God Cannot Be Fooled
Num. 16:1 ¶ Now Korah son of Izhar son of Kohath son of Levi, along with Dathan and Abiram sons of Eliab, and On son of Peleth—descendants of Reuben—took
Num. 16:2 two hundred fifty Israelite men, leaders of the congregation, chosen from the assembly, well-known men, and they confronted Moses.
Num. 16:3 They assembled against Moses and against Aaron, and said to them, “You have gone too far! All the congregation are holy, everyone of them, and the LORD is among them. So why then do you exalt yourselves above the assembly of the LORD?”
Num. 16:4 When Moses heard it, he fell on his face.
Num. 16:5 Then he said to Korah and all his company, “In the morning the LORD will make known who is his, and who is holy, and who will be allowed to approach him; the one whom he will choose he will allow to approach him.
Num. 16:6 Do this: take censers, Korah and all your company,
Num. 16:7 and tomorrow put fire in them, and lay incense on them before the LORD; and the man whom the LORD chooses shall be the holy one. You Levites have gone too far!”
Num. 16:18 So each man took his censer, and they put fire in the censers and laid incense on them, and they stood at the entrance of the tent of meeting with Moses and Aaron.
Num. 16:19 Then Korah assembled the whole congregation against them at the entrance of the tent of meeting. And the glory of the LORD appeared to the whole congregation.
Num. 16:35 And fire came out from the LORD and consumed the two hundred fifty men offering the incense.
Often in his ministry and leadership there were those who opposed Moses. I don't think he probably looked or acted like the kind of leader that they people thought that they wanted or needed. They really couldn't figure out why God thought that he was so special and they would become jealous of him. This was another of those moments. Here we find Korah, Dathan, Abiram and On becoming frustrated with Moses -- or maybe overly jealous. They thought pretty highly of themselves. They were considered leaders of the congregation. One translation even calls them princes. They were well-known men that people held in high esteem but evidently this wasn't enough for them. They went and confronted Moses about his leadership -- but not just about his leadership but about his character. No man before or since Moses has met so personally with God on a regular basis and the men of the community failed to see that this humble leader had been made holy by God. Somehow these men failed to see the correlation between spending time with God and holiness. Moses spent his entire life on a spiritual journey, ever climbing higher and closer to God. Somehow Korah and the others believed that Moses had exalted himself above everyone else. Without the relationship with God, Korah thought he could simply declare himself and his followers as having the same rights and privileges of Moses.
The problem with this story is that Korah was dealing with God! God can't be fooled. People may be fooled by charismatic leadership abilities but God looks at the heart. Moses was the one who came to him with a humble heart and had fellowshipwith God in the tent of meeting. The others probably couldn't have been bothered to spend the time and nor would they have wanted to change their selfish ways. Instead they thought that somehow meeting with God in his holy presence was a right given to them by the community. They did not understand the importance of a relationship with God and so somehow thought they could push their way into God's holy presence. But they were not clean and could not stand in the presence of God. God's holiness will burn up that which is impure and so the 250 men who came to burn the incense, thinking it was their right, were consumed by the fire of God.
I suppose that it is possible to fool those in the world around us and allow them to see only what we want them to see -- but God will not be fooled. What is interesting in this whole story is that Moses and Aaron revealed the very heart of God in their reaction to what happened. They had both been spending time with God and both had been faithfully serving him. As the holiness of God began to consume the people Moses and Aaron began to intercede for them.
In reality the men in this story were responsible for their own deaths. God had instructed regarding those who were to bring offerings to him. The holiness of the people serving him was important because God's very nature of holy love is a consuming fire. That consuming fire will burn up anything that is unholy so that it leaves only that which is pure and clean. This is why God had restrictions on who could come near to him because he knew that not everyone could survive in his presence. It was the men who ignored the instructions of God and wanted to show their human worth and that they were worthy to be in the presence of the most holy God. As unclean men they held up the censers and called on the presence of God. The problem for them was that God answered their prayer and his fire came out and burned up all that was unclean -- the men -- and left the brass censers.
Are we ever tempted to pretend to be God's people? Do we go to church once a week and declare that we are "Christians?" Do we lift ourselves up to be leaders among the church assembly -- or within the community and feel that we have a "right" to make decisions about what happens in the house of God? This is a scary position in which to find oneself because we may be able to fool some of the people around us but we will never be able to fool God. He sees our hearts and he knows our motivations. The result of the arrogance of Korah and the others was death. The result for us today will be the same if go on living in arrogance before our God. He is calling us into a personal tent of meeting -- into a daily walk with him in which we are transformed by his holy presence. This is real transformation and it only comes from God.
Lord, please examine my heart and motives today. Amen.