Will God Do a New Thing in a New Year?

December 29, 2014 at 1:21 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | 5 Comments
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In Numbers Chapter 16 we find God’s people in the wilderness, going through the world’s longest death march. They had been delivered from Egypt, and they were supposed to go directly into the promised land – called Canaan – a land flowing with milk and honey. But they were a rebellious people and a stubborn people and a disobedient people and a proud people and a fearful people – a people who heard the promises of God, but who just wouldn’t bring themselves to truly believe them or put them into practice. In other words, a people just like you and me.

Now Korah, the son of Izhar, the son of Kohath, the son of Levi, and Dathan and Abiram, the sons of Eliab, and On, the son of Peleth, sons of Reuben, took [men]: And they rose up before Moses, with certain of the children of Israel, two hundred and fifty princes of the assembly, famous in the congregation, men of renown:

Numbers 16:1-2

Moses and Aaron were of the tribe of Levi. Moses was the leader and Aaron was the high priest. Only the Levites were chosen by God to serve as priests. It was a serious responsibility and at times it was a hard responsibility, but it was a also a prestigious responsibility. The group of men who assisted the Levitical priests (but were not priests themselves) were called the Kohathites. Korah, a Kohathite, decided that Moses and Aaron were getting too much credit, and decided to form a rebellion against them.

The men who joined him in this rebellion weren’t the usual suspects. They weren’t the “mixed multitude,” the stragglers, the hangers-on, the rabble of society. These were “princes” – “men of renown.”

Did you gain some renown this past year? Be careful of that. As good Americans, living in the 21st Century, if there’s one thing we have a tendency to desire, it’s recognition. We want people to know who we are, and to look at us favorably. We want attention, and we will sometimes go out of our way to get it. Do you want to be noticed? Do you want others to be just a little bit jealous of you? Maybe you want people to know you’re successful, that you are a good parent, that you have certain possessions, that you are not like “those kind of people” that we all agree aren’t living or acting the way “good people like us” should act. Korah and his followers had renown, but they weren’t satisfied. They wanted the highest renown. Korah and his followers thought they had a new idea, but they didn’t. They had the same old idea that Lucifer had: “I want to be higher than where God has placed me.”

If your goal for 2015 is to get ahead in life by self-promotion or seeking recognition for yourself instead of recognition for Christ, then please remember the first point of this lesson:

1. There is nothing new about pride and self-promotion.

Korah and his rebellious followers confronted Moses, and they accused Moses of being proud and exalting himself and Aaron over the rest of the congregation. It’s funny how people will accuse others of the very thing they themselves are doing. Have you ever had someone attack you or criticize you or talk about you behind your back and say something about you that is completely untrue? That will make you mad, but what will make you furious is if it’s the very person that you have been going out of your way to help! Maybe even the person for whom you were sacrificing your own comfort or time or money to help! How many times had Moses interceded for these rebellious and sinful people and kept God from destroying them? They should have been thanking Moses and supporting him. So when they came to him and got in his face, how do you think Moses reacted? How would you and I react?

And when Moses heard [it], he fell upon his face:

Numbers 16:4

Moses did what few have the strength to do when confronted by hostile and unfair opposition. He humbled himself and prayed. That’s what we need to do – as hard as it may be. Anybody can fight fire with fire. It takes a Spirit-filled Christian, though, to keep our composure. To not lash out. To put down our pride and seek God’s will for how we’re supposed to handle this.

2. There is nothing new about failing to pray when we’re being persecuted.

God’s response when Moses humbled himself and prayed was to set up a test or a trial. Moses told Korah and his followers to come back the next day, and to bring their censers. God had already chosen Moses to be the leader of Israel and Aaron to be the high priest, but if Korah was determined to show that he knew better than God, he would have his day.

That wasn’t all, though. Remember, Korah had some co-conspirators: Dathan and Abiram of the tribe of Reuben. They had stayed back in their own encampment – maybe to keep an eye on things there, maybe because they didn’t have the guts to challenge Moses face to face – we don’t know. But Moses sent a messenger to go get them so they could hear how this was going to be handled.

And Moses sent to call Dathan and Abiram, the sons of Eliab: which said, We will not come up:

Numbers 16:12

Watch out for this attitude. Few and far between are the people who respect and willingly submit to authority, but authority and submission are ordained by God. Some local churches are harmed by the infiltration of false doctrine, and some are damaged by the moral failure of those in leadership, but many more local churches are brought low simply by grumbling, complaining, murmuring, and refusing to submit to the God-ordained authority of the pastor or elders or spiritual leadership.

Dathan and Abiram sent word to Moses:

[Is it] a small thing that thou hast brought us up out of a land that floweth with milk and honey, to kill us in the wilderness, except thou make thyself altogether a prince over us?

Numbers 16:13

How quickly they forgot what Egypt was really like!

Moreover thou hast not brought us into a land that floweth with milk and honey, or given us inheritance of fields and vineyards: wilt thou put out the eyes of these men? we will not come up.

Numbers 16:14

They accused Moses failing to bring them to the promised land, omitting that it was because of their own disobedience! Then they accused him of figuratively throwing dust in their eyes, or pulling the wool over their eyes.

Moses had already prayed. Sometimes we pray to keep from lashing out in sinful anger. Sometimes – even after we pray – we need to have a righteous indignation against sin.

And Moses was very wroth, and said unto the LORD, Respect not thou their offering: I have not taken one ass from them, neither have I hurt one of them.

Numbers 16:15

It is likely that this took place during the very time when Moses was being inspired by God to write the book of Genesis. When he says, “Respect not Thou their offering,” we might wonder if he had Cain’s offering in mind.

3. There is nothing new about our ambivalence toward sin.

So the stage was set. The next morning 250 men showed up with incense in their censers. Aaron was there with his. Imagine the suspense. Suddenly, the presence of God appeared!

And Korah gathered all the congregation against them unto the door of the tabernacle of the congregation: and the glory of the LORD appeared unto all the congregation.

Numbers 16:19

How often we say that we long for the presence of the Lord in our worship services. But I wonder if everyone would be so excited if He actually did appear? Some people might rejoice, and some people might flee for their lives!

And the LORD spake unto Moses and unto Aaron, saying, Separate yourselves from among this congregation, that I may consume them in a moment. And they fell upon their faces, and said, O God, the God of the spirits of all flesh, shall one man sin, and wilt thou be wroth with all the congregation?

Numbers 16:20-22

This is the form of intercession that Moses had used before to plead with God to spare the people.

And the LORD spake unto Moses, saying, Speak unto the congregation, saying, Get you up from about the tabernacle of Korah, Dathan, and Abiram. And Moses rose up and went unto Dathan and Abiram; and the elders of Israel followed him. 26 And he spake unto the congregation, saying, Depart, I pray you, from the tents of these wicked men, and touch nothing of theirs, lest ye be consumed in all their sins.

Numbers 16:23-26

4. There is nothing new about our reluctance to rescue those who have been deceived, led astray, and who are perishing.

So they gat up from the tabernacle of Korah, Dathan, and Abiram, on every side: and Dathan and Abiram came out, and stood in the door of their tents, and their wives, and their sons, and their little children. And Moses said, Hereby ye shall know that the LORD hath sent me to do all these works; for [I have] not [done them] of mine own mind. If these men die the common death of all men, or if they be visited after the visitation of all men; [then] the LORD hath not sent me. But if the LORD make a new thing

Numbers 16:27-30

The Lord was about to do a new thing. This new thing was in response to some old things that were going on, and that these people – and I’m afraid you and I, too – kept doing, and may have been guilty of doing this past year:
1. pride and self-promotion
2. failing to pray when we’re being persecuted
3. ambivalence toward sin
4. reluctance to rescue those who have been deceived, led astray, and who are perishing

But if the LORD make a new thing, and the earth open her mouth, and swallow them up, with all that [appertain] unto them, and they go down quick into the pit; then ye shall understand that these men have provoked the LORD. And it came to pass, as he had made an end of speaking all these words, that the ground clave asunder that [was] under them: And the earth opened her mouth, and swallowed them up, and their houses, and all the men that [appertained] unto Korah, and all [their] goods. They, and all that [appertained] to them, went down alive into the pit, and the earth closed upon them: and they perished from among the congregation.

Numbers 16:30-33

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