Summary: Moses, Pt. 12
AS GOOD AS IT GETS (NUMBERS 16)
I received an unexpected call from a church a few years ago. The chairman of the church’s search committee asked if I knew a candidate they were interviewing for the church’s vacant senior pastor position. He asked me about the candidate’s leadership, his strengths and weaknesses, and if I would recommend him.
I was reluctant to answer but felt compelled to since the inquiring church had gone through a hurtful split; even then giving feedback wasn’t easy.
The candidate was probably one of the most skillful, articulate and intelligent leader and preacher I had come across in more than twenty years of ministry. Under his leadership, the church grew dramatically and expanded aggressively. However, his legacy was not increased church attendance, staff, services, offerings or programs, but his intolerant, confrontational and militant spirit that led to disillusioned members leaving, board members resigning and other churches talking. He finally resigned in disgust after the third church-wide split. Since then, wherever he went, whatever he did and whoever he met, the pattern continued - he wowed new friends and made new nemesis, never holding a pastoral position.
The man on the line asked, “Would I recommend him as the pastor of this church?” Without hesitation, I replied, “No.” I was surprised that I did not feel bad for not recommending a fellow pastor. The candidate was just too angry, too insensitive and too divisive. It was unfortunate that one man could do so much damage, bring such untold misery and attract that much controversy.
After the Israelites were served notice of their forty years wanderings in the wilderness, Aaron and Moses faced the last negative evaluation of their leadership direction, methods and history. The leader was Korah, a Levite but a non-descendant of Aaron who desired the priesthood for himself. Korah fed his poison to four others from another tribe (v 1) and another 250 influential people (v 2). Behind the transparent religious or spiritual language was an unmistakable “you-we-you” message: “They came as a group to oppose Moses and Aaron and said to them, “You have gone too far! The whole community is holy, every one of them, and the LORD is with them. Why then do you set yourselves above the Lord’s assembly?” (16:3).
By the end of the next day 14,950 Israelites had died (Num 16:35, 49) due a prolonged protest by the community against Moses. The plague that struck the camp was the scene of the longest and bloodiest day in the wilderness, far outnumbering the 3,000 calf-worshippers that died previously (Ex 32:28).
What characteristics in a person does God value and accept? What kind of influence do you exert on the people around you? How would God evaluate you?
Measure Yourself Humbly and Do Not Magnify Yourself
8 Moses also said to Korah, “Now listen, you Levites! 9 Isn’t it enough for you that the God of Israel has separated you from the rest of the Israelite community and brought you near himself to do the work at the LORD’s tabernacle and to stand before the community and minister to them? 10 He has brought you and all your fellow Levites near himself, but now you are trying to get the priesthood too. 11 It is against the LORD that you and all your followers have banded together. Who is Aaron that you should grumble against him?” (Num 16:8-11)
Robert Kraft, the owner of professional football team the New England Patriots, made heads turn when he purchased the team in 1994 for $173 million, the highest figure paid for a NFL franchise then. When his team made the Superbowl in 1997, the deep-pocketed man played down his success by telling of what his deceased father, whom Robert considered the most important person in his life before he passed away more than 20 years ago, often reminded him. His father said, “Whenever you get too high on yourself, go down to the beach and look out over the vast ocean. Then, pick up a handful of sand and realize that one grain is all you are in the space of time.” USA Today 1/21/97)
Magnifying oneself is exaggerating one’s importance and contribution. It is the sign, the beginning and the cause of one’s fall.
In the words of Charles Kettering said: “It’s nice to be important, but it’s more important to be nice.” (AND I QUOTE, Ashton Applewhite 360 NY/ST Martin’s Press/92).
Korah’s grandfather, Kohath (Num 16:1), occupied an important place in the ministry of the Lord. Kohath’s family was one of three families appointed to serve in the sanctuary. The Kohathites had the highest honor of caring for the holiest things in the tabernacle assigned to them. Kohath and his descendants were in charge of the holiest things in the Tent of Meeting or tabernacle (Num 4:1-3), including the ark of the covenant, the table of shew-bread (Num 4:7-8), the candlestick (Num 4:9-10), the altar of incense (Num 4:11-12) and altar of burnt-offering (Num 4:13-14) when the camp was on the move (Num 4:2-3). They were responsible for carrying the holiest vessels on poles (Num 4:15). God had promised that they would never to be cut off from the Levites even when service was poor (Num 4:17), but forbade them to touch the holy things (Num 4:15). Looking at the holy things, even for a moment, would mean death for the Kohathites (Num 4:20).