Numbers 16-17

Sunday Evening Bible Study

February 8, 1998


The people had become transformed from a band of delivered slaves, to an organized fighting army.

God had ordered Moses to send spies into the Promised Land so the people would know what it was all about.

But ten of the spies came back with such a discouraging report, that the people rebelled and decided they didnít want to go into the Promised Land. God said that they would have to wait forty years before theyíd be ready.

Numbers 16

:1-3 Korah's complaint

:3 seeing all the congregation are holy

What God had been doing through Moses and Aaron was setting up laws to teach the people holiness, and further to set up priests to act as intermediaries between God and the people.

All this was done so that God would be able to come and "dwell" in their midst in the tabernacle, at least to do so without completely wiping them all out.

Korah and his buddies are saying that since God has been dwelling with us, everything is okay, and all of Moses' precautions were unnecessary.

But God was the one coming up with all the laws and precautions, not Moses. And Moses went along with passing these on to the people because he knew just how holy God was and just how necessary all these things were.

:3 Ye take too much upon you

NASB Ė "you've gone far enough"

It's easy to criticize something that a ministry is doing when you're on the outside of the leadership loop. The problem is that you may not be aware of all the things that have gone into making all the decisions.

Example: David Hocking's fall, Pastor Chuck's counseling, David's restoration.

Pastor Chuck has taken a lot of flack, but he also has a perspective on the whole situation that most of us don't.

We need to be careful when it comes to judging other ministries, or other people.

ROM 14:4 Who are you to judge the servant of another? To his own master he stands or falls; and stand he will, for the Lord is able to make him stand.

There are some issues that are definitely important, definitely worth being concerned about.

But there are other issues that really aren't as important as the harm that comes from backbiting another person

:3 wherefore then lift ye up yourselves above the congregation

When you think about it, this is really quite silly.

Moses didn't want to be exalted above the assembly, he didn't even want the job in the first place.

Moses tried to get out of God's call for his life, but God wouldn't let him.

But for an "outsider", someone who wasn't there when God called Moses, it looks as if Moses has been doing nothing but playing the dictator.

:4-7 Moses sets up the test

:7 the man whom the LORD doth choose

He isn't really trying to defend himself

Moses is leaving it all up to God to decide.

:8-11 Moses asks why they are rebelling

:9 Seemeth it but a small thing unto you

The tribe of Levi (Korah's tribe) was already in an exalted position, being chosen to serve in the tabernacle.

We need to be careful to find our place in the Lord, in the body, and grow in it.

Every part of the body is important and has its place

(1 Cor 12:15-17 KJV) If the foot shall say, Because I am not the hand, I am not of the body; is it therefore not of the body? {16} And if the ear shall say, Because I am not the eye, I am not of the body; is it therefore not of the body? {17} If the whole body were an eye, where were the hearing? If the whole were hearing, where were the smelling?


Bloom in your place.

Sometimes we can get to thinking about what it would be like to be another part of the body. We can become consumed with the idea of getting to that particular spot. All the while, the place where we really are is being neglected.


Iíve had times in my life where I was so consumed with the idea of being a pastor, that I wasnít paying attention to the place where I was. At one particular point, my place was to get a job out in the "real world", and be a productive part of the body. But it took me a while to realize that I was really supposed to be doing that.

God had it in His plan for me to be a pastor, and I simply needed to be faithful where He had temporarily planted me.

These became my verses to cling to:

(Luke 16:10 KJV) He that is faithful in that which is least is faithful also in much: and he that is unjust in the least is unjust also in much.

(Luke 16:12 KJV) And if ye have not been faithful in that which is another man's, who shall give you that which is your own?

Donít despise the days of small things. Just be faithful where God has planted you.

:11 are gathered together against the LORD

It wasn't Moses and Aaron who made the decisions, it was God who decided that Aaron and his sons should be priests.

This is why it's important for us to be so careful that God is the one leading us in our life.

We need to know that God is the one putting us into our ministry.

Then if we ever come into criticism (and you will), you can always blame God!


Two paths into the ministry.

There are two ways of getting into ministry (just as there are two ways of becoming king)

1. David's way - He waited and waited, never took the opportunity to murder Saul, but waited until the people came to him and made him king.

2. Absalom's way - He kissed up to the people, then one day organized a coup and overthrew his father. But he himself was later defeated.

:12-14 Dathan and Abiram refuse

:14 thou hast not brought us into a land that floweth with milk and honey

Wait a minute here!

Why didn't the people go into the Promised Land? Because they were unwilling to trust God to take them in.

But to the untrained eye, to the carnal person, this is what appears to have happened:

Moses and Aaron somehow manage to get the people out of Egypt (forget all those miracles...)

Moses and Aaron make a bunch of big promises about a land of milk and honey.

But their plans fall through because the land isn't all that great.

Do you see the difference between how things seem in the natural realm and how they really are in the spiritual realm?

:14 We will not come up

It seems that they are afraid that Moses is going to pull one of his fancy tricks again and come up with a good excuse to execute them in the name of the Lord.

:15-19 Censers are ready

:15 Moses was very wroth, and said unto the LORD

This is not a bad example to follow when you are angry.

(Psa 62:8 KJV) Trust in him at all times; ye people, pour out your heart before him: God is a refuge for us. Selah.

:15 I have not taken one ass from them

Moses is saying that he hasn't taken any bribes (not a single donkey) nor has he been using the threat of force to keep them in line.

:20-24 God wants to wipe out entire nation

:20 the LORD spake unto Moses and Aaron

Remember that both the rebels and Moses and Aaron are standing together at the doorway to the tent of meeting.

Notice that God doesn't speak to the rebels, only to Moses and Aaron.

:21 from among this congregation

God is intending to wipe out the entire nation, not just Korah and friends.

:22 they fell upon their faces

Moses and Aaron do a strange thing here, they are interceding for the people who have followed Korah.

If I had been there, I might have been tempted to do a little victory dance and said "yesssssss!"

:22 shall one man sin Ö

Moses is reminding God of His own principle of judging

"The soul that sins, it shall die" (Eze 18:4)

It wouldn't be right for God to punish the entire nation for Korah's sin.

:25-30 Moses moves everyone away from the rebels

:30 the earth open her mouth

Now how did Moses know that? Is he cheating? (ha,ha)

:30 these men have provoked the LORD

The issue isnít that theyíve ticked Moses off, the issue is that theyíve provoked the Lord.


A good leader is more concerned about Godís perspective than his own.

Itís not whether people have hurt your feelings, itís looking at the bigger picture.

:28 by this you shall know that the LORD has sent me

It's real important here that God be the one doing the confirming, not Moses.


The tests of a true "prophet"

1. Power.

It's not just ordinary earthly, human power that's being displayed, but supernatural power being displayed.

That's Moses' whole point here, that because there would be such an extraordinary, supernatural event take place, something totally out of Moses' hands, that it would prove that God had chosen Moses.

Paul had his criticizers too.

1CO 4:18-20 Now some have become arrogant, as though I were not coming to you. 19 But I will come to you soon, if the Lord wills, and I shall find out, not the words of those who are arrogant, but their power. 20 For the kingdom of God does not consist in words, but in power.

Paul is saying "put your miracles where your mouth is".

This can apply to the area of prophecy.

DEU 18:22 "When a prophet speaks in the name of the \Lord,\ if the thing does not come about or come true, that is the thing which the \Lord\ has not spoken. The prophet has spoken it presumptuously; you shall not be afraid of him.

If the person is truly a prophet of God, what they "predict" will come true.

2. The Word. (Doctrine)

The problem with only limiting our judgment based upon power, is that there is another powerful entity in the universe, Satan.

Satan too can perform some pretty hefty tricks now and then.

(Deu 13:1-5 KJV) If there arise among you a prophet, or a dreamer of dreams, and giveth thee a sign or a wonder, {2} And the sign or the wonder come to pass, whereof he spake unto thee, saying, Let us go after other gods, which thou hast not known, and let us serve them; {3} Thou shalt not hearken unto the words of that prophet, or that dreamer of dreams: for the LORD your God proveth you, to know whether ye love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul. {4} Ye shall walk after the LORD your God, and fear him, and keep his commandments, and obey his voice, and ye shall serve him, and cleave unto him. {5} And that prophet, or that dreamer of dreams, shall be put to death; because he hath spoken to turn you away from the LORD your God, which brought you out of the land of Egypt, and redeemed you out of the house of bondage, to thrust thee out of the way which the LORD thy God commanded thee to walk in. So shalt thou put the evil away from the midst of thee.

The whole bottom line here is that if a person displays some supernatural power, they had better be telling you to follow the LORD (Yahweh), as revealed in the Scriptures, or else they're in big trouble.

:31-35 Rebels swallowed alive

A pretty decent demonstration of power!

:36-40 Rebels' censers become warning to all

:37 they are hallowed

Because they had been presented to the Lord.

God accepted the censers, not the men.

This reminds me of a story (excuse the poor theology) Ö

The day finally arrived: Forrest Gump dies and goes to Heaven. He is met at the Pearly Gates by Saint Peter himself. The gates are closed, however, and Forrest approaches the gatekeeper. Saint Peter says, "Well Forrest, it's certainly good to see you. We have heard a lot about you. I must inform you that the place is filling up fast, and we've been administering an entrance exam for everyone. The tests are fairly short, but you need to pass before you can get into Heaven," Forrest responds, "It shore is good to be here Saint Peter. I was looking forward to this. Nobody ever told me about any entrance exams. Shore hope the test ain't too hard; life was a big enough test as it was." Saint Peter goes on, "Yes, I know Forrest. But, the test I have for you is only three questions. Here is the first: What days of the week begin with the letter 'T'? Second, how many seconds are there in a year? Third, what is God's first name?" Forrest goes away to think the questions over. Forrest returns the next day and goes up to Saint Peter to try to answer the exam questions. Saint Peter waves him up and asks, "Now that you have had a chance to think the questions over, tell me your answers." Forrest says, "Well, the first one, how many days of the week begin with the letter 'T'? Shucks, that one's easy; that'd be Today and Tomorrow!" The saint's eyes opened wide and he exclaims, "Forrest! That's not what I was thinking, but... you do have a point though, and I guess I didn't specify, so I give you credit for that answer." "How about the next one" says Saint Peter, "how many seconds in a year?" "Now that one's harder," says Forrest. "But, I thunk and thunk about that, and I guess the only answer can be twelve." Astounded, Saint Peter says, "Twelve! Twelve! Forrest, how in Heaven's name could you come up with twelve seconds in a year?" Forrest says, "Shucks, there gotta be twelve: January second, February second, March second......." "Hold it," interrupts Saint Peter. "I see where you're going with it. And I guess I see your point, though that wasn't quite what I had in mind. I'll give you credit for that one too." "Let's go on with the next and final question," says Saint Peter, "can you tell me God's first name?" Forrest says, "Well shore, I know God's first name. Everybody probably knows it. Its Howard." "Howard?" asks Saint Peter. "What makes you think it's Howard?" Forrest answers, "It's in the prayer." "The prayer?" asks Saint Peter, "Which prayer?" "The Lord's Prayer," responds Forrest: Our Father, which art in Heaven, Howard be thy name......"

:40 as a reminder to the sons of Israel

So, every time you came near the altar, you'd see this hodge-podge of brass hammered onto the altar.

A child would ask, "Daddy, why did they do such a sloppy job in making that altar...?"

It was to remind them just who was to be a priest.

:40 which is not of the seed of Aaron

Do you think the Orthodox Jews are concerned about having the proper people be priests when they start sacrifices on the Temple Mount? Yes.

I think itís interesting that now they have discovered a common genetic code among those who claim to be descendants of Aaron, proving that they are what they say they are.

:41-50 Nation still rebellious, Aaron stops the plague

:41 Ye have killed the people of the LORD

Don't they get the idea yet?

How can they blame Moses and Aaron for the ground opening up and swallowing the rebels alive?

:41 the children of Israel murmured ...

Hebrew (lun) word means to "murmur, growl, grumble". It's complaining.

The Greek word (goggusmos) means muttering, murmuring, complaint, grumbling.

PHI 2:14-15 Do all things without grumbling or disputing; 15 that you may prove yourselves to be blameless and innocent, children of God above reproach in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, among whom you appear as lights in the world,

Not grumbling is one of the proofs we have to the world that we belong to God.

:46 take a censer

It appears that Aaron is now going to take that same censer he used previously in the contest against Korah, and is going to offer up incense to God. By offering incense, this indicates that prayer is being made.

Note: the difference that one little censer will make compared to what devastation that 250 in the wrong hands can do.

It grieves me to see many so called "churches" where prayers are nothing more than memorized words and rituals. To me, the damage that people can do when they play act their "religion" is devastating.

But the real thing, real prayer, is awesome.

JAM 5:16b The effective prayer of a righteous man can accomplish much.


When you see trouble coming, pray.

This sounds kind of obvious, but sometimes the last thing we think about when weíre in trouble is praying.

I have to confess, that in some of my counseling, Iíve found myself taking almost a humanistic approach to solving problems, trying to get couples to figure out how to resolve their conflicts on their own.

But perhaps it might be better if we all learned to take things to the Lord in prayer first.

(Psa 34:4 KJV) I sought the LORD, and he heard me, and delivered me from all my fears.

:48 he stood between the dead and the living

It seems as if you could have actually seen the plague spreading over the people as they began to fall in waves. Aaron rushes out with his incense and stands in front of the wave of death.


The beauty of intercession.

Aaron taking his incense - incense is all tied up in prayer.

It was to be a physical representation of the spiritual thing of prayer.

It had a beautiful fragrance.

It ascended up into heaven, before God's throne.

It is a beautiful example of what we too, as priests, should be about doing.

There are a lot of dying people out there that need life in Jesus.

There are a lot of people facing God's judgment.

Get our your incense!

When no one takes up the job

EZE 22:23-31 And the word of the \Lord\ came to me saying, 24 "Son of man, say to her, 'You are a land that is not cleansed or rained on in the day of indignation.' 25 "There is a conspiracy of her prophets in her midst, like a roaring lion tearing the prey. They have devoured lives; they have taken treasure and precious things; they have made many widows in the midst of her. 26 "Her priests have done violence to My law and have profaned My holy things; they have made no distinction between the holy and the profane, and they have not taught the difference between the unclean and the clean; and they hide their eyes from My sabbaths, and I am profaned among them. 27 "Her princes within her are like wolves tearing the prey, by shedding blood {and} destroying lives in order to get dishonest gain. 28 "And her prophets have smeared whitewash for them, seeing false visions and divining lies for them, saying, 'Thus says the Lord \God\,' when the \Lord\ has not spoken. 29 "The people of the land have practiced oppression and committed robbery, and they have wronged the poor and needy and have oppressed the sojourner without justice. 30 "And I searched for a man among them who should build up the wall and stand in the gap before Me for the land, that I should not destroy it; but I found no one. 31 "Thus I have poured out My indignation on them; I have consumed them with the fire of My wrath; their way I have brought upon their heads," declares the Lord \God\.

Sounds a little like our nation. God is still looking for people to stand in the gap.

It may be for a friend, it may be for your company, your neighborhood block.

The only thing we come armed with is prayer.

Do we really have a grasp on how important prayer is, and just how powerful it is?

Numbers 17

:1-7 Pick a stick

:2 take of every one of them a rod

rod - The Hebrew word used here (matteh) is also the same word used for "tribe".

The idea was that a tribe was a "branch" of the nation's family tree.

And so, appropriately, each tribe is to provide it's own "rod" or "branch" to place before the Lord to see whose will sprout.

Also, I think it's important that God asked each of the tribes to provide their own rods. They couldn't come back to Moses and Aaron later and say that they had given them bad rods, that they had somehow rigged the trick.

:4 in the tabernacle of the congregation before the testimony

The "testimony" was the name for the two stone tablets containing the ten commandments.

The "testimony" was kept inside the ark of the covenant.

:5 the man's rod, whom I shall choose

Again, just as the case with Korah, God is going to do the decision making.

Ordination, choosing people for ministry, is not man's responsibility, it's God's.

In some church organizations, they've got it backward.

They're hungry for any warm bodies to fill their pulpits.

They feel that if a person has completed enough education, they must be qualified for ministry.

Education is fine, but the real qualification for ministry is God's choosing you.

Once God chooses you, He'll do the equipping.

God won't put you into a place He won't equip you for.

Sometimes He may use education, but that's not necessarily a requirement.

(Heb 13:20-21 KJV) Now the God of peace, that brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus, that great shepherd of the sheep, through the blood of the everlasting covenant, {21} Make you perfect in every good work to do his will, working in you that which is wellpleasing in his sight, through Jesus Christ; to whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen.

If you are having problems with people questioning whether you are right for your ministry, let God do the proving.

With cults, inevitably it is the leader that has to keep everybody convinced that he's supposed to be the leader.

:5 shall blossom

Just think of it, they are going to take twelve dead, disconnected tree branches, and are going to expect them to sprout and come to life!

This is a good picture of what it's like for any of us in our ministries.

By ourselves, we are nothing more than just deadwood. There's not a whole lot in us that can do a whole lot for anyone.

And yet, somehow, when God gets a hold of our lives, he can take these dead old sticks and infuse them with such life that they not only sprout, but bear fruit as well.

John 15:5 "I am the vine, you are the branches; he who abides in Me, and I in him, he bears much fruit; for apart from Me you can do nothing.

Abiding in the Vine will always result in fruit.

Not bearing fruit is evidence of a branch that isn't abiding, it's just a lifeless old stick.

If you're bearing fruit, get ready to be pruned!

:5 I will make to cease from me the murmurings

When you look closely at the last several episodes of the people grumbling, you notice that they weren't grumbling against God, but they were grumbling against Moses and Aaron.

And yet, because God was the one who chose Moses and Aaron and gave them their responsibilities, God felt the grumbling as though it was against Him.

Samuel had something similar happen to him

1SA 8:4-8 Then all the elders of Israel gathered together and came to Samuel at Ramah; 5 and they said to him, "Behold, you have grown old, and your sons do not walk in your ways. Now appoint a king for us to judge us like all the nations." 6 But the thing was displeasing in the sight of Samuel when they said, "Give us a king to judge us." And Samuel prayed to the \Lord.\ 7 And the \Lord\ said to Samuel, "Listen to the voice of the people in regard to all that they say to you, for they have not rejected you, but they have rejected Me from being king over them. 8 "Like all the deeds which they have done since the day that I brought them up from Egypt even to this day-- in that they have forsaken Me and served other gods-- so they are doing to you also.


Handling personal complaints

It's a hard thing to hear someone who is unhappy about you and the things you do.

But if God is truly leading you, the bottom line is that they aren't grumbling at you, but at God.


Be careful when complaining about those in leadership.

It's not that we should let our leaders do just whatever they want to, and to let them lead us off a cliff or something. That leads to cult mentality, where Jim Jones orders everyone to drink poison Kool-Aid, and they all obey.

But on the other hand, we need to be careful that we don't find ourselves complaining against God.

How do you know that God might not be controlling whatever situation you're unhappy about?

:8-11 God's choice

:8 on the morrow

Keep in mind that the things that are going to happen to Aaron's rod happened over night.

:8 buds ... blossoms ... almonds

(Kind of reminds me of the scene in "Pinnochio" where Pinnochio is lying to the blue fairy and his nose keeps growing longer and longer until it blooms with flowers and has a bird's nest in it.)

Aaron's rod not only sprouted, but it was a fully developed, bearing not only leaves, but flowers and almonds, the fruit of the almond tree.


Fruit is the proof of God's anointing.

Though sometimes we think the proof must be if the person is a little "nuts"!

(Mat 7:15-20 KJV) Beware of false prophets, which come to you in sheep's clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves. {16} Ye shall know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes of thorns, or figs of thistles? {17} Even so every good tree bringeth forth good fruit; but a corrupt tree bringeth forth evil fruit. {18} A good tree cannot bring forth evil fruit, neither can a corrupt tree bring forth good fruit. {19} Every tree that bringeth not forth good fruit is hewn down, and cast into the fire. {20} Wherefore by their fruits ye shall know them.

What is "FRUIT"?

It's simply the by-product of a growing organism. It's the natural results of a work of God.

It can be good fruit or bad fruit.

If God has called you to be a street preacher, then the fruit is going to involve people getting saved and their lives changing.

If God has called you to be a Sunday School teacher, then there's lots of things to look for: Salvation for your kids, an excitement in their lives about the Lord, love for the Bible and prayer, the way they treat their parents and each other.

If God has called you to a ministry of intercessory prayer, you're going to see what? Answered prayers!

If God has called you to a prophetic ministry, then you're going to see fulfilled prophecies (if they deal with future things) and you're going to see edifying, exhorting, and consolation (1Cor.14:3).

If you're a worship leader, then people are going to be experiencing true worship (from time to time at least). You'll be seeing some of the results of true worship, namely humility, joy, peace, healing, etc.

Timothyís proven worth.

PHI 2:19-24 But I hope in the Lord Jesus to send Timothy to you shortly, so that I also may be encouraged when I learn of your condition. 20 For I have no one {else} of kindred spirit who will genuinely be concerned for your welfare. 21 For they all seek after their own interests, not those of Christ Jesus. 22 But you know of his proven worth that he served with me in the furtherance of the gospel like a child {serving} his father. 23 Therefore I hope to send him immediately, as soon as I see how things {go} with me; 24 and I trust in the Lord that I myself also shall be coming shortly.

Paul felt like he didn't have a lot of people he could trust with ministry. But he knew he could trust Timothy. He knew that the Philippians knew that Timothy was trustworthy. All because of his "proven worth". He had born good fruit in his time with them. They could see that God was working in Timothy's life.

Sometimes, we need to be careful to not rush people into places of responsibility until we've seen the proof of God's anointing.

1TI 3:10 And let these also first be tested; then let them serve as deacons if they are beyond reproach.

1TI 5:22 Do not lay hands upon anyone {too} hastily and thus share {responsibility for} the sins of others; keep yourself free from sin.

1TI 5:24-25 The sins of some men are quite evident, going before them to judgment; for others, their {sins} follow after. 25 Likewise also, deeds that are good are quite evident, and those which are otherwise cannot be concealed.

:10 Bring Aaron's rod again before the testimony

The rod of Aaron became one of the three things that were held in the Ark of the Covenant. In a sense it was kind of like a safe-deposit box at the bank, where you keep your important records and treasures.

The Ark was to hold the two tablets of stone containing the ten commandments (Exo 25:16)

God wanted His people to remember the contract He had with them, the laws that showed us what His nature was like.

The Ark was to hold a jar with a sample of the manna (Exo 16:33-34)

God wanted His people to remember that He took care of them in the wilderness, that He provided for all their needs.

And now Aaron's rod was to be added

God wanted this lesson of God's choice of Aaron and his authority not to be forgotten.

But by the time that Solomon built the temple, all that was left in the Ark was the two stone tablets. (2Chr.5:10)

:12-13 Israelites' reaction of fear

These next two verses are a kind of bridge between this and the following chapter.

The people's reaction is based upon what they've seen over the last two chapters, yet chapter 18 will be God's response to their fears.

:12 Behold, we die, we perish, we all perish

It seems that the people are again characteristically over-reacting.

They are afraid that now that God has again demonstrated His choice of Aaron, that because of their complaining they are all going to die.

:13 Whosoever cometh any thing near unto the tabernacle of the LORD shall die

They don't think it's safe for anyone to come near to God.

You have to give the people credit though, they are beginning to get a clue about the holiness of God.

Compare this with what Korah was claiming when he stirred up the people:

(Num 16:3 KJV) And they gathered themselves together against Moses and against Aaron, and said unto them, Ye take too much upon you, seeing all the congregation are holy, every one of them, and the LORD is among them: wherefore then lift ye up yourselves above the congregation of the LORD?

First they were saying that anybody could come near to the tabernacle. But after Korah and his buddies were either swallowed up by the earth, or toasted with the fire of God, now they are afraid that it's not safe for anybody to approach God.


Awe at His holiness.

I think it wouldn't hurt us to have a taste of this from time to time, after all, it is the truth about God.

Even when the prophet Isaiah had his vision of God sitting on His throne, his response was Ė

(Isa 6:5 KJV) Then said I, Woe is me! for I am undone; because I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips: for mine eyes have seen the King, the LORD of hosts.

I believe that every time we truly open our eyes to the presence of God in our midst, that we too should tremble a little at His majesty and holiness.

But we also shouldn't just stay in that mode of awe and unworthiness. We too, just like Isaiah, can be cleansed and brought fully into the throne room of the Father, where we can rejoice in His grace and His love for us.

Cockiness and grumbling are evidence of people who have yet to come into contact with God.

Humility and being awestruck are evidence of a people who have been to the throne.