Numbers 16:41-45

The next day the whole Israelite community grumbled against Moses and Aaron. “You have killed the Lord’s people” they said. But when the assembly gathered in opposition to Moses and Aaron and turned toward the Tent of Meeting, suddenly the cloud covered it and the glory of the Lord appeared. Then Moses and Aaron went to the front of the Tent of Meeting and the Lord said to Moses. Get away from this assembly so I can put an end to them at once.  And they fell face down.

 Three months after God’s discipline began a major rebellion erupted in the church. In less than 48 hours the Lord had appeared twice to put an end to the people he delivered from Egypt. It can be difficult to understand why God is eager to destroy “his people” unless you know what the Lord knows. The Lord knows who is his and who isn’t.[1]  The Lord knows who is in the church seeking personal gain and who is in the church because they love him. We don’t know everything the Lord knows. 

Jesus told a parable explaining how to protect the wheat God planted, that doesn’t know everything God knows, as they grow into maturity.[2] If an enemy sows tares among the wheat, the stewards of God’s field must let both grow together until the wheat is ripe. Another way of saying until the time is right. Even if the stewards are mature enough to discern who the Lord planted and who an enemy planted, the immature wheat growing next to tares will not be able to discern who is the Lord’s and who is not. If the stewards’ pull up the tares before it is clear to the wheat that the person they have been growing side by side with is a tare planted by an enemy, the wheat will be uprooted with the tare. The wheat will rebel when the tare they loved is removed. If you are immature in God, you won’t understand why the person you have been growing with, fellowshipping with, praying with and maybe even ministering with is suddenly removed and it will make you angry to your own detriment. 

The only thing the Lord requested of Pharaoh is that he let his people go into the wilderness and worship him. Moses did not try to convert Pharaoh, a tare that the enemy planted among his people. I cannot find a scripture that states Moses invited Pharaoh to join them in the worship of his God. Had Pharaoh allowed the children of Jacob to worship the God they chose in the manner their God required, Pharaoh could have lived out his natural life worshiping the idol he choose. Pharaoh was a tare among wheat who worshipped and taught others how to worship, but he did not worship a living God, the God of Abraham. Pharaoh got himself into trouble because he would not let men choose. Pharaoh’s way of worshipping made men so miserable they wanted to serve a God that was not under Pharaoh’s control and he refused to let them. Every one in Egypt had to worship according to Pharaohs dictates and that arrogance resulted in an early death for Pharaoh and all who refused to separate from him. 

Korah’s church had been in operation long enough to have won the support of 250 famous men. It is interesting to note that neither the Lord nor the Lord’s men, Moses and Aaron, did anything, at least not anything recorded, to shut down this unauthorized church within the church. They acted according to Jesus parable to let the tares and the wheat grow together.

Korah got himself in trouble for the same reason Pharaoh did. He tried to control God’s church. If Korah and his men had stayed in their own church, Korah’s followers could have worshipped following Korah’s dictates until they died a natural death. When Korah and his followers came into God’s church with angry accusations and tried to take over, God appeared to put stop them and would have put an immediate end to it if Moses had simply moved out of God’s way. 

Moses pleaded with the Lord not to be angry with everyone when one man sins; that one man was Korah, the pastor of the unauthorized church. In response to Moses intercession God gave Korah’s followers a choice. Separate yourself from Korah or perish with him. Everyone who remained faithful to Korah and his circle of leaders perished in a rather dramatic fashion. Fire flamed from God’s tabernacle leaving dead charred bodies at the feet of Aaron. Through out the camp the earth opened to swallow the people whose hearts belonged to Korah.

The time to cleanse the church was right when the truth came to light. Korah didn’t really want a separate church. Korah wanted to control God’s church, so he could implement his own ideas. Once the elders of Moses church understood that everything Moses did was God’s idea and that God was justified in his actions, it only took God a mere moment of time to cleanse all the spots and blemishes off of his church. For the first time in months, maybe even a year, the church was clean again.

After the shock of God’s judgment on the spots and blemishes began to wear off, the people in Moses’ church began to grieve over the loss of their brothers. They were saved together, baptized together and went to church together, until these brothers decided to form their own church. You did not have to attend Korah’s church to know all the good these men had done. Without doubt many of the people that remained in Moses church saw nothing wrong with this new liberal church that gave more people an opportunity to minister. They would never go to Korah’s church but Korah was not hurting anyone. The people who survived God’s judgment didn’t understand why Korah’s church had been destroyed.

Bear in mind that the children of Jacob did not have the methods of mass communications that we do. Even with the technology available today, we seldom get all the facts in an accurate manner. What happened to Korah and his followers spread through the camp by word of mouth and no doubt was distorted from mouth to mouth. The men who died became men of renown in the church because they were men with great gifts. The people that were left after God gave the church a good cleansing were bewildered because the men who died went to church every Sabbath, prayed and did good works. They were leaders in Moses church before Korah gave them a censer and allowed them to do what only Aaron was permitted to do. It is the good we do that blind us to the truth and makes it hard to discern who is the Lord’s and who is not.

The people who died in Korah’s rebellion were charismatic men that served faithfully in their church BUT they did not want what God wanted. God wanted them to be disciplined for forty years. They wanted to be high priest who offered up incense before God. They don’t want out of the church. They wanted control of the church. On the outside they looked, acted and even talked like their hearts were right with God. God even used them to minister to others in the church. But on the inside they were corrupt because they are not content with the place God gave them to minister.

There will be many bewildered when Jesus returns and famous gifted men with a lifetime of doing good deeds on their resume cry out Lord let us in your kingdom. We prophesied. We cast out devils. We did miracles; the sick were healed under our ministries. Jesus will look at them and wonder why they call him Lord when they did not use the gifts he gave them to fulfill God’s desire for their life and ministry.[3] His answer to their query will be, I never knew you and you can’t come in. My paraphrase, you loved your ministry but you did not love ME.

Before morning, the grief of the people who stayed in Moses church turned into anger because they truly believed that the spots and blemishes on the church were the Lord’s people. They are angry with Moses and Aaron because they believed that the leaders who died, among them Moses own cousin, were in right relationship with God and now Korah’s church was ruined. What right does our church have to destroy another church that is doing good deeds in the land? Their church didn’t have a right to destroy another church but their church did not destroy Korah’s church. Their God did!

The saddest fact of this story is that the leaders who died in Korah’s rebellion were in right relationship with God at one time. At least until Korah’s willingness to give them what they wanted in ministry deceived them into rebelling against God. The men who offered incense before God were persuaded they would be acceptable to God or they never would have done it. The penalty for offering incense contrary to God’s command was too high. Less than a year earlier, Aaron’s sons died for offering incense contrary to God’s command. They never would have accepted Moses challenge to let God choose unless they were absolutely persuaded God would choose them.

This is one reason we should not pray for men or women committing sins unto death. They deceive people who are immature in God and destroy not only themselves but also the people they persuade to follow them. If we would stop protecting tares from God’s judgment with our intercession it would protect the wheat God planted. Do we love God or the enemy seeking to destroy us?

The next day the Lord’s people accused the Lord’s people of killing the Lords people. The Lord’s people were too immature to discern who belonged to the Lord. Let me remind you that all of the people in the wilderness had the same experiences. They were saved, delivered, baptized people who go to church every Sabbath because God had done a miracle for them.

Many of them erred in the wilderness just as they had erred in Egypt. They gave their hearts and love to men who did not love them.  Both Pharaoh and Korah used and manipulated people so they could exalt themselves in ministry. It still happens today. It happened to Paul at the Corinthian church when the Corinthians refused Paul’s godly instruction to embrace teachers who exploited them.[4] If your heart belongs to anybody but God, you will not survive God’s judgments when he cleans spots and blemishes off of his church, unless someone is gracious enough to intercede for you.

I have a book at home called Holy Fire written during the Brownsville Revival. I heard a lot about “the fire.” I also heard a lot about the river. The river was flowing and we were exhorted to get in the river. Christians wanted the river to flow and the fire to fall because people would get saved, baptized in the Holy Spirit and the church would grow. When the river flowed at Sinai the people had to drink their own sin from its waters. When the fire fell at the church in the wilderness people died and the church grew smaller. The intent of the river is to wash the sinners out of the church for their own protection. If they don’t repent in the river, when the fire falls the sinners will not survive. Better for them to be out than in when God starts cleaning house.

There is a good reason God appeared for the second time in less than 48 hours asking Moses to get out of the way, so he can put an end to these people. If the wicked people who are angry that the church is clean kill Moses and Aaron, there will be no covering to stop God from destroying all of them in a moment. This is what God wanted to do from the beginning of the rebellion and now you know why. When a rebellious man has a following, those who follow him are as corrupt as he is. But Korah and all those who openly followed him were gone. Yes, but there are still people in Moses church who followed Korah in their hearts. The people crying you killed the Lords’ people did not have the courage to leave Moses church but in their hearts they believed Korah was right. The people accusing Moses of murder don’t know who the Lord and his people are because they listened to men who love to minister but do not love the Lord. They thought they were doing the right thing, just like Korah thought he was doing the right thing. There is a way that seems right to a man but the end thereof is death.[5]

 Numbers 16:46-50

Then Moses said to Aaron, Take your censer and put incense in it, along with fire from the altar, and hurry to the assembly to make atonement for them. Wrath has come out from the Lord; the plague has started. So Aaron did as Moses said, and ran into the midst of the assembly. The plague had already started among the people, but Aaron offered the incense and made atonement for them. He stood between the living and the dead, and the plague stopped. But 14,700 people died from the plague, in addition to those who had died because of Korah.Then Aaron returned to Moses at the entrance to the Tent of Meeting, for the plague had stopped.

 When you are in a fit of anger because the church is clean it takes more than Moses intercession to calm God’s anger. Aaron must hurry. Aaron must run. It will take an Atonement to stop death this time. Atonement creates a covering for sins committed unintentionally or through ignorance. The people hurling accusations of murder at Moses and Aaron are angry because they thought the Lord’s people had been harmed. They were not willfully sinning against God. They are zealous for God’s church.

 Proverbs 19:2-3

It is not good to have zeal without knowledge, nor to be hasty and miss the way.  A man’s own folly ruins his life, yet his heart rages against the LORD.

 The people railing accusations at Moses are zealous for the Lord’s people but they had zeal without knowledge. In their haste to avenge the death of people they thought belonged to the Lord, they missed the way. They are people who had zeal for the church, but they don’t have zeal to find the truth. Their own folly ruined their life because they are too immature in spiritual matters to understand that their rage against Moses and Aaron was rage against their Lord. 

 Hosea 4:4-6

4 “But let no man bring a charge, let no man accuse another, for your people are like those who bring charges against a priest. 5 You stumble day and night, and the prophets stumble with you……6 my people are destroyed from lack of knowledge.

 Fourteen thousand nine hundred fifty three people died because they lacked knowledge. A mere twenty-four hours had elapsed since God proved everything Moses taught them and led them to do was God’s idea. Why are they bringing charges against priests who did not die in a fire or get swallowed by the earth? The people did not take the time to search for the truth and they stumbled. 

Moses knew God’s ways and taught them the truth but they are suffering and having a hard time accepting God’s discipline as love. The only way to be saved then and now is to confess with your mouth Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised, in their generation will raise, Jesus from the dead. They want the kingdom God had been talking about since he appeared to Abraham, they want to be that nation NOW! But they did not want to walk in the steps of Father Abraham’s faith. He died in faith never receiving the things God promised to him and his seed. Abraham died believing God raises the dead. To the day Jesus departed in clouds the children of Jacob were still asking will you give us the kingdom NOW. Do you suppose Jesus departed wondering, will you love me NOW!

What did it matter that the Lord left them in a wilderness to be shepherded for forty years that they might learn how to love when the nation they became after they crossed Jordan was destined to fail. The only nation that will not fail is the nation we become when Jesus returns and takes possession of the land promised to him in Abraham’s covenant, the covenant of love and grace. In their generation Jesus had not been born yet therefore they could not become the nation God promised Abraham and his seed. Why was the discipline to remain in a land not their own until they died so distasteful when that is what Abraham did.

God’s ways cut to the very core of our selfishness. Why should they receive in their lifetime on earth what Abraham was denied during his lifetime on earth? In fact, Jesus will come and not receive in his lifetime on earth the things God promised him either. The Bible is about one thing. Learning how to love! If you don’t learn how to love you will not survive God’s judgments.

The most foolish thing a person can do is worship a God they do not know; to worship simply because a man like Pharaoh or Korah commanded you to do it his way. When the truth comes to light and what a fool you have been is exposed it will be hard to repent. A proud man won’t repent. He will continue to worship even as he suppresses the truth and conspires to discredit those who  teach the truth.   

 Isaiah 1:2-3

2 Hear, O heavens! Listen, O earth! For the LORD has spoken: “I reared children and brought them up, but they have rebelled against me. 3 The ox knows his master, the donkey his owner’s manger, but Israel does not know, my people do not understand.”

 Jeremiah  4:22

“My people are fools; they do not know me. They are senseless children; they have no understanding.

 A fool worships a God he does not know. They did not know God. They did not understand God. Was there hope? Just barely, thousands died before atonement could be made for the ignorant crying the Lord’s people were killed. Moses told Aaron to run, not walk, run into the midst of the Assembly. It’s wasn’t the lost that needed atonement but the ignorant saved.

For the first time in Aaron’s ministry he did more than create misery. He stood between the living and the dead offering up a cloud of incense to cover the people so the plague would stop. Aaron finally became a minister worthy of God’s approval. There are a lot of Aaron’s in the church whose ministries do not have God’s approval today but that does not mean they will never mature and acquire God’s approval.

 Numbers 17:1-5

17:1 The LORD said to Moses, 2 “Speak to the Israelites and get twelve staffs from them, one from the leader of each of their ancestral tribes. Write the name of each man on his staff. 3 On the staff of Levi write Aaron’s name, for there must be one staff for the head of each ancestral tribe. 4 Place them in the Tent of Meeting in front of the Testimony, where I meet with you. 5 The staff belonging to the man I choose will sprout, and I will rid myself of this constant grumbling against you [Moses and Aaron] by the Israelites.”

 The next day Moses returned the twelve staff’s to the heads of each tribe. Only Aaron’s staff blossomed with God’s approval. Then the Lord told Moses to leave Aaron’s staff in the tabernacle as a sign not to grumble about the leaders God chooses and forgives lest you die.

Yes, Aaron was a lousy pastor that did stupid foolish things. He loved waving the rod of God around causing misery for sinners, he taught the people lies about their God and participated in a conspiracy against God’s government. Aaron caused the people of God much pain. But Aaron was also a man who repented of his sins and paid an equal price in pain for the sins he committed against God and his people.

In our pain we often fail to see that God did not leave the sins committed against us by our leaders unpunished. God shows no partiality. Every sin will be accounted for but that does not mean you have to lose everything, be cut off and forgotten about. If we repent like Aaron did God will let us keep our place like he did Aaron, the High Priest and like he did King David after David committed adultery and murder. The Lord’s people need to understand that the Lord has not committed an injustice against them when he forgives an Aaron or a David. Everyone reaps the consequences of his or her sin. Both Aaron and David paid a high price for their foolishness that resulted in the death of their own sons. [6]

 Numbers 17:12-13 KJV

12 And the children of Israel spake unto Moses, saying, Behold, we die, we perish, we all perish. 13 Whosoever cometh any thing near unto the tabernacle of the LORD shall die: shall we be consumed with dying?

 The church was clean and God proved Moses and Aaron were his chosen leaders when this emotional outburst poured from the Lord’s people. You can hardly blame them. It had been an extremely difficult two years and thousands of people had died. But once the church was clean and the congregation accepted the men the Lord chose to lead them no one else died by God’s hand in their generation. A fact easily overlooked unless you study with a chronological Bible. After Korah’s church disappeared and atonement was made for the people nothing significant happened for Moses to write about for the next 38 years. Then you find the people grumbling again but it is not this generation because they all died in the wilderness. The children picked up where their parents left off. If you do not learn the lessons of the past, you are destined to repeat them. 


[1] 2 Timothy 2:19

[2] Matthew 13:24-30

[3] Luke 6:46

[4] 2 Corinthians 11:19-21 NIV

[5] Proverbs 14:12; 16:25

[6] Aaron sin cost him two of his sons. David’s sins resulted in the death of his son by Bathsheba and produced rape and murder in his own family as well as war for the rest of his days.

About Teena Myers

Teena Myers is the Chairman of Southern Christian Writers, a freelance writer and author of three books.
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