Numbers 16: 1 Korah…and certain Reubinites…became insolent and rose up against Moses.
Numbers 16 documents the story of three leaders in the Israelite camp, Korah, Dathan and Abiram, who stir up a rebellion against Moses. Korah was the great grandson of Levi and, as a Levite, Korah was responsible for temple worship. We are told that he, along with Dathan and Abiram, who were Reubenites, were able to assemble 250 Israelite men who were also “well-known community leaders”. These men came as a group to oppose Moses and Aaron and said to them: “You have gone too far! The whole community is holy, every one of them, and the Lord is with them. Why then do you set yourselves above the Lord’s assembly?” (Numbers 16:3b). To put this into context, it had been about a year since Moses and the Israelites had been freed from Egypt. God had appointed Moses (with his brother Aaron to assist him) to free the Israelites from captivity and God did so in miraculous ways (sending plagues on Egypt; parting the Red Sea for the Israelites, and killing Pharaoh’s army behind them; providing water, manna and quail for food; supplying a pillar of cloud at day and pillar of fire at night to lead the people, etc). But those miracles, and the man God used (namely Moses), were clearly forgotten by these leaders and they chose to rebel.
We are quick to judge the Israelites, but the reality is that there is a rebel in each of us. If you read the entire chapter of Numbers 16, you will see that rebellion was rooted in a number of unhealthy attitudes that we need to check in ourselves. Those attitudes can include jealousy (v3 desiring authority of others); ungratefulness (vs 9 – forgetting what God has already done for you); insubordination (vs 12 – unwilling to be lead); disappointment (v13 – sometimes we’re legitimately disappointed by leaders, but this is never a reason to rebel); and mistrust (v14 – haven’t received what we expected, so no longer trust). Sometimes, especially when we are younger, a final attitude we have to watch for is delusion. We have a desire for leadership, but we actually have no understanding of the godly requirement of leadership. It is heavy.
If you have been on a team where members have rebelled against the captain or coach, you know that this is an ugly situation. Whatever legitimate reason there may have been for the revolt, there is rarely a good conclusion. In the same way, while we all face hurtful things, we must understand that God shelters us through his ordained authority in our lives (from bosses, spouses, parents, church leaders etc), and unless they are asking you to sin against God, you need to honor leadership. Recognize that rebelling is dangerous; being under authority is a safe place, and away from authority is a place of peril. “Consequently, whoever rebels against the authority is rebelling against what God instituted…” (Romans 13:2a)
Above all never be the person who leads the rebellion, for more than rebellion against man you rebel against God. Read Numbers 16: 31-32 to see how that turned out for Korah and all who followed him. And if you feel that Jesus was a rebel, look at his own words and actions. In Matthew 26 when Judas and the large crowd came to arrest Jesus, they came with clubs and swords and Peter drew out his sword and cut off the ear of one of them. Jesus rebuked Peter, and then asked the crowd rhetorically: “Am I leading a rebellion that you have come out with swords and clubs to capture me?” (vs. 55). Jesus gave us an excellent example of one who honored, “pay to Caesar what is Caesar’s”, yet he always held the line on doing God’s will.