TODAY’S READING: Numbers 16–17
Aaron got a taste of his own medicine when the same sentiment he expressed against Moses was then leveled against him. Aaron and Miriam rebelled by asking Moses: “Has the Lord indeed spoken only through Moses” (Num. 12:2)? Korah, Dathan, Abiram, and a contingent of 250 leaders then rebelled against Moses and Aaron and accused them of taking too much upon themselves (16:3). The charge was connected to calling, for the rebels thought they were holy enough to perform the priestly function (v. 10). It appears the rebels once again lost the big picture, and in so doing rebelled not against Aaron (“What is Aaron?” in verse 11), but against the passions of God. What was the big picture? Jehovah promised to be Israel’s God and to live among them. That covenant promise required Israel to be holy so God could dwell in their midst and bless them to be a blessing to all nations of the earth. Holiness had a fixed focus beyond ritual cleansing, for it was intended as the empowerment to bless nations with the glory of God. This is why the Spirit of God is called the Holy Spirit, not so God’s people can be quarantined in church buildings or safe little Bible studies, but so we are fit to proclaim God’s glory in all the earth.
This misguided power grab of Korah and friends does not end well—the earth swallows some (v. 32), fire consumes others (v. 35), and wrathful plague destroys the rest (v. 46). Evidently, God doesn’t take it too well when anyone suggests a deviation from His passions. There are applications in this sobering story for missions:
- When we forget the mission of God, we tend to misjudge the motive of our leaders (v. 3).
- When we are dissatisfied with our role in missions, our ambition leads to complaining (vv. 8–11).
- When we do not have the patience to see God’s purposes prevail among the nations, we easily slip into rebellion. (vv. 12–14)
- Rebellion leads to the destroying wrath of God on us, which severely hampers our ability to be intercessors going forward (vv. 32, 35, 46)!
Perhaps the most precious missions takeaway from this story is the reaction of Moses and Aaron to those who misunderstand the big picture. Moses and Aaron responded to the folly of their followers with an interceding heart: “Then they fell on their faces, and said, ‘O God, the God of the spirits of all flesh, shall one man sin, and You be angry with all the congregation?’” (v. 22). And once again God’s missionary heart and nature is exposed and highlighted as the center of the narrative—“the God of the spirits of all flesh.” This is the center of it all—God loving and redeeming and sanctifying and blessing all flesh. He is the God of all peoples, nations, tribes, and tongues.
God absolutely loves it when His priests reflect back to Him His own heart. A second time God threatens to consume, and Moses and Aaron again fall on their face and intercede (v. 45). God is the God of all flesh. God is not willing that any perish. God wants all 414 unreached people groups of Pakistan to be saved from the wrath to come. God is looking for men and women, not who will grumble and judge and seek a title or more noticeable position, but who will fall as intercessors on their faces in quiet living rooms and reverent sanctuaries and weep for those billions still under the looming wrath of God.