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 and rose up against Moses … When Moses heard this, he fell facedown.
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Sometimes, the contrast between two reactions is so obvious, it seems unnecessary to point out. But it’s easy to read a passage quickly and miss the subtlety within, and this is an important contrast. Korah, the insolent rabble-rouser, rose up … and Moses, the humble servant of God, fell facedown.
Here are the highlights of Korah’s actions:
- He began to covet the position Moses held
- He gathered together others and spoke against Moses (we aren’t privy to that conversation, but those 250 leaders didn’t follow him to confront Moses without first knowing and agreeing with Korah’s position
- He spoke falsely to support his argument (by saying that all the people were holy. He was correct in saying the Lord was in their midst, but they had proven over and over again that they were not holy)
- He ascribed a false motive to Moses and Aaron, saying they had exalted themselves
This is the anatomy of a church split. It starts with coveting of some sort “Someone else gets to make decisions, and I want that power.” Usually it’s not spoken that directly. It’s phrased more innocently. “I really think we should ________.” Read: sing only hymns/more hymns/less hymns, be more/less community minded, fund my favorite ministry, go to two services/go back to one service, etc.
It’s not wrong to have an opinion. But it is wrong to try to gather a mob behind you as a show of strength to try to get your preferences adopted. Scripture speaks over and over to us against grumbling and murmuring. I don’t believe there’s a single positive example of that in the Bible. And it is abhorrent to add false elements to your case and to ascribe false motives to the pastor and/or leadership.
Let’s look at the reaction of Moses:
- Upon hearing the accusations against him, he did not immediately defend himself. Instead, he fell on his face before God.
- Instead of going through a point-by-point rebuttal, he suggested they bring the matter before the Lord
- He recognized that the attack was against the Lord, and he reminded his accusers of how God had blessed them and established them in their own ministry
- When the attack became more personal and more heated, Moses did become angry. But he again went straight to God and pled his case with Him instead of arguing with his accusers. “I have not taken one donkey from them, nor have I hurt them.”
- When God gave them an opportunity to intercede for the congregation, they took it. They asked that God deal with those who were rebelling but spare the rest of the congregation.
- He trusted God with his reputation and left it to God to make the truth obvious.
When you compare the actions of both men, it’s obvious who we want to be. We want to have that kind of trust in God. We want to leave our reputations in His hand, and silence all the defensive words that immediately come to mind when we’re attacked. We want to intercede for others.
So why, then, do we so often let Korah rise up in us?