They couldn’t have been on a more different page. God clearly saw it one way and the Israelites another.
Numbers 16 tells the story of the Israelites once again rebelling against God and Moses and Aaron. This time Korah, an important Israelite leader, along with two other leaders (Dathan and Abiram), had decided to challenge Moses and Aaron’s spiritual authority and their right to lead the Israelite nation. Korah, Dathan, and Abiram obviously had the ability to persuade others because they were able to incite a rebellion throughout the camp against Moses and Aaron. They seemed oblivious to the fact that they were ultimately challenging God’s leadership, since it was He who had appointed Moses and Aaron to these positions of authority. God brought swift death to these three men, their families, and 250 of their ardent followers.
That should have been a vivid object lesson for the Israelites, one that caused them to walk carefully for a time. But in less than twenty-four hours they were blaming Moses and Aaron for these peoples’ deaths instead of acknowledging God’s judgment on them for their rebellion against Him. Their amazingly short memory of God’s judgment for unrepentant sin was instantly reawakened as a plague swept through the camp, causing another 14,700 deaths before Moses and Aaron could come between God’s anger and the people.
By chapter 17, God wanted to put an end to any more rebellion, and He wanted it to be obvious whom He had chosen as the spiritual leader of the people. God made His intention clear by taking a wooden staff from each of the twelve ancestral tribes and stating that His designated leader’s staff would sprout buds. Overnight, the piece of dead wood that was Aaron’s staff not only buds, but the buds bloom, and the blooms produced almonds.
God was trying to make His message completely clear to these hardheaded people. And why was this message so important to God? God Himself said why: “This should put an end to their complaints against me and prevent any further deaths” (Num. 17:10). It seems that God’s heart was grieved not only by the peoples’ continual rebellion but by the resulting deaths. God’s mercy was greater than His anger. In spite of their rebellion and their lack of trust, God still loved these people and wanted to protect them from death and suffering.
But the people misinterpreted the message. God had told them what He wanted, so there would be no mistake, no rebellion, and no additional deaths. And what was their reaction? “Then the people of Israel said to Moses, ‘We are as good as dead! We are ruined! We are all doomed!’” (Num. 17:12-13).
God said He wanted to “prevent any further deaths.” The people said, “We are as good as dead!” God said, “Life.” The Israelites said, “We are all doomed.”
Aren’t we like the Israelites? Sometimes we do not see God’s plan for our lives, and we do not understand the path we are asked to walk, so we interpret things through our own life’s experiences and our own eyes’ bleary lenses. We’re focused on what we see and know, not on how God sees or leads. We say, “Pain, suffering, confusion, and fear.” God says, “Trust, growth, hope, and life.”
We need God's help to correctly read our own life story as it unfolds each day.
© 2010 Arlina Yates