In Numbers chapter 16 we find Korah, a Levite, and a number of other leaders of the people of Israel, rising up and challenging Moses.
God had already ordained how the Israelite society was to run, and had given specific jobs to the Levites and to the priests (who were also Levites, but descendants of Aaron). Korah and those others thought that they should have more responsibility as they regarded themselves as also “chosen”, though they veiled their complaint by saying that the entire community was holy (set apart to God) and therefore all should have more privileges in drawing near to the tabernacle.
It’s interesting to note God’s response. He had every one of them bring a censor to burn before the LORD. At first, this doesn’t sound odd as burning incense before the LORD is one of the things that is done in worship (service) to God. Numbers 16:49 reminds us, however, that no one other then the priests are to do so. Korah and the others knew this, yet they figured that should also be allowed to serve God in that way anyway. They wanted to choose themselves. If they had paid attention to God’s words, they would not (hopefully) have done what they did.
This isn’t the only place in scripture where God apparently tests people by asking them to do something against His word. In the other three places I can think of, though, the situation was not people rebelling against God, but person’s following God, and He asks them to do something odd anyway. The three situations I can think of are:
Abraham was asked to offer up Isaac. Human sacrifice is abominable to God yet he asked Abraham to do so. Interestingly, Abraham was about to do just that, but God did not allow it as that would have been an anathema to Him. In this instance though, Abraham never questioned why God was asking Him to do something abominable. He just started to do it.
The next situation is God asking Ezekiel to bake bread on human dung. Ezekiel objects and God then says to use cow dung. This is a very interesting situation and worthy of its own study.
The last situation is known as “Peter’s Vision” where God lets down a sheet full of animals and tells Peter to rise, kill, and eat. Peter counters that he has never eaten anything unclean. God goes on to use this incident to make a very powerful lesson to Peter and to us (and that lesson has nothing to do with food!).
Why do I bring up these situations? Does God really test people? What do you think?
From the story of Korah we can learn the following. God is not a reed blown about in the wind depending on human desires and wants. His way is set and He wants us to follow it. I know many Christians will counter that “we are under grace, not law.” But does freedom truly mean that we can do things as we see fit, as long as we say “the Spirit showed me” or add “in Jesus’ name” to it? I find the story of Korah a strong caution against such rationalizations. Of course we need to be led by the Spirit of the living God, but Korah and his group were using a similar comment (saying all were holy) to justify their actions. Korah did not fool God, and neither can we when we try to go against His word by using “Jesus” as a justification.