Thursday, February 08, 2018

Rebellion is as the Sin of Divination (Reflecton on Num 12-17)

One of the recurring themes in the book of Numbers is outright rebellion.  It could no longer be characterized as doubt or fear as in the book of Exodus because the people of Israel have seen God's deliverance and faithfulness to them demonstrated time after time.  Rebellion against Moses and Aaron amounted to rebellion against God.  They were God's chosen leaders.  Several times, God was ready to wipe out the people.  God had already warned them of the danger they, a stiff-necked and rebellious people, were in by being in close proximity to God.  Moses intervened each time.  One time he had Aaron make atonement for the people so that they would not be wiped out by a plague of God's wrath.

No wonder there were so many reminders placed before the people.  The gold censors of those Levites who rebelled against Moses and the Priests were hammered into gold plating for the altar out front was a reminder.  The tassels God told them to attach to the edges of their garments as a reminder to obey the Lord's commands was another reminder.  Aaron's staff that had budded was a reminder of God's choice for priestly leadership.  And the list goes on and on.

The sad thing is that the children were going to suffer for the sins of the fathers.  Because of their pattern of rebellion, all of the adults were condemned to live the rest of their lives in the wilderness.  The rest of their life would always be a struggle, and their children were going to struggle too.

What is the lesson for me as a Christian in all of this?  This is a reminder of the enormous significance of honor.  The Bible tells me as a Christian to honor kings, governors, and anyone who is in authority over me.  All authority comes from God, and to dishonor those in authority is to dishonor God.  I know that if it came down to choosing to obey God or obeying men who give instructions contrary to God's ethics and instructions, that I choose to obey God rather than men.  But with that aside, I need to remember to give honor to whom honor is due and to pray for those in authority.

If this is how it is with authorities in the world, how much more so is it when it comes to authority in the Kingdom of God?  Whether it is fathers in the home or elders in the church, I need to remember to give honor where honor is due.  Elders are to be given double honor.  To dishonor them is to dishonor God.

When I read these texts in the book of Numbers, this message reaches out and grabs me.  Speaking out against God's appointed leaders, disrespecting them, defaming them, ridiculing them, or doing anything like this is done not only against them, but against God.  It is no small or trifling matter.  This is a hard lesson to swallow, especially in a culture that sees these sorts of things almost as a civic virtue.  This is not the way things should be in God's church.  The Kingdom of God is not the kingdom of this world.

I am reminded of what Samuel told King Saul after he disregarded the instruction given to him, "Rebellion is as the sin of divination."  It is not a small trifling matter.

Lord, help me to set aside pride and learn humility.  Help me to trust in your presence enough to honor those in authority.  Help me to learn to disagree with meekness and modesty.  Help me to balance respect with responsibility.  Remind me of the necessity to find ways to encourage the leaders in my life.  Help me to see prayer for them as part of my duty.  Thank you Lord for your patience. 

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