Shapeless homes and interchangeable churches lower the drawbridge for Korah to invade. The likes of feminism, socialism, LGBTQ+, and smooth-sounding egalitarianism might tell us how special we all are, even co-opting the imago dei. But the plain instruction given to Christian husbands and wives, fathers and children, kings and citizens, masters and servants, shepherds and individual sheep survives. In Christ, we do not chafe at this. Of all people, we best love just sovereigns, good heads, righteous authorities and their rule. We will not follow Korah’s sweet talk into the earth’s core. If tempted by his rhetoric, hear Christ himself ask us, “Is it too small a thing to you that the living God has loved you, chosen you, redeemed you, and graced you to rule with me in the endless world to come?”
Outrage against God’s men never sounded so heroic.
“You have gone too far!” they shouted at Moses. “For all in the congregation are holy, every one of them, and the Lord is among them. Why then do you exalt yourselves above the assembly of the Lord?” (Numbers 16:3).
The hundreds of men at the entrance lobbied for the people. They demanded notice. Far from peeking around avatars and fake names, these men confronted Moses as men — “well-known men,” in fact, chiefs in their communities, shepherds of families and clans (Numbers 16:2). Their charge: Moses and Aaron have exalted themselves; they rule with confiscated authority. Their logic: all of Israel is holy, every last person. Who is this Moses and this Aaron to speak from on high? This was “Power to the People.”
Did they have a point? Moses, after all, wrote that Israel was to be “a kingdom of priests and a holy nation” (Exodus 19:6). Did “kingdom of priests” actually mean “sons of Aaron”? Did “holy nation” actually mean “holy prophet”? Had not Moses and Aaron “gone too far” in asserting their authority?
Korah, the people’s champion, thought so. He placed himself at the head of this small army. Shouts swelled, “All in the congregation are holy, every one of them, and Yahweh is among them — come down from your castles!”
Moses, the meekest man on earth, gives us a lesson for today with his reply.
Moses responds with the following steps.
First, he falls on his face. He grew weary of his life as a constant game of thrones. Would Moses have ever chosen this staff for himself? He tried his best to deny it from the start — “Oh, my Lord, please send someone else” (Exodus 4:13). Since then, he has heard the thankless voices repeat, “Who made you a prince and a judge over us?” (Exodus 2:14). He collapses in prayer.
Second, he challenges Korah and his company. He bows before God; he stands before men. He challenges Korah and the other sons of Levi to return tomorrow: “In the morning the Lord will show who is his, and who is holy, and will bring him near to him” (Numbers 16:5).
Third, he unmasks Korah’s motives. Here, Moses gives us our lesson. He diagnoses what Korah’s rebellion is really about — something very different than presented. Korah shouted of equality, of fairness, of removing mountains and lifting valleys. But what did Moses hear?
Hear now, you sons of Levi: is it too small a thing for you that the God of Israel has separated you from the congregation of Israel, to bring you near to himself, to do service in the tabernacle of the Lord and to stand before the congregation to minister to them, and that he has brought you near him, and all your brothers the sons of Levi with you? And would you seek the priesthood also? (Numbers 16:8–10)
The revolutionists said, “Sameness for all! All of us are holy! The Lord walks among us — why should Moses and Aaron reign?” But Moses heard, “We want the priesthood.”
Korah and his company were Levites (like Moses and Aaron) but not priests. Priesthood belonged to Aaron and his sons. The Levites helped the priests and served in the tabernacle, but they did not possess full access. Discontent festered.