The Authority of Christians

When you review the history of Israel, from Egypt to Canaan, you discover that the nation got into trouble every time they resisted the leadership of Moses and Aaron. Whenever God sought to build the people’s faith by bringing them into a difficult situation, they immediately rebelled against Moses and Aaron, blamed them for their plight, and made plans to return to Egypt.

These chapters record two challenges to the leadership of Moses and Aaron, one from a group of Levites (16:1–35) and one from the people as a whole (vv. 41–50). Out of each of these confrontations came a visible reminder to the Jews of their rebellion: the brass covering on the altar (vv. 36–40) and Aaron’s rod that budded (17:1–13).
The first confrontation (16:1–35). No matter how much God did for them or taught them, Israel was not a spiritually minded people (Deut. 31:16–30). They still had Egypt in their hearts, and their lust for idols stayed with them even while they marched through the wilderness (Amos 5:25–26; Acts 7:42–43). Moses was a godly leader, and Israel could have been a godly people if they had obeyed what he taught them.

  1. Korah, a notable leader (vv. 1–3). A Levite in the family of Kohath, Korah must have been a distinguished leader to be able to enlist the support of 250 “men of renown” from the other tribes. The fact that the text gives his genealogy is another hint that he was an important man. Numbers 27:3 suggests that men from other tribes were involved in the rebellion, so it was a nationwide conspiracy. The Kohathites carried the tabernacle furniture when Israel marched to a new location, and they camped on the south side of the tabernacle, across from Gad, Simeon, and Reuben. Perhaps this explains how Korah was able to get Dathan, Abiram, and On, three Reubenites, to join him in his crusade.
    Whenever you find complaining and rebelling among God’s people, there’s usually a “stated reason” and a “hidden reason.” Korah’s public complaint was that Moses and Aaron were “running things” and not giving the people opportunity for input. He wanted more democracy in the camp. After all, the Lord dwelt in the entire camp and all the people were “a kingdom of priests” (Ex. 19:3–6), so who were Moses and Aaron to elevate themselves above everybody else? The hidden reason was that Korah wanted the Levites to have the same privileges as Aaron and his sons (Num. 16:10). Korah wasn’t satisfied to be assisting the priests; he wanted to be a priest.
  2. Whether it’s the ancient camp of Israel or a modern city, no society can function without subordination. Somebody has to be in charge. Parents have authority in the home, teachers in the classroom, managers in the factory or office, and civil servants in the city or nation (Rom. 13; 1 Peter 2:11ff). When this kind of order breaks down, then society is in serious trouble. God had chosen Moses to be leader of the nation and Aaron to be the high priest, and to resist this arrangement was to rebel against the will of God and bring serious division to the camp.
  3. The selfish desire for greatness and authority is a common theme in Scripture, whether it’s Korah opposing Moses and Aaron, Absalom defying his father (2 Sam. 15), Adonijah claiming the crown (1 Kings 1), the disciples arguing over which of them was the greatest (Luke 22:44), or Diotrephes loving to have preeminence in a local church (2 John 9–10). And yet the most important place in the Christian life is the place of God’s choice, the place He’s prepared for us and prepared us to fill. The important thing isn’t status but faithfulness, doing the work God wants us to do. Every member of the church, the body of Christ, has a spiritual gift to be used for serving others, and therefore every member is important to God and to the church (1 Cor. 12:14–18).

Published by Intentional Faith

Devoted to a Faith that Thinks

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