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6. Offerings and Opposition

August 14, 2009

Text:      Numbers 15:1-17:13

Outline:            I. Instructions in Worship           Numbers 15:1-41

II. Two Major Uprisings                Numbers 16:1-50

III. Aaron’s Position Affirmed     Numbers 17:1-13


We know that Israel wandered in the desert for 38-40 years but we know very little about where they were except that they headed toward the Red Sea. No doubt they camped until they ran out of grass for their herds and flocks and/or ran out of water. We do know that the rebellion that began at Kadesh Barnea over entering the Promised Land continued while they wandered. Moses did two things during the years they wandered. He prepared them to worship as instructed when they entered the land and he quelled their rebellions with God’s help, sanctifying them so they could enter the land with God’s help. These two objectives are made known in these 3 chapters. My comments will be very general because this Scripture is detailed and very clear as to what happened. It is also long but I decided to keep it as one because of context.

First we find Moses [and most likely the priests and the Levites] instructing the people in holy worship to God. They are covering all the offerings. One of the new ideas here is that the Grain and Drink offerings are in direct proportion to the size of the animal to be sacrificed. Refer to Leviticus 1-7 for more details. The rules of worship are the same for Israelites and the aliens that have adopted Israel’s God. They are not to forget the First Fruits, a special feast, when they enter the land [see Lev. 23:9-14] nor are they to forget to observe the Sabbath. Anyone who shows disrespect for God is to be cut off or removed from their fellowship. This is the important point when considering this whole text. In fact, they are supposed to sew tassels with blue thread on the corners of their garments to remind them of the Lord’s commands and to obey them.

My guess is that all this attention to training and the attention it drew to Moses, Aaron, and his sons caused Korah, a Levite from the Kohathites, to begin questioning the importance of following these rule of worship. The standard was either too high or not necessary. Remember, he was of the clan that carried the sacred vessels when they traveled. Two leaders from the tribe of Reuben join him as do 250 other Israelites which I assume to also be Levites. In approaching Moses and challenging him, Moses says God will make the decision on their complaint in the morning. Moses rebukes the Levites for their disrespectful attitude when it was they who have been set apart for special service to God. They have an important duty but it is not the priesthood, especially if they think the standards are too high. Moses says they are really against God, not Aaron who is just fulfilling his assigned role as are they. Those complaining are to appear before the Lord in the morning. But the Reubenites refuse because they have not seen The Land, only desert. The followers of Korah show up and the Lord asks Moses and Aaron to step aside so He can deal with all Israel personally. Moses intercedes and asks God to deal only with the ringleaders. Moses boldly states that if these men live, he will step down as their leader. But if the earth swallows them up, Israel will know that they have rebelled against the Lord. The earth did swallow them up and all Israel feared the Lord God, thinking they might be next. The Lord’s fire then consumed the other 250 rebellious leaders. Eleazar, Aaron’s son is asked to take the 250 plus censers and make them into a covering over the altar as a remembrance of what had happened .

The very next day all Israel grumbles against Moses and Aaron, accusing them of killing their fellowmen. God immediately covers the Tabernacle with His cloud to separate Moses and Aaron from the people so He can deal with them. Moses instructs Aaron to hurry and take his censer filled with incense and go into the assembly to make atonement for them because the Lord is very angry and has sent a plague among the people. 14,700 people died before the plague ended.

Since Aaron’s leadership has been challenged, Moses instructs a leader from each tribe to bring his staff to him.. Aaron’s staff represented the tribe of Levi. Moses placed them before the Lord in front of the Ark and proclaimed to the people that the staff which sprouted would be the one to lead them spiritually. When Moses checked the staffs the next day, only Aaron’s had budded and in fact his blossomed and bore almonds. Moses shows the staffs to the leaders and puts Aaron’s back in the Holy of Holies by the Ark. Moses tells Israel they will all die if they continue to resist the Will of God.


1. Our loyalty and commitment to the Lord is demonstrated in genuine worship of Him. Take the Sabbath seriously and worship Him.

2. Develop and employ your own personal strategy to know, remember, and apply God’s Word in your life. Wall plaques, jewelry, and books are popular today but do not forget to read His Word, memorize it, and pray.

3. Our spiritual leaders can err too. Be careful and be discerning of God’s Will in your own life. Compare your leader’s actions with God’s Word. A sure fire warning is if anyone promotes a lowering of God’s standard or seeks a position of power for which they have not been authorized.

4. Losing respect for and rebelling against God promotes dis-unity in the body of Christ and always brings severe consequences, loss of respect, the loss of life, and perhaps even the loss of eternal life.

5. Use symbols to remember the good and the bad times in the life of the Church, your church, your home, and your own life so that those who follow you remember and will be able to make right decisions instead of wrong decisions.

6. Do not let disagreements fester and result in further grumbling and dissatisfaction. Instead, get on your knees before God and seek His forgiveness and thus, avoid His wrath.

7. Seek the Lord to affirm His choice of spiritual leaders for your congregation. Spend at least as much time in prayer as you spend interviewing the candidates. Then the Will of God will be clear and never questioned. His choice will be obvious.


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