Thursday, March 3, 2011

You, Me, Censers At Dawn (Num. 16-17)

SEAN - We're looking at Korah's rebellion. All men are created equal, but God only chooses some men to lead - and those men (like Moses) take a 'kicking. Wow. Moses stops God from torching the rebellious Israeli camp in a few situations where I would have just said "That sounds like a brilliant idea. Could you do it slowly, please?" Instead Moses asks his critics to step up, prays for his people, gives it to God, and documents the victory.

Based on's Chronological Bible In a Year schedule. If anyone would like to join in, this blog's comments sections would be a good forum in which to share insights from the text.

Misdirected Criticism of Your Evil, Long-Lost Twin
Most times criticism doesn't make sense. Moses was accused of pride, incompetence, intolerance, and even murder - none of which was even a bit true and most of which went against basic known facts. How could Moses be accused of arrogance when he let Aaron have most of the public duties? Why was Moses called a murderer when it was totally God who opened up a hole in the earth to swallow Korah and his buddies? My one real brush with opposition bears this out: while leading a Bible study, someone said I wasn't "a servant leader" even though I was doing weekly 32 hour stretches without sleep (between overnight shifts) to be there for the young adults in that group every weekend. I was also criticized for kicking a pedophile out of the group - by his victims! All of that was just absolutely insane, and I could share more. The point is that a lot of the time the criticism leaders get is unreal and undeserved.

The Kinds of People Who Lead These Rebellions
As much as you might like, not all people who oppose you are going to be slick, grease covered pedophile losers. (1) Some of them are going to be likeable men or women with good families and great marriages. Numbers 16.27 tells us that just before the earth opened to swallow them, a couple of the leaders of this rebellion came out of their tents and stood together with their "wives, sons, and little ones". So we have maybe some self righteous ringleaders who let their good image go to their heads. I find that the super-confident guys and the depressed guy with weak self-esteem are just as likely to start something: one does it in order to feel good about himself; the other does it because he feels good about himself. (2) Some of these guys are acting from conviction -like Korah, who in Numbers 16.18-19 was willing to show up with censer in hand and put his incense where his mouth was- and some are just oppose-for-the-sake-of-opposing types like Dathan and Abiram who wouldn't even show up to back up their words (Numbers 16.12).

The Good Leader Seeks Revival, Not a Barbecue
Even when God offered over and over to barbecue Israel on the hot flame of divine indignation and spare Moses, the old Law Giver did not let himself take advantage of the offer. He did not want to see this difficult, whining, rebellious, and God-dishonoring group of Israeli wanderers come to an end -which brings us to point #3: the good leader prays for his people, not against them. As a confession, I often prayed against people who were making things difficult for me in the Bible Study that I just mentioned. I must have memorized Psalm 109 or something. You would be surprised how easy it is for you to give up hope for somebody and just start praying that God would take them out. But Moses is a real example here. He was given this option twice in one day (and how horrible do you have to be to have God consider wiping you out twice before supper time?), and instead he chose to plead on behalf of his people. That's a hero.

Let God Do His Job (Yahweh Will Judge)
Moses repeatedly lets God defend his ministry - he and Aaron never took a defensive stance, but they did ask God to make Himself known. When it came to the censers, the appearance of the glory of the LORD, and the budding of Aaron's rod, that was all God. At no point in these two chapters does Moses start arguing with his critics. That would have only fed the controversy. So, if we take Moses' lead, we can step into that tradition and do what Moses did. By the way, when God vindicates you, document the whole thing. From the covering that Moses made out of the censers, to the visual reminder of Aaron's budded rod, we have examples of Moses and Aaron documenting the controversy and God's judgment in order to remind future critics what happened the last time something like this went down. Picture the scene with me - Moses standing in front of the next Korah wannabe and pointing to this bronze object made from melted censers: "before you start getting everybody riled up... well, would you like to know where these bronze censers came from??"

Other comments and observations can be found in the comments section! Join in!

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