There is a word on my heart which has been there for a while. It is a long and deep matter. One could speak for a great length of time on this topic.
13Is it a small thing that you have brought us up out of a land flowing with milk and honey, to kill us in the wilderness, that you must also make yourself a prince over us? 14 Moreover, you have not brought us into a land flowing with milk and honey, nor given us inheritance of fields and vineyards. Will you put out the eyes of these men? We will not come up.”
20 And the Lord spoke to Moses and to Aaron, saying, 21 “Separate yourselves from among this congregation, that I may consume them in a moment.” 22 And they fell on their faces and said, “O God, the God of the spirits of all flesh, shall one man sin, and will you be angry with all the congregation?” 23 And the Lord spoke to Moses, saying, 24 “Say to the congregation, Get away from the dwelling of Korah, Dathan, and Abiram.” 25 Then Moses rose and went to Dathan and Abiram, and the elders of Israel followed him. 26 And he spoke to the congregation, saying, “Depart, please, from the tents of these wicked men, and touch nothing of theirs, lest you be swept away with all their sins.” 27 So they got away from the dwelling of Korah, Dathan, and Abiram. And Dathan and Abiram came out and stood at the door of their tents, together with their wives, their sons, and their little ones. 28 And Moses said, “Hereby you shall know that the Lord has sent me to do all these works, and that it has not been of my own accord. Numbers 16:13 – 14; 21-28
It would be good to read this whole chapter. This text exercised me, when I realised the situation Moses faced. What impressed this even more on my heart was what I experienced last Sunday.
The church is facing difficult and bitter times unless the Lord enables us to deal with this poison. It is a good thing when the church grows because it brings hope that it will continue, but the danger is there that people slip in who are a like a poisonous root. They say they have been called into God’s work, but they are not yet ready for it. The church is tainted by the poison of people who get into the church and are elected to positions but are not prepared to submit to the leadership of the church. When they enter the work, the roads have already been constructed, the rough places have been smoothed and all the hard work has been done. They are not prepared to submit to the leadership of those who took the lead and did the hard work before they arrived. You may have been given a role in the church, you may be able to preach, or you are an evangelist, and you begin despising those whom God has elected as leaders - for whatever reason (you might speak better English than they do).
In this text the people rebelled against the leadership that God set over them. Korah and his company rebelled against Moses and that which he did, which is exactly what we are presently experiencing. The road had been constructed and the direction given but these people wanted to make their own road and take their own direction. They rebelled against Moses and spoke in the most insolent manner imaginable. They should have realised it was not the people who elected their leaders, but God Himself who appointed Moses as the leader. God Himself ordained that He would give His commands to Moses and Moses would pass them on to the people. The people became great in their own eyes. They thought they were fit enough to take the lead and make decisions. Who is Moses anyway? They wrote him off while he was still alive.
Isn’t it like this in our churches today? In your church caucus, people feel that the ‘old bishop’ should be removed because he is ‘outdated’. The younger people know modern technology, they have better ways of doing things. But God saw fit to appoint and ordain that person who lay the foundation. But today, younger people degrade and devalue that older person who in God’s eyes has not lost his value.
Last Sunday I experienced this. I am not sure whether it is a modern trend or what people call ‘progress,’ when younger people treat an older person lightly and disrespectfully. The bishop, who is the leader of many congregations, was told to sit aside while they continued with the service. “When we need someone to bless something, you can come and do it…” Can you imagine if I told Rev Stegen what to do? The bishop stood up and said, “My children, this is not the way we used to do things. If you want God in your midst you need to ask the way from those who went before you. This is not the way to do it.” What he said was carelessly brushed off with comments like, “No, you old man, we know what we are doing, relax!” He continued saying, “Your style of dressing is not the way God taught has us. He taught us modesty.” Their response was a roar of laughter and comments like, “Hear how the old man is speaking!” The bishop continued, “We asked the Holy Spirit to be in our midst. He must feel at home in our midst to work. Not the way you are doing it now with whistling and music.” The response was another roar of laughter with, “Hear what the old man is saying!” The person who that bishop ordained now opposes him in front of the whole congregation. His spiritual child thinks he knows better than the old bishop.
This is exactly what Korah did. He called men together for a meeting. “Men,” he said, “Moses has had his opportunity, but he has failed. We need to take leadership ourselves and let him know who the boss here!” You might say that this occurred during the time of Korah, and it is unrelated to us, but do those whom God has appointed as our leaders, still have the rightful place of respect in our hearts? It is not my place to beg you to show them respect, no. It is up to you whether you want to respect them or not. Do they still occupy that position in your heart where God appointed them?
If you are a scholar, do you respect the prefects in your school who have been given a position and a responsibility? Do you despise them or mock them and say that it would have been better if so-and-so had been appointed? Is God glorified through such an attitude? How do you respect and honour the teacher whom God has appointed? The teacher may not speak with perfect pronunciation which causes you to look down on them. At your place of employment, do you respect the supervisor who has been appointed over you as you should? You might criticise him because he cannot even speak English and must find a translator when he wants to say something. God put that person in the position he is in. Is God honoured and glorified by the way you treat that person? These are earthly positions – how much more those whom God has ordained in His church? How much more should we honour them? Do we still submit when they say: God has taught us to do things in this way so that He will remain with us? Or is our response: That was for the past, not for now?
God anointed Moses to lead the people out of the land of slavery to a land flowing with milk and honey. That was something which they understood but they never asked how long it would take to get there. Moses never deviated from God’s calling on his life. The problem was that the people wanted to rush things. How often do people end up in problems and things go wrong in their lives because they are not prepared to wait. Someone says, “Wait. Let us pray about it.” But they are not prepared to wait. There are people who approach the counsellor with their so-called question, but they already know the answer they want. If the counsellor does not respond according to their wishes, they say the counsellor is not listening to the Holy Spirit. The counsellor becomes their little fool. The counsellor may have told them to wait on the Lord, but they do not and then they get into problems. They later return to the counsellor requesting help with the problems they are experiencing because of their folly.
Then God spoke: verse 20.
There are people in the ministry through whom people have been saved - because of the blessing that rests on the leaders of that work of God. Moses did not accomplish everything through his own strength or because he was so clever and good. He only accomplished it because God strengthened and blessed him. There are young men and women who have been preaching and God has blessed and worked through them, but it is not their own doing, it is because God’s blessing is on them, and they have submitted to the leadership. A choir member may cause people to be moved but it is not because the singer has such a wonderful voice, it is because of God’s blessing and because of the leadership to which they submit which also has God’s blessing on it. People can perform miracles because of God’s blessing and working - because of the leadership. Then the people think that they can also do things like this, and God says, “Let me remove my hand from that person so that it can become obvious what that person is like.” In some cases, it is mercy when God removes His hand from a person for a while because they quickly return to their senses and realise that they are nothing without God.
Today people say, “I can go off on my own now. I am being used by God. People are being saved under my ministry. I can stand on my own two feet. I can go in my own direction.” They forget one thing: it was not their own doing that people filled the church pews, it was due to God’s blessing on their lives. It was due to God working through the leadership under which they submitted. Such people start their own little church in the same way in which someone leaves a solid building and builds a small shack - which eventually collapses because God’s blessing is not there.
Never think that if you go somewhere far away, you will be blessed and God will work through you, if you have failed to submit to the leadership where you are. If you fail to submit to God when He tells you to make your life right, how do you expect other people to listen to you? If you are trained on how to ride a horse and you follow the instructions you will be successful, but if you are not prepared to do it, do not expect success. Do not think that people far away will submit to your leadership. There are multitudes of splinter churches today for this reason. You want to be called a man of God where you are, but you were never prepared to submit to your own leadership. We are troubled by people and churches who are stubborn. They start their own churches after failing to submit to leadership, and it becomes a vicious cycle.
While the preacher is preaching, a congregation member will just start a song – why? It is a way of saying, “Shut up, we’ve heard enough now!” This is a sophisticated way of going against the preacher. You might be troubled by lust and your counsellor or leader says, “Let’s pray that the Lord will deliver you.” Your response is no. You feel that you should get married - which you do. You leave and start your own church. Your church’s problem will be the same as yours – lust. Some people believe that marriage is a solution to lust. It is not the solution. A person must first be delivered from that sin and then get married. Some say they are financially independent to get married and they start their own church. Some people fall pregnant in that church - even by the minister himself. Do not think that if you cannot submit where you are, that you can begin your own church – God will not bless it. If things are not going well, backtrack and see where things went wrong. You might find that it was there where you were unable to submit.
Let us look at the family unit. A wife may have a suggestion which the husband always opposes just because it is from his wife. Things will eventually go wrong because the husband always opposes it. Am I suggesting that a husband should listen to his wife all the time? No, that is not what I am saying. If the wife shares something that God has shown her and her husband opposes her, how will she ever be able to submit to the husband? I am not speaking about silly suggestions from women who are not God-fearing. I am speaking about that which God reveals to her as a wife, but the husband does not accept it. When the Lord reveals something to her again, the wife will not share it with her husband because he never accepted it before. In the same vein, wife, do you submit to the leadership which God has appointed over you? When the husband says, “My wife, I do not think that is the right way,” you oppose your husband. Your children will do the same. I am not saying that you should listen to sinful or disgraceful things that he tells you to do, I am speaking of God-fearing upright men who lead in the way of God. People always get things back-to-front and say that the Bible says that my husband is my king on earth, and I must listen to him. No, you should not listen to him if he leads you to hell. A man must not think he can rule as he likes; bring godless things into the house; and then say that his wife must submit to him because the Bible says she must until death separates them.
Our church will be healthy and grow if family members are prepared to submit to the leadership in the family, and likewise in the church. God will be able to work through us if we are prepared to submit to the leaders over us. The danger of stripping your leaders of their authority often begins at home. Questions are asked there. Doubt about decisions is voiced there. A child may ask what the problem with a certain style is. One day they arrive at home in a certain style and act as though it was a mistake. They ask the mother if there is a problem if their hair ‘looks like this’? There are apps where an image can be tweaked with different hair, with earrings, lipstick. The child tweaks their image and shows the mother. The mother responds positively with, “My child, it is quite nice, but the problem is the minister.” It is not God, you say, it is the rules of the minister. He is the cause of the problem. The child works on the mother every day trying to soften her feelings. One day the child may arrive with her hair in a particular style, and she asks her father in a certain way, “What would you say if I walked around like this?” The child works on the mother, the mother works on the father. So little by little, they chip away at the standards, at the foundation that has been laid. “What is wrong with this or that?” By degrees they change things. Because there is no respect at home for the minister, the young people come to church chewing gum and using their cell phones.
Do the people who are ordained by God still have their rightful places in our lives and hearts? Does the way in which we view them glorify God? The gossip at home has caused these people to lose authority and dignity before the children. The poison infiltrates your children and eventually shows in their behaviour at school. The teacher says something, and the child contradicts the teacher. Why? At home the parent has labelled the teacher and said all sorts of things about the teacher.
20 And the Lord spoke to Moses and to Aaron, saying, 21 “Separate yourselves from among this congregation, that I may consume them in a moment.”
May God have mercy on us, especially if we preach the Gospel, that we will continue to listen to the leaders that God has appointed over us. God saw them fit to be our leaders. Let us honour that.
At your place of employment there is a structure. You have been appointed to a position and someone has been appointed over you. You cannot disregard their authority over you. Imagine if I went to Rev Stegen and instructed him as to how things should be done? I am where I am because Rev Stegen said I could be a co-worker of his. These leaders were appointed by God. God worked for many years through them. He instructed them and taught them and brought about revival through them. How can I come as a little fly and say, “This is what we must do now. We should change this. Things cannot go in that way.” No, these are the people God appointed, for as long as He chooses. God did not say how long Moses would be the leader. If he did, only Moses knew it because God gave him that instruction.
Dathan, Abiram and Korah looked at Moses with daggers. 12 And Moses sent to call Dathan and Abiram the sons of Eliab, and they said, “We will not come up. 13 Is it a small thing that you have brought us up out of a land flowing with milk and honey, to kill us in the wilderness, that you must also make yourself a prince over us? 14 Moreover, you have not brought us into a land flowing with milk and honey, nor given us inheritance of fields and vineyards. Will you put out the eyes of these men? We will not come up.” Is this something acceptable to God? They badmouthed Moses as if he was a murderer. They said that Moses killed them, but they forgot that some of them had also died in Egypt, but because it was also happening in the desert, they looked at Moses as if he was something strange. When somebody dies, God has allowed it - even during this pandemic. People now point fingers at the government and the president, but Christians meet in churches without masks, without sanitising, without social distancing and then they blame the government that the people are dying. It is not the government. This is just what Moses experienced.
Do the people whom God has appointed still have that position of honour in your life or have you grown big in your own eyes and think that you can also take the lead?
Conclusion Albu van Eeden
Friends, I listened in fear and trembling. What was the essential problem with Korah and them? Pride. I fear pride. It is one of the most subtle sins. It enters without you realising and before you know it, the devil has managed to make you proud of what you can do and what you have attained. Then you take risks, doing and saying things you should never have.
Look at the subtlety of these men. They did not come out of Egypt to criticise Moses. No, they travelled with Moses and the Israelites out of Egypt and through the desert. They experienced everything with them. They did not stay behind. They also decided to leave Egypt. They also took the risk at the Red Sea. They also suffered when there were challenges in the desert when there was no water to drink.
12 And Moses sent to call Dathan and Abiram the sons of Eliab, and they said, “We will not come up. 13 Is it a small thing that you have brought us up out of a land flowing with milk and honey, to kill us in the wilderness, that you must also make yourself a prince over us? 14 Moreover, you have not brought us into a land flowing with milk and honey, nor given us inheritance of fields and vineyards. Will you put out the eyes of these men? We will not come up.” In their pride they did not realise what they were doing.
15 And Moses was very angry and said to the Lord, “Do not respect their offering. I have not taken one donkey from them, and I have not harmed one of them.”
They also suffered with the children of Israel, but they were not princes in Egypt who were taught all the skills of Egypt. Moses had learnt a host of lessons while following the Lord, which they had no idea of. Moses did not necessarily kill the Egyptian because of carnality, he might have discerned that he had been called by God to set the Israelites free and said, “Let me start with this Egyptian.” They had not learnt the lessons Moses had learnt. They had not been humiliated for 40 years in the desert while looking after sheep. Yes, they had had a bit of experience, and it is that bit of experience, combined with their pride that gave them the guts to take the position they took.
Pride is a terrible, terrible thing. I can do things. I am brilliant. Our brother spoke in the beginning of an older person who is anointed. Sometimes older people are not always as mentally sharp as they used to be and then it is easy to think you are better than they are because you are younger, and you do not realise the spiritual authority behind it.
May God be merciful to us, friends. This lesson is an important lesson for each of us to remember. Let us respect and honour those who went all the way to lead us to a place where revival broke out. They have a wealth of experience which you and I do not have any idea about. They have learned from mistakes while following the Lord. They have learned to discern the will of God.
Paul said to the Philippians 9 And it is my prayer that your love may abound more and more, with knowledge and all discernment, 10 so that you may approve what is excellent, and so be pure and blameless for the day of Christ…” Philippians 1:9,10 …that you will learn to discern that which is important, because sometimes you get into a situation where there are so many possible things to choose from but amongst all there is only one thing that is relevant and important. A man and woman of God who has gone through God’s mill knows how to discern better than you or I could.
May we not forget the lesson we have been taught this morning. Read this chapter again so that we will not end up in the same position as these men did.