Series: Thru the Bible
Message – Authority & Rebellion – Numbers 15-16
Authority and Rebellion – Numbers 15-16
Let’s recap…Israel had just begun their journey into the wilderness, having:
- Left the mountain around which they had spent nearly a year
- Received the law
- Built the tabernacle
- Inaugurating their priests into office.
- The cloud had lifted and Israel followed God into the wilderness.
- They had scarcely begun their journey when they arrived at the border of the Land… Promised to them through their forefathers.
- God had them send 12 spies out into the land and 10 came back with an unfaithful report.
- 2 returned with a report of faith.
By the way – THIS is where the Full Gospel crowd came up with the distorted doctrine of “praying for a good report”. I am NOT saying that we should not approach anything we need with prayer through faith – from the recommendations of a plumber or auto mechanic all the way to the doctor – but OFTEN what we are asking for is little more than wishful thinking and good vibes from others “Wishing with us” that our reports will come back favorable.
A “Good Report” is a faithful and faith-filled report – not a report that is favorable in the flesh.
Consider the circumstances they faced…many of which were NOT favorable
EVERYONE who returned from spying out the land agreed that they inhabitants were:
- Many in number – in fact countless in comparison to Israel’s numbers.
- They were strong.
- Some were GIANTS.
- Their Cities were fortified (You remember the story of Jericho – those walls were huge!)
- It was NOT a “border wall” it was a double solid wall of protection at least 6 feet thick and anywhere from 13-26 feet tall.
NONE of these facts are what made the report “BAD”.
These were simply statements of fact – being neither good nor bad in themselves. What made the report bad was the lack of faith!
Remember that for years we would chastise one another about “good” and “bad” confessions…and while not all of that is wrong – much of it was and nearly ALL of the heart in which it was done was as well. We are NOT called to patrol one another and had out “bad confession” tickets. We ARE to observe one another to see if we are continuing in genuine faith and encourage one another or pull someone back from sin IF you are spiritual yourself…not we are NOT the Holy Spirit and we are NOT His enforcement officers.
All of the things these people said were TRUE. Faith is not the denial of truth, but the confidence in God which can change ME 1st and my life situations 2nd.
Faith – confidence in God is what makes a report “good”.
What did these reports do? They had consequences! For the 10 spies with the unfaithful report – death.
For Joshua and Caleb – a guarantee that they would live at least to 80 and go in to enjoy victorious battle against the inhabitants of their land!
NOW – in chapters 15-16, God is addressing the crowd who is about to spend the next 38-40 years in the wilderness and die there.
INTERESTING POSSIBILITY: I say 38-40 because there is some disagreement about the time until they came into the promised land. In Deut. 2:14, it says that by the time there were brought across the Zered Valley near the promised land to go in an take it – it had been 38 years. So it is possible that God may have counted the first 2 years of their time in the wilderness as “time served” – but it is equally possible that the events which took place after crossing the Zered Valley to the time they crossed over the Jordan may have been an additional two years. (unlikely)
Now Chapter 15 begins either on a positive note or a negative one – based upon how your approach it. I prefer the positive.
God begins with an affirmative statement of fulfilling His word to their children by saying,
Num. 15:2, “Speak to the Israelites and tell them: When you enter the land I am giving you to settle in,”
A New Way with New lessons:
God begins to recount the already clearly stated laws concerning sacrifices only NOW with the addition of a grain offering & a drink offering.
Notice the words – “When you enter the land…and you make an burnt, peace, freewill or appointed feast offering – the one presenting it to the Lord MUST ALSO present a grain offering.
This is saying a lot!
Up to this point Grain Offerings were almost always 100% voluntary – except upon special circumstances like at the daily sacrifice or at the consecration of priests into service or at the waving of the Sheaf.
Up until this new law, Grain offerings were independent of other offerings except at specific times – like the cleansing of a leper or the inauguration of a priest. The Lord was now giving a new command which MUST be observed ONCE they entered the Promised Land 40 years in their future.
Back when we covered the feasts in Leviticus – you may remember that the Feast of First Fruits was NOT to be observed until they entered the land Promised to them. So it is with this ordinance.
Let’s read it Num. 15:2-12, HCSB
“(2) Speak to the Israelites and tell them: When you enter the land I am giving you to settle in, (3) and you make a fire offering to the LORD from the herd or flock–either a burnt offering or a sacrifice, to fulfill a vow, or as a freewill offering, or at your appointed festivals–to produce a pleasing aroma for the LORD, (4) the one presenting his offering to the LORD must also present a grain offering of two quarts of fine flour mixed with a quart of oil. (5) Prepare a quart of wine as a drink offering with the burnt offering or sacrifice of each lamb. (6) “If you prepare a grain offering with a ram, it must be four quarts of fine flour mixed with a third of a gallon of oil. (7) Also present a third of a gallon of wine for a drink offering as a pleasing aroma to the LORD. (8) “If you prepare a young bull as a burnt offering or as a sacrifice, to fulfill a vow, or as a fellowship offering to the LORD, (9) a grain offering of six quarts of fine flour mixed with two quarts of oil must be presented with the bull. (10) Also present two quarts of wine as a drink offering. It is a fire offering of pleasing aroma to the LORD. (11) This is to be done for each ox, ram, lamb, or goat. (12) This is how you must prepare each of them, no matter how many.”
What was God saying in this?
Well the grain offering (like the Peace and Burnt offerings) were entirely voluntarily – except upon special circumstances like at the daily sacrifice or at the consecration of priests into service or at the waving of the Sheaf….etc.
Like in Leviticus, ***SEE:Grain Offerings*** where the wording was “when anyone” or “when a man” brings an offering – this wording is also very deliberate, but means something different. In Leviticus the words “when anyone” or “when a man” actually meant when a “soul” offers and offering. The reason is because of it’s freewill nature – it was an offering which one gave voluntarily with all their heart and soul and were therefore in some regard seen as offering their soul before God.
They were right in this, because like the burnt offering, the Grain Offering represented the person offering it. Bread sometimes is associated with the heart and the whole person. Jesus was called the bread of life and God is said to have made bread to strengthen man’s heart…
Also, you may remember that the showbread was called the bread of faces or the bread of the presence – representing God before the priests and Israel before God.
As such, it was to be offered with oil and frankincense without leaven and only in a broken state.
ONCE THEY ENTERED THE LAND they were to offer Grain Offering WITH their other offerings and the words were, “He that offers his offering” – which literally means, “When anyone comes near”. This has TREMENDOUS significance with a group of people who began their journey by telling God to NOT come near. While this was always the case – emphasis seems to be placed on it here, which MIGHT be just the natural flow of the sentence or might be pointing to a new generation with the potential of approaching God with better hearts than their parents did.
These were also to be offered with wine as a drink offering which was definitely new. Up until now Drink Offerings were only mentioned in reference to Israel at the inauguration of Priests and concerning the future Feast of Firstfruits.
Later in chapter 28 verse 7 we discover that at least in the Daily Offerings, the drink offering was most likely a type of strong intoxicating beer (strong being a relative term when compared to our day where we distil alcohol for considerably higher proofs.)
Verses 13-16 – God is pointing to ONENESS between the Jew and the Gentiles already!
Num. 15:13-16, HCSB “(13) Every Israelite is to prepare these things in this way when he presents a fire offering as a pleasing aroma to the LORD. (14) When a foreigner resides with you or someone else is among you and wants to prepare a fire offering as a pleasing aroma to the LORD, he is to do exactly as you do throughout your generations. (15) The assembly is to have the same statute for both you and the foreign resident as a permanent statute throughout your generations. You and the foreigner will be alike before the LORD. (16) The same law and the same ordinance will apply to both you and the foreigner who resides with you.”
Contributions of Dough (and all the ministers said – “AMEN!”)…not so quick!
Not that kind of dough! It was a type of Heave Offering given in Thanksgiving to God for His faithfulness in giving them the Promised Land and making it a place of continual abundance.
Num. 15:17-21, HCSB “(17) The LORD instructed Moses: (18) “Speak to the Israelites and tell them: After you enter the land where I am bringing you, (19) you are to offer a contribution to the LORD when you eat from the food of the land. (20) You are to offer a loaf from your first batch of dough as a contribution; offer it just like a contribution from the threshing floor. (21) Throughout your generations, you are to give the LORD a contribution from the first batch of your dough.”
Notice again that how definitely – yet subtly God re-directs their minds from their disobedience and personal loss to the fulfilling of His promise and abundance in that land upon arrival.
This underscores in HUGE PRINT – the gracious nature of God. He HAD surely pardoned their sin, and even though they would surely die in this wilderness – they were assured many of them would live out all their days within God’ provision and protection and their their children would be provided for.
This also points out the MULTI-GENERATIONAL nature of the Kingdom. NOTHING is EVER done with only the generation alive at present in mind.
Heb. 11:39-40, HCSB “(39) All these were approved through their faith, but they did not receive what was promised, (40) since God had provided something better for us, so that they would not be made perfect without us.” [If you were to read that “hall of faith” you would find a GLARING gap in the account of faith from Moses – the list jumps to Jericho’s walls…what does that say to you?]
Now this was not only for the first time they entered the land of Canaan, but was to be observed every year when they made their first dough, and was to continue as long as the ceremonial law lasted: It was given to the priest, which is meant by “giving it to the Lord”.
Pay attention to the fact that the first part is not to an individual but to the whole assembly of Israel. It is a community sin (to which they seemed particularly susceptible) therefore the offering and pardon are community wide as well.
The middle is to individuals and the later to the strangers who journeyed among them.
Num. 15:22-31, HCSB “(22) When you sin unintentionally (to stray or wander from the truth) and do not obey all these commands that the LORD spoke to Moses– (23) all that the LORD has commanded you through Moses, from the day the LORD issued the commands and onward throughout your generations– (24) and if it was done unintentionally without the community’s awareness, the entire community is to prepare one young bull for a burnt offering as a pleasing aroma to the LORD, with its grain offering and drink offering according to the regulation, and one male goat as a sin offering. (25) The priest must then make atonement for the entire Israelite community so that they may be forgiven, for the sin was unintentional. They are to bring their offering, one made by fire to the LORD, and their sin offering before the LORD for their unintentional sin. (26) The entire Israelite community and the foreigner who resides among them will be forgiven, since it happened to all the people unintentionally. (27) “If one person sins unintentionally, he is to present a year-old female goat as a sin offering. (28) The priest must then make atonement before the LORD on behalf of the person who acts in error sinning unintentionally, and when he makes atonement for him, he will be forgiven. (29) You are to have the same law for the person who acts in error, whether he is an Israelite or a foreigner who lives among you. (30) “But the person who acts defiantly, whether native or foreign resident, blasphemes the LORD. That person is to be cut off from his people. (31) He will certainly be cut off, because he has despised the LORD’s word and broken His command; his guilt remains on him.”
This may sound familiar and is in some ways but it is distinguished from the case in Lev. 4:13-21, by the fact that the sin is not described here, as it is there, as “doing one of the commandments of Jehovah which ought not to be done,” but as “not doing all that Jehovah had spoken through Moses.” In other words the allusion here is not to sins of commission – that is disobeying the laws of God, but to sins of omission, that is not following the law of God.
God is NOT playing around!
Num. 15:32-36, HCSB “(32) While the Israelites were in the wilderness, they found a man gathering wood on the Sabbath day. (33) Those who found him gathering wood brought him to Moses, Aaron, and the entire community. (34) They placed him in custody, because it had not been decided what should be done to him. (35) Then the LORD told Moses, “The man is to be put to death. The entire community is to stone him outside the camp.” (36) So the entire community brought him outside the camp and stoned him to death, as the LORD had commanded Moses.”
This seems severe, but only when we view it from the distortion of a human perspective. God has been unambiguously clear throughout scripture that His ways and words are more important than ANY individual life and that it is in fact BY ADHERENCE to His words and ways that any human may find LIFE in its highest expression.
This only serves to fortify what I have been teaching on Sunday mornings about the importance of His words, to abiding in them and them in us – which in itself makes us fertile soil to bring forth fruit in His likeness.
So as to avoid further loss – God creates a “VISUAL” for them – a type of “3×5 card” on the proverbial fridge to remind them!
Num. 15:37-41, HCSB “(37) The LORD said to Moses, (38) “Speak to the Israelites and tell them that throughout their generations they are to make tassels for the corners of their garments, and put a blue cord on the tassel at each corner. (39) These will serve as tassels for you to look at, so that you may remember all the LORD’s commands and obey them and not become unfaithful by following your own heart and your own eyes. (40) This way you will remember and obey all My commands and be holy to your God. (41) I am the LORD your God who brought you out of the land of Egypt to be your God; I am the LORD your God.”
Stupid reaches new heights
Num. 16:1-50, HCSB
“(1) Now Korah son of Izhar, son of Kohath, son of Levi, with Dathan and Abiram, sons of Eliab, and On son of Peleth, sons of Reuben, took (2) 250 prominent Israelite men who were leaders of the community and representatives in the assembly, and they rebelled against Moses. (3) They came together against Moses and Aaron and told them, “You have gone too far! Everyone in the entire community is holy, and the LORD is among them. Why then do you exalt yourselves above the LORD’s assembly?”
Now, WHO is this chapter about and WHAT have we JUST LEARNED that addresses the severity of this issue?
LEADERS…LEADERS have a stricter judgment.
Aaron and Miriam – case in point!
Moses sets up an encounter with His friend – GOD!
(4) When Moses heard this, he fell facedown. (5) Then he said to Korah and all his followers, “Tomorrow morning the LORD will reveal who belongs to Him, who is set apart, and the one He will let come near Him. He will let the one He chooses come near Him. (6) Korah, you and all your followers are to do this: take firepans, and tomorrow (7) place fire in them and put incense on them before the LORD. Then the man the LORD chooses will be the one who is set apart. It is you Levites who have gone too far!”
Notice this time Moses is getting tired of all this and though it may have happened – Moses does not appear to consult with God – he just tells them what to do and tells them – “You Levites are the ones who have gone too far!” I do not believe that even if Moses did not consult with God this time that it was overstepping his boundaries for two simple reasons:
- This isn’t his first rodeo…this has happened before. God has confirmed his position and Moses KNEW where God stood on this – as should have these sons of Korah!
- One of the things God has been teaching Israel is that He wants to be known. As such, the student of God is to come to know Him well enough to anticipate His actions. Which the scriptures report as a favorable difference between Moses and the rest of Israel… “God revealed His ways to Moses, His deeds to the people of Israel.” ~ Psalm 103:7.
Moses creates an opportunity for them to repent…
“(8) Moses also told Korah, “Now listen, Levites! (9) Isn’t it enough for you that the God of Israel has separated you from the Israelite community to bring you near to Himself, to perform the work at the LORD’s tabernacle, and to stand before the community to minister to them? (10) He has brought you near, and all your fellow Levites who are with you, but you are seeking the priesthood as well. (11) Therefore, it is you and all your followers who have conspired against the LORD! As for Aaron, who is he that you should complain about him?” (12) Moses sent for Dathan and Abiram, the sons of Eliab, but they said, “We will not come! (13) Is it not enough that you brought us up from a land flowing with milk and honey to kill us in the wilderness? Do you also have to appoint yourself as ruler over us? (14) Furthermore, you didn’t bring us to a land flowing with milk and honey or give us an inheritance of fields and vineyards. Will you gouge out the eyes of these men? We will not come!” (15) Then Moses became angry and said to the LORD, “Don’t respect their offering. I have not taken one donkey from them or mistreated a single one of them.” (16) So Moses told Korah, “You and all your followers are to appear before the LORD tomorrow–you, they, and Aaron. (17) Each of you is to take his firepan, place incense on it, and present his firepan before the LORD–250 firepans. You and Aaron are each to present your firepan also.”
The beginning of this has Moses venting a little, but if they had had eyes to see and ears to hear they would have heard this as God coming to Cain about Able. They would have seen their error and repented before things came to a head…but stupid is as stupid does!
Also, notice that Moses had truly had enough and had stopped pleading on their behalf. In fact, this was quite the opposite – wherein is a lesson. Continued rebellion and an unwillingness to learn and submit will eventually meet with strict judgment.
Paul did something similar during his ministry. Alexander the coppersmith and Hymenaeus had rejected the faith and had actually become actively hostile to Paul and his ministry as is demonstrated in Acts 20:33, and this is Paul’s account of them and response to them.
1Tim. 1:18-20, HCSB “(18) Timothy, my child, I am giving you this instruction in keeping with the prophecies previously made about you, so that by them you may strongly engage in battle, (19) having faith and a good conscience. Some have rejected these and have suffered the shipwreck of their faith. (20) Hymenaeus and Alexander are among them, and I have delivered them to Satan, so that they may be taught not to blaspheme.”
2Tim. 4:14, HCSB “Alexander the coppersmith did great harm to me. The Lord will repay him according to his works.”
(18) Each man took his firepan, placed fire in it, put incense on it, and stood at the entrance to the tent of meeting along with Moses and Aaron. (19) After Korah assembled the whole community against them at the entrance to the tent of meeting, the glory of the LORD appeared to the whole community.
A case in point of my former comment. All people are sheep, Israel seems to be particularly susceptible to mass departure from common sense to error in regard to the words of God.
Moses and Aaron are moved with compassion
(20) The LORD spoke to Moses and Aaron, (21) “Separate yourselves from this community so I may consume them instantly.” (22) But Moses and Aaron fell facedown and said, “God, God of the spirits of all flesh, when one man sins, will you vent Your wrath on the whole community?”
(23) The LORD replied to Moses, (24) “Tell the community: Get away from the dwellings of Korah, Dathan, and Abiram.” (25) Moses got up and went to Dathan and Abiram, and the elders of Israel followed him. (26) He warned the community, “Get away now from the tents of these wicked men. Don’t touch anything that belongs to them, or you will be swept away because of all their sins.”
All of the sudden the most defiant of them decides to take an interest in what was going on but their arrogance does not bode well for them
“(27) So they got away from the dwellings of Korah, Dathan, and Abiram. Meanwhile, Dathan and Abiram came out and stood at the entrance of their tents with their wives, children, and infants.”
Moses explains the lesson before it begins
“(28) Then Moses said, “This is how you will know that the LORD sent me to do all these things and that it was not of my own will: (29) If these men die naturally as all people would, and suffer the fate of all, then the LORD has not sent me. (30) But if the LORD brings about something unprecedented, and the ground opens its mouth and swallows them along with all that belongs to them so that they go down alive into Sheol, then you will know that these men have despised the LORD.” (31) Just as he finished speaking all these words, the ground beneath them split open. (32) The earth opened its mouth and swallowed them and their households, all Korah’s people, and all their possessions. (33) They went down alive into Sheol with all that belonged to them. The earth closed over them, and they vanished from the assembly. (34) At their cries, all the people of Israel who were around them fled because they thought, “The earth may swallow us too!” (35) Fire also came out from the LORD and consumed the 250 men who were presenting the incense.”
Notice the hearts of those who assembled told them they were guilty too and better run!
Again, God sets up a memorial – NOT to Korah but as a reminder of their sin and its consequences
“(36) Then the LORD spoke to Moses: (37) “Tell Eleazar son of Aaron the priest to remove the firepans from the burning debris, because they are holy, and scatter the fire far away. (38) As for the firepans of those who sinned at the cost of their own lives, make them into hammered sheets as plating for the altar, for they presented them before the LORD, and the firepans are holy. They will be a sign to the Israelites.” (39) So Eleazar the priest took the bronze firepans that those who were burned had presented, and they were hammered into plating for the altar, (40) just as the LORD commanded him through Moses. It was to be a reminder for the Israelites that no unauthorized person outside the lineage of Aaron should approach to offer incense before the LORD and become like Korah and his followers.”
If you remember, I told you about these hammered plates being affixed to the altar way back in Exodus. Every time an Israelite offered an offering from that day forward this was a visual reminder to respect God and those He places in authority.
You’ve met Dumb…let me introduce you to dumber
Clearly these people had murmured about the day’s events throughout the evening…notice that the best their counsel could come up with is – “Let’s accuse Moses and Aaron”.
This is what I said when I told you that in a multitude of people there is NO SAFETY!
This is different from the passage which says, “In a multitude of COUNSELORS there is safety” Presumably a counselor is wise and in the company of many wise people – there is soundness of counsel and therefore safety. These people were clearly NOT wise!
(41) The next day the entire Israelite community complained about Moses and Aaron, saying, “You have killed the LORD’s people!”
Common sense would have saved these people a world of trouble. There was NO winning in approaching and accusing these two. If God had appointed them – then you would be resisting God which NEVER ends well.
If on the other hand these two men had power IN THEMSELVES to open the ground and swallow up entire companies of people and cause fire to consume their enemies – who in their right mind would challenge them?
(42) When the community assembled against them, Moses and Aaron turned toward the tent of meeting,
They KNEW what was about to happen!
and suddenly the cloud covered it, and the LORD’s glory appeared. (43) Moses and Aaron went to the front of the tent of meeting, (44) and the LORD said to Moses, (45) “Get away…
It’s not funny but…
Get away from this community so that I may consume them instantly.” But they fell facedown. (46) Then Moses told Aaron, “Take your firepan, place fire from the altar in it, and add incense. Go quickly to the community and make atonement for them, because wrath has come from the LORD; the plague has begun.” (47) So Aaron took his firepan as Moses had ordered, ran into the middle of the assembly, and saw that the plague had begun among the people. After he added incense, he made atonement for the people.
(48) He stood between the dead and the living, and the plague was halted.
(49) But those who died from the plague numbered 14,700, in addition to those who died because of the Korah incident. (50) Aaron then returned to Moses at the entrance to the tent of meeting, since the plague had been halted.”
So in all over 15,000 people died in two days learning a lesson they could have learned for free through Aaron and Miriam!
In closing let me re-enforce something I’ve stressed in here MANY times!
AUTHORITY COMES FROM GOD!
2Peter 2:9-12, HCSB “(9) then the Lord knows how to rescue the godly from trials and to keep the unrighteous under punishment until the day of judgment, (10) especially those who follow the polluting desires of the flesh and despise authority. Bold, arrogant people! They do not tremble when they blaspheme the glorious ones; (11) however, angels, who are greater in might and power, do not bring a slanderous charge against them before the Lord. (12) But these people, like irrational animals–creatures of instinct born to be caught and destroyed–speak blasphemies about things they don’t understand, and in their destruction they too will be destroyed,”
Jude 1:7-13, HCSB “(7) In the same way, Sodom and Gomorrah and the cities around them committed sexual immorality and practiced perversions, just as they did, and serve as an example by undergoing the punishment of eternal fire. (8) Nevertheless, these dreamers likewise defile their flesh, despise authority, and blaspheme glorious beings. (9) Yet Michael the archangel, when he was disputing with the Devil in a debate about Moses’ body, did not dare bring an abusive condemnation against him, but said, “The Lord rebuke you!” (10) But these people blaspheme anything they don’t understand, and what they know by instinct, like unreasoning animals–they destroy themselves with these things. (11) Woe to them! For they have traveled in the way of Cain, have abandoned themselves to the error of Balaam for profit, and have perished in Korah’s rebellion. (12) These are the ones who are like dangerous reefs at your love feasts. They feast with you, nurturing only themselves without fear. They are waterless clouds carried along by winds; trees in late autumn–fruitless, twice dead, pulled out by the roots; (13) wild waves of the sea, foaming up their shameful deeds; wandering stars for whom is reserved the blackness of darkness forever!”
Rom. 13:1-7, HCSB “(1) Everyone must submit to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except from God, and those that exist are instituted by God. (2) So then, the one who resists the authority is opposing God’s command, and those who oppose it will bring judgment on themselves. (3) For rulers are not a terror to good conduct, but to bad. Do you want to be unafraid of the authority? Do good and you will have its approval. (4) For government is God’s servant to you for good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, because it does not carry the sword for no reason. For government is God’s servant, an avenger that brings wrath on the one who does wrong. (5) Therefore, you must submit, not only because of wrath, but also because of your conscience. (6) And for this reason you pay taxes, since the authorities are God’s public servants, continually attending to these tasks. (7) Pay your obligations to everyone: taxes to those you owe taxes, tolls to those you owe tolls, respect to those you owe respect, and honor to those you owe honor.”
I hope this teaching will challenge you and encourage you to place your trust in the Lord Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord.
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