What does it say?
It’s hard to imagine more drama than this, as 250 influential leaders of Korah’s family lead a rebellion against Moses (Num 16). God intervenes directly by opening up the earth to swallow up homes, families and goods of the rebels of Korah who participated in this uprising. With dramatic flare, God sends fire from heaven to consume the 250 instigators.
Bad turns to worse the next day as people murmur against Moses and Aaron, holding them responsible for the deaths. A plague strikes the assembly, and Moses boldly and literally stands between living and dead to stay the plague. In the end, 14,700 die in the plague besides those killed earlier in the judgment against Korah.
Once the dust settles, God instructs Moses to have each tribal chief bring their wooden staff (rod) into the tabernacle along with Aaron’s (Num 17). Overnight, Aaron’s rod miraculously buds, blossoms and bears almonds, confirming Aaron as the God-chosen high priest.
What does it mean?
The continued complaining, murmuring and rebellion of God’s people should give us pause as we contemplate human nature flawed by sin. To say that all people are basically good flies in the face of history and current events. To say that God is good and that he can redeem and restore our human nature is more accurate. The rebellion of Korah receives mention in Jude 1:11.
The terrible scenes of Numbers 16 find an interesting completion in parallel form in Matthew 27:50-53. In Numbers the multitude rebels; in Matthew the multitude condemns the Innocent. In Numbers the earth opens and sinners descend; in Matthew the earth opens and saints ascend. In Numbers the guilty are condemned for their sins; in Matthew the Innocent is condemned for the sin of the guilty.
The dead wooden staff of Aaron comes to life and bears fruit to vindicate Aaron as the God-chosen high priest. The resurrection of Jesus Christ reveals him to be the God-chosen High Priest once for all (Heb 9:4), the fulfillment of all that Aaron pictures.
How will I respond?
It’s easy to say that I want to be engaged in God’s mission and possess a kingdom mindset. But are there still points of rebellion in me? Are there ways in which I allow pride, jealousy or rebellion to motivate me? When was the last time I was really angry? Was I angry for God’s sake, or because someone offended something in me? Do I have an area of life to surrender, or something to go back and fix because of my own rebellion?