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 actually the great grandson of Levi, and as a Levite Korah would have had the responsibility of worship in the 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?” 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; providing 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.
The word “rebel” has taken on a different connotation in the past half century. The classic 1955 movie “Rebel without a cause”, starring James Dean, was the beginning of a revolt against the status quo. The 1970’s sexual revolution and the revolution against the establishment “the Man” went even further. Today there is a rebellion against entrenched norms of society (marriage, heterosexuality, family in general). Sometimes the act of rebellion is more subtle at work, at school or even church. And the rebel, rather than being viewed in negative light, is rather elevated as a type of hero, someone who should be lauded by society. But what does the Bible tell us?
Back to the Israelites, we are quick to judge them, 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 ourselves. Dr. James MacDonald, in his radio series “Replace a Rebellious Attitude” lists some of these unhealthy attitudes as: jealousy (v3 wanting the authority others have); delusion (want the honour of leadership but don’t understand the price of it); ungratefulness (vs 9 – forgetting what God has already given you); stubbornness (vs 12 – are you a difficult person to lead?); disappointment (v13 – sometimes we’re legitimately disappointed by leaders, but this is never a reason to rebel); and distrust (v14 – we’re not going to trust you, we’re not blind).
If you have been on a sports team where members have rebelled against the captain or against the coach, you will know that this is an ugly place to be. Whatever legitimate reason there may have been for the revolt, there is never a good conclusion. The end result is loss. In the same way, while we all face many hurtful things, we must understand that God shelters us through his ordained authority in our lives (bosses, spouses, parents, church leaders etc), and unless they are asking you to sin against God, you need to do the things they ask you to do. Recognize that not doing them is dangerous; under authority is a safe place, away from authority is a place of peril.
Above all never be the person who leads the rebellion, for more than rebellion against man you rebel against God. Read verses 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 with the chief priests and elders 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 harshly and rhetorically said to the crowd: “Am I leading a rebellion that you have come out with swords and clubs to capture me?” Jesus gave us an excellent example of one who honoured, “pay to Caesar what is Caesar’s”, yet he always held the line on doing the will of his father in Heaven.
“Let everyone be subject to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God. Consequently whoever rebels against the authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and those who do so will bring judgment on themselves. (Romans 13: 1-7)