The Wrath of Korah

Wrath of Korah
June 4th, 2006
Numbers 16

Well Good morning. Thanks for your prayers and support over the past week and a half, Judah and Kathy are both doing well, and they’re both getting cuter than ever.
Today we are going to be talking about a conflict in leadership. In Leviticus 16. And I want this guiding principle to be in all of our minds this morning, “All of us are leaders”. Everyone one of us is a leader in some way or another, at work, in your family, in a hobby, you might lead a team, and even here at church. Some people may have various levels of leadership and that’s fine but we are all leaders in some way or another.
And today the passage that we are talking about is leadership. We are going to look at two different leadership styles and find out what God wants for us.
If this is your first time with us here at tNC/Creekside, we have been going through the desert with the children of Israel and the adults as well. And we are looking at what happened to them and seeing how it applies to us. We are not going verse by verse because that would take forever. So we are looking at some of the major stories and gleaning from them.
So where are we in the story. The spies have gone into the land. They saw the gians and chickened out. God said “alright because of your doubt you get to hang out in the wilderness for forty more years”, and when they heard this the Israelites tried to go into the land anyway and were soundly defeated. So now we have a guy named Korah who wants to get his own way, and so he gets some of his friends together and causes a ruckus. So let’s take a look at Numbers 16 starting in verse 1.
1 Korah son of Izhar, the son of Kohath, the son of Levi, and certain Reubenites—Dathan and Abiram, sons of Eliab, and On son of Peleth—became insolent [a] 2 and rose up against Moses. With them were 250 Israelite men, well-known community leaders who had been appointed members of the council. 3 They came as a group to oppose Moses and Aaron and said to them, “You have gone too far! The whole community is holy, every one of them, and the LORD is with them. Why then do you set yourselves above the LORD’s assembly?”
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1. Korah’s desire for leadership was based in Arrogance

Korah wanted to be the leader, he thought that he deserved something, he thought that everyone should be the high priest but specifically him. He felt that Moses and Aaron have gone to far to set up restrictions on the priest hood, and they wanted to be priests too.

— Story of friend who only wanted to be a youth pastor.

That’s an incredibly arrogant attitude, and after he said that I didn’t really want him on my team. I think it’s one thing to want to be a leader, it’s another thing to desire to be a leader because you think you deserve it, like Korah’s crew

I think as leaders and as christians we constantly have to ask our selves who do we think we are? Because the truth is we are nothing without Christ.

 4 When Moses heard this, he fell facedown.

2. Moses’ Leadership was based on his humility.

Preachers tend to give Moses a hard time for a couple of things.
– The Burning Bush — He didn’t think he was worthy or that he had the ability.
– “The Most Humble Man” quote — we think it’s pretty arrogant to write something like that about ourselves, and truthfully it is, but for Moses it seems that it was true.

Humility is so vital to leadership. There’s a difference between humility and self degredation. You don’t have to go around and beat yourself up and say that you’re no good. But you should definitely not tout yourself as being it on a stick and the ultimate in anything you’re doing. The truth is there is always somebody better than you, and the God you serve is even better than them. So keep a right perspective on yourself and it will be well with you. don’t puff yourself up, don’t make yourself out to be someone that you are not. Be willing to humble yourself.

5 Then he said to Korah and all his followers: “In the morning the LORD will show who belongs to him and who is holy, and he will have that person come near him. The man he chooses he will cause to come near him. 6 You, Korah, and all your followers are to do this: Take censers 7 and tomorrow put fire and incense in them before the LORD. The man the LORD chooses will be the one who is holy. You Levites have gone too far!”
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3. God chooses whom He wants in leadership.

Moses humbles himself but then he gives a command, a humble leader isn’t afraid to speak the truth if he knows that he is right. Moses must have had a supernatural confidence at this time, so that he could confront these people like this. But he also has a solution.

What’s all this censer business. Is anyone here from a catholic or liturgical church background? Remember the incense? it was burning in a censer, which is basically a hanging pot that you can swing back and forth, these were important for the israelite worship service it was used to make things holy, to welcome God’s presence and all that.

So Moses is saying, if you think your holy and you should be calling the shots and leading the priesthood, then lets do this little exercise and God will decide whom he wants. You try to do the work of the priest and see how it goes.

God’s pretty smart, he can figure out who he wants in leadership. Sometimes God brings people that we don’t expect. Sometimes he removes the most likely candidate in our eyes, but all in all, He chooses who he wants.

Sometimes people come up to those in leadership and say, I can do your job better than you. There are days when I just want to say, alright, why don’t you do it, and see what happens. I could use the day off. It’s funny but not everyone should desire to be in the ministry. Becuase somedays it’s a lot like cleaning a porta-potty and your just catching crud all day. If you’re not called to be a pastor don’t try to be a pastor? God hasn’t chosen Korah, but Korah wants it so badly, and it’s really not going to work out to well for him.

 8 Moses also said to Korah, “Now listen, you Levites! 9 Isn’t it enough for you that the God of Israel has separated you from the rest of the Israelite community and brought you near himself to do the work at the LORD’s tabernacle and to stand before the community and minister to them? 10 He has brought you and all your fellow Levites near himself, but now you are trying to get the priesthood too. 11 It is against the LORD that you and all your followers have banded together. Who is Aaron that you should grumble against him?”
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This section is key to the conflict. Korah is saying that everyone should be a priest, and Moses and Aaron are trying to control the leadership, and next in line for the High priesthood are Aaron’s Sons. The ironic this is Korah is a levite, which is the tribe of priests. Korah was already working around the Tabernacle, he was intricately involved in the worship community. But he wasn’t content with where God had him, he wanted more.

4. Godly leaders do not desire undue promotion.

We’ll get what we deserve when we deserve it. You can’t always be looking at your bosses job. You might not be the next Howard Shultz when you just started working as a barista. It’s good to have goals, but you can’t focus on way down the road and forget where you are right now. I have dreams and goals for my life in ministry, someday I’d like to do this, someday I’d like to do that. But I can’t neglect today for someday. Where has god put you? Are you being a faithful steward to what God has given you? One of the questions that I hate is, “when are you going to be a real pastor?” or, “When are you going to lead your own church?” Someday I might be a lead pastor but I’m in no rush, because God has me where he wants me today.

If you want a raise, earn it, if you want a promotion, work for it. If you want to lead in ministry, start by serving in a ministry. Jesus said that whoever wants to be the greatest must become the least.

This is one of the things about our faith that sets us apart. The world is dog eat dog, and do whatever you can to get ahead, but that’s not the way that our faith is supposed to be, as Christians we should be comfortable to start at the bottom and work our way up.

Are you comfortable enough in your leadership to lead through serving? Or do you think that you deserve better? Start at the bottom and work your way up. God sees your heart, you’ll get where he wants you to go. But humble yourself and start where you need to start.

 12 Then Moses summoned Dathan and Abiram, the sons of Eliab. But they said, “We will not come! 13 Isn’t it enough that you have brought us up out of a land flowing with milk and honey to kill us in the desert? And now you also want to lord it over us? 14 Moreover, you haven’t brought us into a land flowing with milk and honey or given us an inheritance of fields and vineyards. Will you gouge out the eyes of [b] these men? No, we will not come!”
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5. Undeserving leaders refuse to play by the rules.
These people are complainers and whiners, they try to work the system in their favor and when it doesn’t work out for them they usually say they are getting the shaft and don’t even show up.

Have you ever worked with someone who demanded special treatment, but they really had no rights for it? Is that you, are you a complainer or whiner until you get your way? I can’t stress enough that if you are working hard in the system, and doing what your bosses say, or what your parents say and doing it well, it will go well with you. If you are leading and working with integrity, you lose nothing, but if you become the whiner, the system manipulator then you could lose everything.

6. Undeserving leaders shift the blame onto others.
is it really Moses’ fault that they are not in the land flowing with milk and Honey?
No!

Who’s keeping the people out of the land flowing with milk and honey? The People. As we heard the last two weeks it was their unwillingness to trust God that kept them from the promised land. It wasn’t Moses fault. He led them there and they chickened out.

People who make excuses and shift the blame on others are liars. If you messed up, man up and take the heat. It’s going to make you stronger, it’s going to make you better. If you keep shifting the blame for your mistakes and problems then you are going to burn some bridges and other people.

You’ve heard the phrase, “a bad carpenter blames his tools.” It’s never his fault. It’s not the tool’s fault “I have a bad hammer.” It’s not the hammer, it’s you! You look at your life, the excuses that you are coming up with are lame, you are responsible for your actions, You messed up, now deal with it.

 15 Then Moses became very angry and said to the LORD, “Do not accept their offering. I have not taken so much as a donkey from them, nor have I wronged any of them.”
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7. Godly leaders are not afraid to pray for Justice.

If you are doing God’s will, doing good, you have nothing to fear from God. So you can pray for justice without worry. But if you aren’t just you should not pray for justice, because you just might get it.

don’t complain about other people getting ahead or not treating you fairly if you’re a jerk to others. You’re not responsible for them you’re responsible for you. so how are you living? Do you deserve Justice? Can you pray for justice with clean hands? It’s all about integrity, we see in Moses Humility, and Integrity, That’s Godly leadership. So Far Korah and his crew are Arrogant Whiners.

 16 Moses said to Korah, “You and all your followers are to appear before the LORD tomorrow—you and they and Aaron. 17 Each man is to take his censer and put incense in it—250 censers in all—and present it before the LORD. You and Aaron are to present your censers also.” 18 So each man took his censer, put fire and incense in it, and stood with Moses and Aaron at the entrance to the Tent of Meeting. 19 When Korah had gathered all his followers in opposition to them at the entrance to the Tent of Meeting, the glory of the LORD appeared to the entire assembly. 20 The LORD said to Moses and Aaron, 21 “Separate yourselves from this assembly so I can put an end to them at once.”
 22 But Moses and Aaron fell facedown and cried out, “O God, God of the spirits of all mankind, will you be angry with the entire assembly when only one man sins?”
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8. Godly leaders are concerned about God’s people.

So Moses lays out what all the rebels are supposed to do. they put the incense in the censers and they go to the Tent of Meeting, and God tells moses that He’s going to destroy the assembly because of his anger. Moses pleads with God, not to do this thing because it’s really just the few that are sinning not everyone. God is a righteous God and he doesn’t tolerate sin, but God has given us time to bring people under his grace.

Who are you pleading for? Who are you crying out to God for? If you can’t answer that question that you need to start praying that God would give you people to be concerned for. We all need this, we all need to be willing to stand before God on behalf of people who are not serving him. In the Chairs in front of you there’s a prayer card that you can put people’s names on and pray for them. If you haven’t done that go ahead and make that happen.

The important question is, “Do you even care about lost people?” Because their are eternal consequences, and God uses us to help change people’s eternity. If you are not praying for lost people, you need to start. If you are not serving God today then today is a great day to start your eternity with him.

 23 Then the LORD said to Moses, 24 “Say to the assembly, ‘Move away from the tents 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 assembly, “Move back from the tents of these wicked men! Do not touch anything belonging to them, or you will be swept away because of all their sins.” 27 So they moved away from the tents of Korah, Dathan and Abiram. Dathan and Abiram had come out and were standing with their wives, children and little ones at the entrances to their tents.
 28 Then Moses said, “This is how you will know that the LORD has sent me to do all these things and that it was not my idea: 29 If these men die a natural death and experience only what usually happens to men, then the LORD has not sent me. 30 But if the LORD brings about something totally new, and the earth opens its mouth and swallows them, with everything that belongs to them, and they go down alive into the grave, [c] then you will know that these men have treated the LORD with contempt.”
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9. Godly leaders Believe that God can do whatever God wants to do.

God’s bigger and more powerful than us, and he can do whatever he wants to do. We can’t put limits on him, we can’t command him, we can’t live our lives not serving him and expect to be okay.

Moses understands this. Moses has seen God do incredible mighty things, and he knows that God has ways of getting people’s attention. So Moses is like, if God’s cool with these guys, then they’re going to be fine, live a nice long time, and die a natural death. But if not, God’s going to do something completely different.

 31 As soon as he finished saying all this, the ground under them split apart 32 and the earth opened its mouth and swallowed them, with their households and all Korah’s men and all their possessions. 33 They went down alive into the grave, with everything they owned; the earth closed over them, and they perished and were gone from the community. 34 At their cries, all the Israelites around them fled, shouting, “The earth is going to swallow us too!”
 35 And fire came out from the LORD and consumed the 250 men who were offering the incense.

So Moses said the earth would swallow them up and so it did. This must have been the craziest thing to see. It could have been an earthquake, but the earth closed back up. God must have done this, and this freaked everyone out and they start running away, and God destroys the 250 men who were burning the incense.

Now we have to ask, why would God do this? Why do these stories we are looking at have such incredible violence, and why does God seem to approve of and do this destroying?

It’s all about protection. God is protecting his people from divisiveness, and he is protecting them from people who are going to lead them out of God’s will. They have already given God the finger by not trusting him to lead them into the promised land. And now they are trying to over throw God’s leaders. So God is going to show them who’s ultimately in charge. And the truth is that Moses may be God’s leader over the Israelites, but really God is the one who’s calling the shots,and one can only go so long ignoring God’s leadership.

It’s seems bizarre, and it isn’t the picture of God that most people have in their mind. Most people think God is a Giant hippie in the Sky who is just passing out love and peace. And God is loving and gracious, and full of mercy.

But at the same time God is a God of Justice, and he will exact justice to protect his people. Justice and righteousness are God’s primary characteristics.

 36 The LORD said to Moses, 37 “Tell Eleazar son of Aaron, the priest, to take the censers out of the smoldering remains and scatter the coals some distance away, for the censers are holy- 38 the censers of the men who sinned at the cost of their lives. Hammer the censers into sheets to overlay the altar, for they were presented before the LORD and have become holy. Let them be a sign to the Israelites.”
 39 So Eleazar the priest collected the bronze censers brought by those who had been burned up, and he had them hammered out to overlay the altar, 40 as the LORD directed him through Moses. This was to remind the Israelites that no one except a descendant of Aaron should come to burn incense before the LORD, or he would become like Korah and his followers.
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10. Even though the people making the offering were not God’s chosen, their offerings were still holy.

messed up people can still influence the kingdom. Just because you may have had a pastor that hurt you or misled you, doesn’t mean you should just throw away everything they ever taught you.

Bad leadership can sometimes result in good fruit. Because God is still big. I have been to churches, where the leadership was bad but there were still good growing people. God can use whoever he wants to, there’s a story in Numbers where God talks through a donkey. If he can use that donkey he can use people who are jacked up too.

So these bad leaders were making offerings that were still honorable even if the leaders weren’t. So Moses honors the offering for what it is, and uses it as a teaching moment, so that people will always remember that Aaron’s descendants were the ones chosen to lead the people in sacrifices to God. And he commands that the bronze from the censers be used to overlay the altar, so that people who see the altar can always be reminded That God has chosen the Sons of Aaron.

 41 The next day the whole Israelite community grumbled against Moses and Aaron. “You have killed the LORD’s people,” they said.
 42 But when the assembly gathered in opposition to Moses and Aaron and turned toward the Tent of Meeting, suddenly the cloud covered it and the glory of the LORD appeared. 43 Then Moses and Aaron went to the front of the Tent of Meeting, 44 and the LORD said to Moses, 45 “Get away from this assembly so I can put an end to them at once.” And they fell facedown.
 46 Then Moses said to Aaron, “Take your censer and put incense in it, along with fire from the altar, and hurry to the assembly to make atonement for them. Wrath has come out from the LORD; the plague has started.” 47 So Aaron did as Moses said, and ran into the midst of the assembly. The plague had already started among the people, but Aaron offered the incense and made atonement for them. 48 He stood between the living and the dead, and the plague stopped. 49 But 14,700 people died from the plague, in addition to those who had died because of Korah. 50 Then Aaron returned to Moses at the entrance to the Tent of Meeting, for the plague had stopped.
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So the people who witnessed this began to grumble against Moses and Aaron, I can’t believe that they killed these men, i can’t believe it, I don’t think this is right, how can this be.

They blame Moses for killing the rebellious people. Now this is funny, because Moses is just a dude, how could he possibly have killed all these men with fire? How could he have commanded the earth to swallow them whole? How could Moses have been responsible for that? It’s funny and tragic, but these people are denying that God is in this, and that God is doing these things, it’s not Moses. So they start to Grumble and God’s like alright, I can’t handle these people anymore, I’m going to send a plague to wipe them out, and I’ll start over with Moses. God’s started over with just Noah before, he can do it again, so he gets to work.

But Moses loves these people, and sends Aaron into the midst of the plague. With a censer to stop the plague from spreading. Aaron and Moses are willing to risk their own lives to stand in the way of God’s wrath.

11. Godly leaders will take big risks, even for those who don’t buy into their leadership.

I think that this is one of the most telling aspects of Moses’ leadership, time and again, he is willing to stand in front of God on behalf of a grumbling and rebellious people. He knows that these people don’t all agree that he’s the man for the job, but he knows that the people need to move forward, and he believes that they can do the right thing even if they don’t believe they can.

Now if I can be so bold as to talk about our church’s leadership. You need to know that we love you, the pastors, the elders,the deacons, we love you. And our heart is that you would get on mission with Jesus, and as we move forward we are hoping that you would catch the heart for the move to Mountlake Terrace, and that together we can make an eternal difference in that city. Even if you don’t we will still pray for you, we will still invest in you, and we will still love you.

Here in this story Aaron is willing to run into the plague that God sent on the people, to stop it’s spread.

Godly leadership is all about laying down your life for others. You don’t have to die, but you do have to realize that this is not about you. And when you realize that it’s not about you anymore, you are much more willing to take risks, you are much more willing to do things that might seem crazy to people that don’t understand but if God’s called you then you’ll do it.

As a church this move is not our idea, this transformation is a God thing, he’s working on our hearts trying to transform us and make us stronger, more loving Christians who understand his heart for lost people. God is transforming all of us to be leaders in his kingdom. And sometimes it’s painful for us, because God really has to work on us, but it’s a good thing, he’s making us stronger and stronger and better leaders in his kingdom

And the most important leading that you can do is leading somebody to Christ. If you love people with God’s heart that you are going to be willing to take the risk to stand in the gap for them and pray that their hearts would be open for the Gospel, and that you would have the courage to be the leader that God is calling you to be, and help them to cross over to a life of faith and love in Jesus Christ. Let’s pray.

Discussion Questions

ICE BREAKER: Name some Famous Leaders and what they are known for.

Read Numbers 16, each person reading one verse at a time.

1. Why do you think Korah wanted the priest hood?

2. Why was Moses able to trust that God would accept his offering?

3. What do you lead?

4. Are you leading more like Moses or Korah?

5. How can we pray for you?

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