Numbers 16 & 17. The Israelites aren’t taking too kindly to their new reality.
Numbers 16 & 17. The Israelites aren’t taking too kindly to their new reality.
“Papa’s Bible Stories” brings the Bible to life for your kids. For each episode, I pick a Bible story to talk to my very own kids about. The stories are entirely Bible-based, scripture is quoted at every opportunity, and the kids are always pointed to the Bible as the authority. And we’re not afraid of having a little fun too! It is my hope and prayer that your kids will be excited to explore God’s Word for themselves after hearing each and every episode. #bible #stories #kids #children #adventist #sda
Last we left the Israelites, Korah, Dathan, Abiram, and 250 princes of Israel had started a rebellion against Moses and Aaron. They were upset that they had been banished from the Promised Land. And even though it was God who was giving them this punishment, Korah and his friends had convinced themselves and all the rest of the Israelites that the punishment hadn’t come from God…but had only come from Moses and Aaron. And that Moses and Aaron were just being unreasonable…and that Moses and Aaron were the only reason that they couldn’t go into the Promised Land. And so, Korah and his friends had started a rebellion. But when they challenged Moses and Aaron in public, Moses challenged them back…and basically said…ok, you guys think you can replace us…well prove it…whoever leads Israel will need to stand in front of God…so let’s all go up and stand in front of God in the tabernacle and see who is still standing after that. And the challenge was accepted. And the next day found Korah and the 250 princes in front of the sanctuary along with all the the Israelites supporting them just outside the tabernacle…then there was Moses and Aaron…all alone. What was going to happen? How could Moses and Aaron possibly stand up to all the Israelites like this? What was God going to do?
Well, right at that moment, right at the time when things looked really bad for Moses and Aaron, the Bible says that, “the glory of the LORD appeared to all the congregation.” (16:19) God’s shining presence showed itself above the sanctuary. The light was bright enough that all of the Israelites could see it. And God spoke to Moses and Aaron and said to them (apparently without the rest of the Israelites hearing), “Separate yourselves from among this congregation, that I may consume them in a moment.” (16:21) At this moment, whether they realized it or not, the Israelites were in full rebellion…not against Moses and Aaron…but against God. God had put Moses and Aaron in place as leaders, and almost all the Israelites had decided they wanted Korah and his friends to be the leaders. And because of this, God was now telling Moses and Aaron to move themselves away from the Israelites…because he was going to destroy them.
But amazingly, Moses and Aaron didn’t move away from the Israelites. Instead, 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?” (16:22) Despite being completely alone, despite having been abandoned by the Israelites, despite they themselves being banished from the Promised Land even though they didn’t do anything wrong…Moses and Aaron were still pleading with God to save the Israelites…trying to convince God that it was just Korah and his friends who were realty the ones rebelling…and that maybe the rest of the Israelites had just been fooled into following them. And even if not, maybe once the people saw God punishing the leaders, they might change their minds.
Well, it seemed that God was willing to give Moses and Aaron’s idea a try, because He then said to Moses, “Speak to the congregation, saying, 'Get away from the tents of Korah, Dathan, and Abiram.'” (16:24) And with that, Moses left the tabernacle, and headed to the tents of of three rebel leaders to give the message. Seeing Moses heading away from the tabernacle, the Israelites followed him. And when Moses arrived, he said to all the Israelites, “Depart now from the tents of these wicked men! Touch nothing of theirs, lest you be consumed in all their sins.” (16:27) The Israelites, getting the idea that maybe something bad was about to happen, moved away from the tents. And Moses continued, “By this you shall know that the LORD has sent me to do all these works, for I have not done them of my own will. (29) If these men die naturally like all men, or if they are visited by the common fate of all men, then the LORD has not sent me. (30) But if the LORD creates a new thing, and the earth opens its mouth and swallows them up with all that belongs to them, and they go down alive into the pit, then you will understand that these men have rejected the LORD.” (16:28-30) So what Moses is saying here is…ok so you guys think that Aaron and I haven’t been picked by God to be the leaders? Well if Korah, Dathan, and Abiram die a natural death many years from now…then you’re right. But if they die of something crazy right now…if the ground opens up right underneath these men and swallows them alive…well then you will know that Aaron and I are the true leaders and Korah and his friends are in rebellion.
Now, I’m pretty sure that when Moses was saying this that Korah and his friends were kinda looking at each other and thinking…ya right…Moses has lost it…like the ground would really open up and swallow us up…nothing like that has ever ha…. And just as they were thinking that, wouldn’t you know that the ground started to rumble and shake…and then it started to crack…and then all of a sudden the ground split open right underneath them. And with all the Israelites watching them, the three men, complete with all their stuff, went screaming down into the deep dark pit. And then, just as quickly as the ground had split open, the ground closed up again…swallowing the men…crushing them deep in the earth.
Whoa! That was crazy. Now of course the Israelites had been standing there watching the whole thing…probably with eyes wide and jaws dropped. And then, suddenly realizing that this could happen to any of them, the Israelites began to panic. They were like…get me outta here! And they started running off in all directions trying to get away from the place…probably bumping into each other and climbing over each other…anything to get out of there…all the while screaming, “Lest the earth swallow us up also!” (16:34) But God wasn’t done yet…there were still the 250 princes standing in front of the sanctuary with their censors. Now the 250 princes had probably seen what had happened to Korah, Dathan, and Abiram…but despite this the men did not move from their spots. They stood there defiantly…still thinking that they could take over from Moses and Aaron. So right at that moment, while all the Israelites were running for cover, the Bible says that, “a fire came out from the LORD and consumed the two hundred and fifty men who were offering incense.” (16:35) So just like with Nadab and Abihu, out of the light of God’s presence a fire came out and burned up all 250 princes. So while the Israelites were frantically running away front the earth swallowing up Korah, Dathan, and Abiram, they would have looked up and seen fire coming down and killing the 250 princes. It would have felt like they were under attack. And not knowing what to do, all the Israelites immediately ran back to their tents, where they all stayed until the next day.
In the morning when the Israelites woke up, they went to Moses and Aaron. After seeing all the crazy stuff from yesterday, and after seeing all the very obvious proof that Korah’s rebellion had been wrong, somehow they still wanted to get rid of Moses and Aaron. And they came up to Moses and Aaron and said, “You have killed the people of the LORD.” (16:41) That is to say, somehow the Israelites thought that Moses and Aaron (and not God) had somehow found a way to kill the rebel leaders. And not only that, but the Israelites were calling Korah and his friends “the people of the Lord”…meaning that in their minds Korah and his friends had been the good guys…and Moses and Aaron were still the bad guys. And this is after seeing the light come out of God’s presence and burn up the 250 princes! Despite everything that they’d seen, the Israelites were still unable to accept that Moses and Aaron were their leaders. And in their anger, the Israelites gathered around Moses and Aaron…and they were going to finish what Korah had started…the people were going to get rid of Moses and Aaron themselves.
But just then, the cloud that had been leading them through the wilderness…the same cloud that covered the sun by day and provided light at night…suddenly moved to rest over the tabernacle and the glory of the Lord appeared again above the sanctuary. This of course made the Israelites hesitate…and then Moses and Aaron, for the 2nd time in 2 days, walked up to the sanctuary to talk to God. And God said the exact same thing that He said the last time that they came to talk to Him, “Get away from among this congregation, that I may consume them in a moment.” (16:45) The day before, Moses and Aaron had seemingly convinced God to spare the people and only punish the leaders. But this time was different, because the people were continuing on without the leaders. And knowing this, Moses and Aaron had no idea what to say this time. And so the Bible says that they, “fell on their faces.” (16:45)
And without Moses and Aaron pleading on the Israelites behalf, their punishment began. Whether the Israelites knew it or not, a deadly plague was already spreading through the camp. And the Israelites were on the verge of being completely wiped out. And while Moses had been betrayed… and while Moses knew that this punishment was entirely deserved…he couldn’t just sit there…they had to do something to try to save the Israelites. And so, thinking on his feet, Moses turned to Aaron and said, “Take a censer and put fire in it from the altar, put incense on it, and take it quickly to the congregation and make atonement for them; for wrath has gone out from the LORD. The plague has begun.” (16:46) And Aaron, seeing where Moses was going with this, immediately got up and did what Moses asked. He took his censor, got the coals from the alter, put them into his censor, and ran outside into the crowd. When Aaron stepped outside of the tabernacle, he could already see the plague at work…the Israelites had started to die left and right. And Aaron took the censor and walked among the crowd, quickly spreading as much of the incense as he could…hoping that God would respect this act...this usually way of doing a sanctuary service…and stop the plague. And while some people did die (actually, 14,000 people ended up dying), God, in His mercy, stopped the plague and spared the rebellious Israelites. (Longer pause.)
Now, even after all of this, after the ground had opened up and swallowed Korah, Dathan, and Abiram, after fire had come out and burned up the 250 princes, and after the plague…somehow the Israelites still did not believe that God had made Moses and Aaron their leaders. Yah…these guys were stubborn. But God provided a way to finally put the question to bed. Through Moses, God instructed that the leader of each of the 12 tribes should take their rods (which I guess might be called a walking stick today), write their their name on it, and put the rods in front of the ark in the sanctuary. The rods would be left overnight, and the next morning, which ever man’s rod had budded (that is to say…whichever man’s rod miraculously sprouted leaves and a flower) that man would be the priest of Israel. And so, this was done…the 12 rods were placed in front of the ark, including Aaron’s rod as the rod for the tribe of Levi.
The next morning, the Bible says that, “Moses went into the tabernacle of witness, and behold, the rod of Aaron, of the house of Levi, had sprouted and put forth buds, had produced blossoms and yielded ripe almonds.” (17:8) So the next morning…surprise surprise…it was Aaron’s rod that had budded. But not only had it budded, but it had even produced fruit…ripe almonds. And for whatever reason this miracle seemed to finally get across to the Israelites that God had indeed picked Moses and Aaron to be the leaders, and that Moses and Aaron weren’t the bad guys, that everything they had said had indeed been God’s Word. And as this realization sunk in, the Israelites said, “Surely we die, we perish, we all perish! (13) Whoever even comes near the tabernacle of the LORD must die. Shall we all utterly die?” (17:12-13) The Israelites were finally confronting the difficult truth that they had all been trying to avoid all this time…that it really was God who had banished them from the Promised Land, that none of their dreams would come true, and that every single adult alive that day would die in the wilderness. It was a hard truth to swallow. But it was one that they had to accept…and finally move on. (Longer pause.)
Alright kidzos, now let me ask you a question. When the Israelites were first punished…when they were banished from the Promised Land…what would have been better…to accept their punishment or to fight it? If they had accepted their punishment, would the ground have opened up and swallowed Korah, Dathan, and Abiram? If they had accepted their punishment, would the 250 princes have been burned up? If they had accepted their punishment, would 14,000 people have died of the plague? No, of course not. None of that would have happened. And it’s the same way for you kidzos. Punishment for rebelling is just a part of life…especially when you are a kid. The Bible says, “He that spareth his rod hateth his son.” (Prov. 13:24) Punishment is how Papa and Mama teach you to stop doing bad things. And when you resist punishment, it tells us that you haven’t learned. And more often then not, to make sure that you learn, the punishment will get worse. So next time that Papa and Mama punish you, and your thinking about resisting…maybe think back to this story…and about how much better off the Israelites would have been if they had just accepted it, learned from it, and moved on.