questioning figure March 5 Chronological Bible Study

Timeline. Map. Go to today’s Bible reading (NIV) or alternate versions (use your browser arrow to return): Numbers 16, 17, 18

Rebellion—How do we Handle It?

Most people are followers and are content to be so. Some people serve as leaders and faithfully serve with the responsibilities assigned to them. They may be the CEO's of their organization, school administrators, community leaders, teachers, pastors, youth leaders, Sunday School teachers, or even parents. There are usually a few people under their charge, however, which turn into rebels, and sometimes they lead others in rebellion. They may rebel because they do not like the direction the leadership is taking them. Other times they rebel because they want to be first. Perhaps they have been given some leadership responsibilities, but they want more power and status. How can people be discouraged from rebelling against their leadership?

Even though the Israelites gave into fear instead of acting in faith, and so lost their opportunity to enter the Promised Land, they blame the leadership. The Israelites are not happy to almost have possession of their land and then be denied. “Hope deferred makes the heart sick” (Proverbs 13:12a, NIV). They are disgruntled with the leadership of Moses and Aaron. These two led the nation to its inheritance and now they are leading them away from it!

Dissension arises from Korah, who is from the Kohathite family of Levites. They are in charge of carrying the articles of the tabernacle. Also involved in the rebellion are Dathan and Abiram of the tribe of Reuben and 250 notable community leaders from the rest of the tribes. This is a political and religious uprising (The Bible Knowledge Commentary of the O.T., by Walvoord and Zuck, ©1985, p.234 ). The sons of Korah want the priesthood so they criticize Moses and Aaron. This is mutiny (Numbers 16:8-10).

Moses and Aaron do not draw swords and fight; they let God be their defense. They let the LORD show the rebels whom he approves as his leaders. Through Moses, God instructs Aaron, Korah, Dathan, Abiram and 250 other rebels to appear before the LORD and the Israelites. They are to bring fires of incense in censers (containers in which incense is burned) to present before the LORD. When they and their followers gather in opposition to Moses at the entrance of the tent of meeting, God causes an earthquake to swallow Korah, Dathan, Abiram, and their families (apparently they are sympathetic with the rebellion). He also causes fire to destroy the other 250 who support the rebellion (Numbers 16:16-40). The rest of the congregation see the catastrophe, and they fear being swallowed up themselves.

Destroying those who opposed Moses and Aaron does not stop the grumbling, however, and so God destroys almost 15,000 more Israelites. Here are two lessons for us. First, the LORD defends his chosen leaders; therefore, those in Christian service should appeal to him for defense. Second, it is dangerous for us to publicly oppose God's appointed leaders and/or lead others in a rebellion against them.

Finally, to stop the grumbling over Aaron's priesthood, God visually demonstrates that he has chosen Aaron as the rightful priest (Numbers 17). The LORD has each of the twelve tribal chiefs bring a staff. Within twenty-four hours God makes Aaron's rod sprout, bud, blossom and produce almonds. There is no question as to whom the Almighty has chosen for the priesthood.

Following on the heels of God's approval of Aaron, are specific instructions so that the Israelites will not suffer more judgment for their insolence against the LORD and his appointed leaders.

The LORD said to Aaron, “You, your sons and your father's family are to bear the responsibility for offenses against the sanctuary, and you and your sons alone are to bear the responsibility for offenses against the priesthood.

Bring your fellow Levites from your ancestral tribe to join you and assist you when you and your sons minister before the Tent of the Testimony. They are to be responsible to you and are to perform all the duties of the Tent, but they must not go near the furnishings of the sanctuary or the altar, or both they and you will die.

They are to join you and be responsible for the care of the Tent of Meeting-- all the work at the Tent-- and no one else may come near where you are.

You are to be responsible for the care of the sanctuary and the altar, so that wrath will not fall on the Israelites again.

I myself have selected your fellow Levites from among the Israelites as a gift to you, dedicated to the LORD to do the work at the Tent of Meeting.

But only you and your sons may serve as priests in connection with everything at the altar and inside the curtain. I am giving you the service of the priesthood as a gift. Anyone else who comes near the sanctuary must be put to death” (Numbers 18:1-7, NIV)

Leadership is not merely for a position but for service. Because God chooses a particular tribe, the Levites, and a certain family of the tribe, Aaron, to be the priests, does not mean that these are just positional appointments for status and privilege. They are servants to Israel. And as his servants and representatives they are to lead the people in holiness, for God is holy and must be treated with the utmost reverence. Do we do this in our lives, service and worship? (1Peter 1:14-16)

In the eyes of people, they must see that their leaders are not just elitists or they will rebel. Leaders must serve for the best interests of the people. Their service must be more than words; they must be demonstrated daily by their deeds. The greater the leadership responsibilities, the greater the service which is required. Jesus said, “whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant... just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many” (Matthew 20:26,28, NIV).

Moses represents the people before the LORD. Many times because of his close relationship with God and his intercession for them, the LORD spares the whole congregation of Israel from being wiped out for her grumbling and rebellion.

The priests, who are from the tribe of Levi, are given the responsibility to offer the sacrifices of the worshippers in prescribed manners. They are no better than the other Israelites, however, because they have to offer sacrifices for their own sins first before they offer sacrifices for the Israelites. When the Israelites come to offer their sacrifices for whatever purpose, the priests are to offer the best of the sacrifices to the LORD, and then they can share what is left. The rest of the Levites are assistants to the priests. They are given the tithes brought to the tabernacle for its upkeep. From them they are to offer ten percent of their tithes to the LORD through the priests.

What about our leadership? We may be the head of an organization, church, or home. How do we view ourselves? As leaders we are accorded some honor, but has it gone to our heads? Do we serve people or are we self-serving? Do we give the best or keep it for ourselves? Are we devoted to people in service as their representatives or are we devoted to obtaining positions of status and privilege? We will be like Jesus and we will be the most loved if we live sacrificially for the people we serve. God honors those who honor him (1Samuel 2:30) and rewards faithful stewards (Luke 12:42-44).

Lessons to Live By

  • We can discourage rebellion by giving leaders proper honor and support.
  • God defends his chosen leaders; it is dangerous for us to publicly oppose them and/or lead others in a rebellion against them.
  • Leadership is not merely for a position but for service.
  • We will be like Jesus and we will be the most loved if we live sacrificially for the people we serve. God honors those who honor him and rewards faithful stewards.

Focus verses

Matthew 20:26,28 (NIV) “Jesus said,

whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant... just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”

Through Jesus we have forgiveness, peace, and spiritual life (more...).

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A Look Ahead: The Rebellion is over, but there will still be challenges. Join us for our Next Lesson called, Waters of Cleansing, Testing, and Victory.

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