Day 17

Korah Incites Rebellion Against Moses

from the reading plan

Numbers 16:1-50, Psalms 46:8-11, Matthew 7:13-23

In Numbers 16, we see a crisis of authority among the ancient Israelites. The people were discouraged. Most of the spies who’d returned from the land of Canaan had given a dispiriting report (Numbers 13:32), and the generation that had left Egypt had been condemned to die in the wilderness. Having lost confidence in the leadership of Moses and Aaron, 250 prominent leaders threw their support behind Korah, a Levite, and Dathan, Abira, and On who were from the tribe of Reuben. There are two rebellions here: one against Aaron’s priestly authority, and one against Moses’s leadership of the nation.

Korah and the other rebels were able to gain a hearing because there was some truth in what they said—the entire assembly was holy; they were a nation set apart (Exodus 19:6, Deuteronomy 7:6). But this holiness did not mean that everyone had the same anointing as Moses, God’s chosen leader. Since God had authorized Moses and Aaron as leaders, the rebellions were not against them but “against the Lord” (Numbers 16:11).

Moses’s response can show us how to deal with a crisis of authority. Humble as he was (Numbers 12:3), he did not throw his weight around or try to maneuver behind the scenes. Instead, he appealed to God to vindicate him. At the same time, he and Aaron prayed on behalf of the whole community (Numbers 16:22).

God did vindicate Moses and Aaron by clearly judging the actions of the rebels. There is a tragic reversal: the ones who sought earthly power, their lives ended by going down into the earth, and for those who sought spiritual power, their lives ended by being burned up like an offering. “Come, see the works of the LORD,” says the psalmist (Psalm 46:8). When He exercises His love in the form of justice, those works to us can look like devastation.

Jesus said, “Be on your guard against false prophets” (Matthew 7:15). False prophets produce bad fruit, but this fruit is not always obvious. At first, like Korah, they can make some good points. The false prophets Jesus mentioned had prophesied, driven out demons, and performed miracles in His name. But these spectacular signs aren’t necessarily good fruit; good fruit is doing the will of God. And doing the will of God involves accepting the atonement He offers through the death of Jesus, and humbly and patiently waiting for Him to vindicate us.

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