NUMBERS 16:1 – 18:32 and MARK 5:21–43
Shortly after the children of Israel failed in the entering into their inheritance we see an uprising amongst some of the key leaders. It would only be a matter of time before some of the same issues of rebellion and heart issues would surface. The key area of insurrection seems to centre around verse 3. They took issue with Moses on the subject of holiness. Perhaps it was in the reiteration of some of the Levitical protocols that instigated this challenge to leadership.
Moses was continuing to lift up a high standard and it was a standard and price that many were not willing to pay. Korah, Dathan and Abiram made the statement that all were holy.
Num 16:2 And they rose up before Moses, with certain of the children of Israel, two hundred and fifty princes of the assembly, famous in the congregation, men of renown:
Num 16:3 And they gathered themselves together against Moses and against Aaron, and said unto them, Ye take too much upon you, seeing all the congregation are holy, every one of them, and the LORD is among them: wherefore then lift ye up yourselves above the congregation of the LORD?
The message that Moses was endorsing was shining a light on many in the camp. This would make them uncomfortable and so they would fire back by saying “Who do you think you are; are you someone special, are you and the select few better than everyone else? This is what happens when a people seek to live by a higher standard. This is what happened to Daniel as he committed himself to a consecrated life towards God. His actions drew God’s favour and bred jealousy and envy in the other leaders (Dan 6:1-9). Is this not a problem we see today?
The teaching of a day to day dying to self is an offense to many. To live the life of the Cross requires a commitment that is above the norm. This level of commitment will automatically distinguish such a person from the others. To compensate, many church leaders will couch intellectually stimulating messages that inspires but minimizes the work and effect of the Cross. How do you think people like Korah, Dathan and Abiram would respond to the message of Atonement? Do you think there was soul affliction being applied in their lives? Are there not pulpits today that dismiss sin, or compromise on doctrinal issues which results in a watering down of the message on true holiness?
It would not be surprising if these men (Korah and the others) were among those who helped to perpetuate the poison regarding the obtaining of their inheritance (Num 13-14). These were no ordinary men and their resulting influence was quite strong. Today, we have to guard against the “easy gospel” concept that is so pervasive. God is making a distinction and we better be circumspect of heart to prevent ourselves from being on the wrong side.
Moses immediately fell on his face due to knowing that this transgression was of a very serious nature (vs 4). Korah and those who aligned with him were not challenging Moses, they were challenging God. Moses understood this! He also knew that God was going to make very clear as to who was holy as opposed to those who pretended to be. Remember, they were making the assertion that all of the congregation was holy. This was a very serious challenge to God for He is not mocked. One of the other areas of guilt was there presuming themselves to be priests (vs 10).
The Lord told Moses to separate themselves and the congregation from among these men and their families due to the fact that he was about to destroy them. Even the plea of Moses’s intercession was not able to spare judgment in this matter (vs 20-22). There are times when God was moved by the intercessory prayer of others when judgment was stayed. In this case however God said to separate from them.
Rom 9:15 For he saith to Moses, I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I will have compassion.
God is a merciful God but this was a situation where God was not extending mercy. This is His prerogative. Moses quickly declared that there be a separation from Korah, Dathan and Abiram. We must have an ability to hear from God at such times. In the last days that same plea is emphatically given.
Rev 18:4 And I heard another voice from heaven, saying, Come out of her, my people, that ye be not partakers of her sins, and that ye receive not of her plagues.
The similarities between Korah’s day and this reference in Revelation are very strong. It is easy to allow emotions and human mercy to fog our judgement. The holiness of God is something not to be trifled with. We already saw this in the strange fire incident involving Nadab and Abihu. Sadly, holiness is not an esteemed subject in many churches today, It is better to talk about the good life and emphasize all of the values and benefits of kingdom living; having a “what can God can do for me type of mentality”.
The judgement of the Lord come upon them in verses 31-40. God opened up the earth and swallowed these men and their families. What a horrifying sight this must have been. One moment they are in plain view of everyone; putting their challenge to God and establishing their influence and then just as quickly are gone. They are gone for eternity! The familiar cry of Exo 32:26 “Who is on the Lord’s side” is about to echo forth again. Will we be prepared or will be among those choosing to live for God on our terms. Will we be those who lightly regard the things of God? This was Esau’s downfall. He had little or no regard for God. His simple appetite for beans was worth the letting go of an eternal blessing. As a people make an approach towards Zion and the vision it entails there will be notable opposition that will come forth. It will not be so much an opposition that comes from the outside the church but rather something internal. The Korah’s, Balaam’s and Cain’s are in the church and we need to be warned and vigilant.
Jud 1:11 Woe unto them! for they have gone in the way of Cain, and ran greedily after the error of Balaam for reward, and perished in the gainsaying of Core.
This will be picked up further when we look at the ministry of Balaam.
This chapter primarily deals with God’s authority. This is fresh on the heels of the challenge of leadership on the subject of holiness. God is now going to further establish as to who has the true authority. Each of the leaders of the 12 tribes were to take a rod from the house of their father’s, placing their names upon them and laying them in the Holy of holies portion of the Tabernacle. Aaron was to represent the tribe of Levi.
The Lord mentioned that the rod that will bloom and bud will have the true authority and that this will quell the murmurings of the people in future matters. The following day it was the rod of Aaron that budded, bloomed and brought forth almonds (vs 8). The Lord then instructed Moses to show all the rods to the congregation so that they understood the significance of Aaron’s rod. The people clearly understood by this one act and the preceding one concerning Korah, Dathan and Abiram that the message of holiness was real and not to be taken lightly. Aaron’s rod that budded not only speaks of authority but it also speaks of Resurrection power.
We also come to know that Aaron’s rod was one of the three items that was placed inside the Ark of the Covenant. There was the golden pot of manna which speaks of the hidden truths. This can be likened to the 6th kingdom parable of the pearl of great price (Math 13:45-46). There were also the two tables of stone which represents the Law of God. Once again we see a very strong emphasis on the priesthood as well as the power and authority associated with it.
The Lord gives warning to Aaron that he and his sons are to manage the affairs of their priesthood responsibly. They will bear their iniquity if they were to violate their office. As time goes on we will see a variation of priests. There are some who were faithful and zealous for God; men who served in integrity and reverential fear. A priest is an ambassador of God. He is one who should be acquainted with God’s ways and his heart. Jesus made this statement.
Joh 14:9 Jesus saith unto him, Have I been so long time with you, and yet hast thou not known me, Philip? he that hath seen me hath seen the Father; and how sayest thou then, Shew us the Father?
Col 1:15 Who is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of every creature:
A priest who functioned in the Tabernacle had to do so with reverence and respect. His life and manner of work would be observed by multitudes. Such a priest will convey great influence. If a priest lightly regards God then it will have an effect on the congregation. On the other hand if a priest takes his role seriously it will help bring people into a better understanding of the nature of God. It will help ensure an awesome sense of the Fear of the Lord; something that is sadly lacking in many pulpits today.
The contents of Numbers 18 are a strong parallel to Ezekiel 44. There is a distinction that is seen amongst the priesthood. In Ezekiel you have a group of priests simply known as the Levites. They have a ministry but it is not to the holy things of God. These priests have a ministry that is primarily unto the people; ministering to them according to the idols and areas of uncircumcision in their heart. In other words they are priests who put a higher premium on how people view them as opposed to God. Their teaching’s and manner of ministry catered somewhat to people’s wants and desires (Eze 44:10-12). There is another group of priests known as the sons of Zadok who have a ministry unto God. These are a group of priests who make a distinction between the holy and the profane (Eze 44:23). Their inheritance is the Lord. (Eze 44:28) This links with Numbers 18:20.
Num 18:20 And the LORD spake unto Aaron, Thou shalt have no inheritance in their land, neither shalt thou have any part among them: I am thy part and thine inheritance among the children of Israel.
The Lord is putting a high premium on holiness in chapter 18. There are considerable warnings for the general congregation in coming near the holy things of God (vs 22). We have already seen judgements in this area. The sin of Nadab and Abihu was when they offered strange fire upon the golden altar of incense. This was the altar in the holy place which was set before the entrance to the most Holy place. We saw the judgment upon Korah, Dathan and Abiram in their challenge to Moses on the subject of holiness. How is this subject viewed today? Do we have respect for the holy things of God? The key in being able to properly answer this question lies within the priesthood of believers.
1Pe 2:9 But ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people; that ye should shew forth the praises of him who hath called you out of darkness into his marvellous light:
Mark 5 – Read day 50 commentary