself to them day after day? But the truth is, as believers, we have the Spirit of God living within us and the Word of God made available to us and yet we still struggle with obedience and belief. So, we probably shouldn’t be too quick to harshly judge the Israelites.

Yet in today’s story from chapter 16 we have another occurrence of jealousy and rebellion. It seems that Korah, a grandson of Kohath, and a member of the tribe of Levi, decided that he wanted to be free to take part in the priestly responsibilities. As a Kohathite, he was part of the clan responsible for the transportation and care of all the vessels and utensils of the Tabernacle. They had been assigned that role by God.

“The duties of the Kohathites at the Tabernacle will relate to the most sacred objects.” – Numbers 4:4 NLT

According to God’s instructions, the Kohathites had a very specific role to play. And in order for them to do that job, Aaron, the high priest, and his sons had to prepare all the sacred objects for transport.

“When the camp moves, Aaron and his sons must enter the Tabernacle first to take down the inner curtain and cover the Ark of the Covenant with it. Then they must cover the inner curtain with fine goatskin leather and spread over that a single piece of blue cloth. Finally, they must put the carrying poles of the Ark in place.” – Numbers 4:5-6 NLT

Every item had to be carefully prepared according to God’s painstaking instructions. If Aaron and his sons failed to do everything just as God had commanded, it would have devastating consequences for Korah and the rest of his clan.

“The camp will be ready to move when Aaron and his sons have finished covering the sanctuary and all the sacred articles. The Kohathites will come and carry these things to the next destination. But they must not touch the sacred objects, or they will die.” – Numbers 4:15 NLT

“Do not let the Kohathite clans be destroyed from among the Levites! This is what you must do so they will live and not die when they approach the most sacred objects. Aaron and his sons must always go in with them and assign a specific duty or load to each person. The Kohathites must never enter the sanctuary to look at the sacred objects for even a moment, or they will die.” – Numbers 4:18-20 NLT

All the holy objects were to be covered with cloths to prevent the Kohathites from inadvertently touching them. And the larger items had poles inserted into the specially crafted rings that allowed them to be carried safely and securely without risk of death. It should have been considered an honor to carry these priceless objects that were essential for the worship of Yahweh. Yet, we learn that Korah was not content with the God-ordained role he and his clan had been assigned. He wanted more.

Driven by jealousy and a desire for greater prominence, he enlisted the support of others and, together, they incited a rebellion against Moses, along with 250 other leaders of the community, all prominent members of the assembly” (Numbers 4:2 NLT). It was a coup.

Korah 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 by replacing them with the sons of Levi. His argument was that every single Israelite was 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).

Although Korah was from the tribe of Levi, he and his clan were not allowed to serve as priests, and he found this slight to be unacceptable. He viewed their role as “moving men” to be less-than-acceptable and more than a bit demeaning.

In his defense, Korah was basing his argument on a statement given by God when the people of Israel were still in Egypt.

“Now therefore, if you will indeed obey my voice and keep my covenant, you shall be my treasured possession among all peoples, for all the earth is mine; and you shall be to me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.” – Exodus 19:5-6 NLT

But what Korah failed to remember was that the entire nation had done irreparable damage to their holy status when they had been encamped at Mount Sinai. While Moses had been up on the mountaintop receiving the Ten Commandments from God, the people had decided to turn their back on God and worship a newly constructed golden calf (Exodus 32). And as punishment for their sin, God had given Moses orders to execute all those who had taken part in the idolatrous festivities.

So he stood at the entrance to the camp and shouted, “All of you who are on the Lord’s side, come here and join me.” And all the Levites gathered around him.

Moses told them, “This is what the Lord, the God of Israel, says: Each of you, take your swords and go back and forth from one end of the camp to the other. Kill everyone—even your brothers, friends, and neighbors.” The Levites obeyed Moses’ command, and about 3,000 people died that day. – Exodus 32:26-28 NLT

It had been the Levites who stood by Moses’ side and carried out God’s orders. As a result, Moses rewarded them for their show of faithfulness and obedience.

“Today you have ordained yourselves for the service of the Lord, for you obeyed him even though it meant killing your own sons and brothers. Today you have earned a blessing.” – Exodus 32:29 NLT

But Korah wasn’t satisfied with God’s will. He demanded that a new plan be put in place. Yet, Moses attempted to reason with his disgruntled kinsman.

“Does it seem insignificant to you that the God of Israel has chosen you from among all the community of Israel to be near him so you can serve in the Lord’s Tabernacle and stand before the people to minister to them? Korah, he has already given this special ministry to you and your fellow Levites. Are you now demanding the priesthood as well?” – Numbers 16:9-10 NLT

Moses couldn’t understand why Korah considered himself and his clansmen as second-class citizens. Why was he unable to view their God-ordained role as vital and worthy of their best efforts? And Moses tried to warn them that their complaint was really with God, not himself or Aaron.

The Lord is the one you and your followers are really revolting against! For who is Aaron that you are complaining about him?” – Numbers 16:11 NLT

Korah was walking on thin ice. He was venturing into uncharted waters that would not bring him to a far-from-pleasant destination. And Moses attempted to reason with Korah’s compatriots, but they refused to listen to what he had to say.

“We refuse to come before you! Isn’t it enough that you brought us out of Egypt, a land flowing with milk and honey, to kill us here in this wilderness, and that you now treat us like your subjects? What’s more, you haven’t brought us into another land flowing with milk and honey. You haven’t given us a new homeland with fields and vineyards. Are you trying to fool these men? We will not come.” – Numbers 16:12-14 NLT

The stage was set. The lines were drawn. Korah and his disenchanted companions stood their ground and refused to heed the warnings of Moses. They were done taking orders from Moses and Aaron. As far as they were concerned, it was their time to shine and they would not be satisfied until they were the ones calling the shots.

But they failed to recognize that their complaints had reached the ears of God. He had been listening to their arrogant demands and knew that their discontentment was ultimately directed at Him. And it’s interesting to note that the very people who were responsible for transporting the holy objects from the tabernacle were carrying resentment for the very one for whom the tabernacle had been constructed.

English Standard Version (ESV) The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. ESV® Permanent Text Edition® (2016). Copyright © 2001

New Living Translation (NLT) Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

 

Out With the Old. In With the New.

28 Then King David answered, “Call Bathsheba to me.” So she came into the king’s presence and stood before the king. 29 And the king swore, saying, “As the Lord lives, who has redeemed my soul out of every adversity, 30 as I swore to you by the Lord, the God of Israel, saying, ‘Solomon your son shall reign after me, and he shall sit on my throne in my place,’ even so will I do this day.” 31 Then Bathsheba bowed with her face to the ground and paid homage to the king and said, “May my lord King David live forever!”

32 King David said, “Call to me Zadok the priest, Nathan the prophet, and Benaiah the son of Jehoiada.” So they came before the king. 33 And the king said to them, “Take with you the servants of your lord and have Solomon my son ride on my own mule, and bring him down to Gihon. 34 And let Zadok the priest and Nathan the prophet there anoint him king over Israel. Then blow the trumpet and say, ‘Long live King Solomon!’ 35 You shall then come up after him, and he shall come and sit on my throne, for he shall be king in my place. And I have appointed him to be ruler over Israel and over Judah.” 36 And Benaiah the son of Jehoiada answered the king, “Amen! May the Lord, the God of my lord the king, say so. 37 As the Lord has been with my lord the king, even so may he be with Solomon, and make his throne greater than the throne of my lord King David.”

38 So Zadok the priest, Nathan the prophet, and Benaiah the son of Jehoiada, and the Cherethites and the Pelethites went down and had Solomon ride on King David’s mule and brought him to Gihon. 39 There Zadok the priest took the horn of oil from the tent and anointed Solomon. Then they blew the trumpet, and all the people said, “Long live King Solomon!” 40 And all the people went up after him, playing on pipes, and rejoicing with great joy, so that the earth was split by their noise. 1 Kings 1:28-40 ESV

The news of Adonijah’s treachery had an immediate impact on David. The very real threat of the nation engaging in a deadly civil war stirred the elderly king into action.    David knew from past experience that Adonijah would do everything in his power to rally support for his cause and divide the nation further. His ambitious son had already swayed a large portion of the royal court to join him in his attempted coup. And he had convinced the rest of David’s sons to ally themselves to his cause. Joab, a powerful and influential general in David’s army, also gave Adonijah his full support. This was a strategic move on Joab’s part because he had lost favor with the king.

When Absalom, another one of David’s sons, had attempted to usurp the throne from his father, Joab had violated David’s orders by taking Absalom’s life (2 Samuel 18:14). While his action had helped to save David’s kingdom, it resulted in his removal as the general of Israel’s army (2 Samuel 19:13). Rather than thank Joab, David demoted him and gave his job to Amasa. By aligning himself with Adonijah, Joab saw his chance to seek revenge against David and to reclaim his former role as the supreme commander of Israel’s forces.

Adonijah had covered all his bases, ensuring that he had the backing of the royal administration, the military, and the religious leadership. He had convinced Abiathar the priest to join his cause, because he understood the powerful influence the priesthood held over the people. With Abiathar on his side, Adonijah could lead the people to believe he had God’s seal of approval.

David, understanding the immediacy of the threat, acted quickly, providing Bathsheba with his assurance that that their son, Solomon, would be the next king of Israel. He called in representatives of the priesthood, the prophets, and the military, informing these three men of his intentions to make Solomon his co-regent. He gave them instructions to begin the proceedings and set in motion the official commissioning of Solomon as the next king of Israel.

“Take with you the servants of your lord and have Solomon my son ride on my own mule, and bring him down to Gihon. And let Zadok the priest and Nathan the prophet there anoint him king over Israel. Then blow the trumpet and say, ‘Long live King Solomon!’” – 1 Kings 1:33-34 ESV

This was going to have to be an expedited coronation because Adonijah was already declaring himself to be the true king of Israel. David knew he had no time to waste. Under normal conditions, Solomon would not have taken the throne until after David’s death, but these were drastic times that called for drastic measures. So, David instructed Zadok, Nathan, and Benaiah to act quickly. After anointing Solomon with holy oil from the tabernacle, they were to personally escort Solomon to the capital and crown him as king. 

“…he will sit on my throne. He will succeed me as king, for I have appointed him to be ruler over Israel and Judah.” – 1 Kings 1:35 NLT

Understanding the seriousness of the circumstances, these men did not question David’s commands, but expressed their full support.

“May the Lord, the God of my lord the king, decree that it happen. And may the Lord be with Solomon as he has been with you, my lord the king, and may he make Solomon’s reign even greater than yours!” – 1 Kings 1:36-37 NLT

They followed David’s instructions to the letter and, in what must have been record time, they had coronated their new king. Just imagine the thoughts going through the mind of Solomon, the young son of David, who suddenly found himself seated on his father’s throne, wearing his father’s crown, and trying to take in all that was happening to him and around him.

There is no indication that Solomon understood any of what was taking place. It is likely that he knew he was next in line for his father’s throne, but all of this had happened so suddenly. He must have wondered if his father had died. But he was given no time to grieve or to question what has happening. Caught up in a whirlwind of unanticipated events, Solomon suddenly found himself thrust into a role for which he was neither prepared nor properly forewarned. As the people shouted, “Long live King Solomon!” the seriousness and soberness of the situation must have begun to sink in. His young life would never be the same. He had some big sandals to fill. David was going to be a hard act to follow. And with the hasty coronation of Solomon, the nation of Israel was poised to enter a new phase in its relationship with God.

English Standard Version (ESV) The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. ESV® Permanent Text Edition® (2016). Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.

New Living Translation (NLT) Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

The Message (MSG)Copyright © 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002 by Eugene H. Peterson