Thursday, February 19, 2009

Numbers 16-17

Day 50

Going to get to use my Valentine's Day gift certificates for my deluxe pedicure and manicure! Thanks mom for coming over to babysit!!! Hum...what else can I do while she's here?  Nap maybe....I was up at 5:00am! ;)  

Chapters 16   These two chapters really do go together.  These are both about the priestly leadership in the wilderness community and are challenges to both Moses and Aaron.   We start off with the guys who come into conflict with Moses (Korah, Dathan, and Abiram) plus 250 of their closest friends who complain about Moses' and Aaron's lack of charismatic leadership. What we have here friends is a civil revolt!  The people are rising up against the leadership.  One leader, Moses, who is appointed  and called by God; and the other leader, Aaron, who was born into his power of position as a priest.  Neither one of them asked for this.  They are simply following their callings.  The 3 grumblers and their heard of 250 men are opposing the social structure in which priests alone are able to approach God ("the whole community is holy"--v. 3).  They think they are all holy because God dwells in their midst.  This is true, and they believe the structure of the priestly hierarchy is unnecessary and oppressive. Moses and Aaron "have gone too far!"  This is where Moses falls on his face before the congregation as a sign of anger. Moses even summons Dathan and Abiram but, out of disrespect, they do not go when Moses calls for them.  They are rejecting his leadership.  They, ironically, even refer back to Egypt as a place they WANT to go back to as "a land flowing with milk and honey."  No boys....can't go back....must go on and out and forward to CANAAN...THAT is the land flowing with milk and honey.  They just didn't get it! Moses was so angry that he told the Lord not to accept these men's offerings.  Then they were to get their censers and incense.  Now remember, this is what happened to Aaron's sons, Nadab and Abihu. They died because of their misuse of the censers.   I picture these like the "torches" they use for tribal council on "Survivor!!"  No fire, no life!  :)  But there they are with their censers and incense and the glory of the Lord appeared!  This is serious business when this happens.  The Lord appeared to the entire congregation/assembly.  They know that an appearance of God's glory is not always a sign of His pleasure with them.  When they grumbled, He appeared.  When they rebelled, He appeared.  Now, Korah, Dathan, and Abiram have created an uprising against Him and the glory of the Lord appears once more.  Moses was afraid God was going to be angry with ALL of them...not just the 3 yahoo leaders and the 250 followers.  But God was merciful.  He told them to move away from their tents and those wicked men.  And poof!  The earth swallows them up!  Gone in the sweeping action of the ground opening up under their very feet.  They were NOT to have the censers.  This was a comitted sin that was worthy of capital punishment. Then, low and behold the rest of the 250 are consumed by fire.  They perish!  

I remember thinking and saying to Dusty as we read!  God was M-A-D!!! MAD! Whatever you do, don't make Him mad!   Oh but we do...we disappoint, we frustrate, and we make God sad.  Thank goodness Jesus is on our side!  :)   Even with those men dead and gone, the Israelite community STILL grumbles and STILL complains against Moses and Aaron.  They just didn't learn did they?! it comes again....the glory of the Lord!  He is going to "put an end to them at once!"  The Lord put a plague on the community and "wrath has come out from the Lord!"  More than 14, 700 Israelites died from the plague.  It stopped because Aaron stood between the living and dead; he performed a ritual of atonement in order to intercede for the people.  

Chapter 17  The budding of Aaron's staff/rod.   This is a symbol of his authority in the tribe. This rod rests at the front of the ark of the covenant in the tent of meeting.  Moses is to write the name of each tribal leader on his staff and place it before the ark.  The one whose staff buds is God's chosen priestly leader.  This is to be yet ANOTHER sign of divine election and is intended to stop any further murmuring of the people.  Moses does this and follows the command.  Aaron's staff is the only one that has budded.  It is filled with ripe almonds, visible to all Israelites.  This budding of his staff is a warning to rebels to cease their complaining about the priesthood......lest they die!  The budding almond may signify "watchfulness" as in Jeremiah 1:11.  (We'll get there in the fall sometime!)But the whiteness of the budding almond symbolizes purity and holiness.  And it symbolizes the ability of the Aaronide priesthood to approach God and live.  This is a sign of divine choice by God for only the Aaronide priests to represent the people before God! 

We end with a cliff hanging question, "Are we all going to die?"  The people respond to this miracle of the budding staff with fear.  The plague didn't convince them.  The swallowing up of people didn't convince them.  But This!  This finally gets their attention! Perhaps the people thought these things happened because it was judgment from Moses and Aaron, but now they realized it was from God.  He is holy and to be obeyed.  They finally, if only for a moment, realize the seriousness of their rebellion!  

Lesson's learned:  realize today how much we complain.....sometimes rightfully make a difference and to change things...sometimes just to murmur.  Which is it?!  Follow God and obey Him.   Obey. Obey. Obey.  Not out of fear....but because of the relationship you have with the serve Him...then obedience will follow.  Only the priests could approach God, but WE are a new testament people!   Approach His throne with gratitude and prayers for you and your family!  Go ahead....He's waiting!  

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