Lesson: Judgment of the Rebellion
By Rev. Leo H. McCrary II – November 21, 2021
Taught From – Numbers 16:23-35
This week’s lesson is going to pick up right where we left off in our lesson last week. You will recall that in our lesson last week, we saw a new uprising and rebellion in the camp of Israel which was being led by four men – Korah, Dathan, Abiram, and On (Num. 16:1). We are going to see the Lord’s judgment on the rebellion led by these men in our lesson this week. This week’s lesson is being taught from Numbers 16:23-35.
The Lord’s Judgment
Our lesson opens up with God speaking to Moses to tell all of the congregation to get away from the tents of Korah, Dathan, and Abiram (vss. 23-27). These men, in their rebellion against the Lord, we should recognize as sinners. Again, as I stated in last week’s lesson, these men may have considered that their problem was against Moses and Aaron, but we must remember that Moses and Aaron were working on the Lord’s behalf. So, because they were attempting to move against Moses and Aaron, we should understand that they were moving against God.
Separated from the sinners
Because these men had moved against the Lord, the Lord is set to move specifically against them – the sinners. As I mentioned in last week’s lesson, On, the son of Peleth, a Reubenite, name is only mentioned in the opening scripture of this chapter. Just because he is not mentioned throughout the rest of the chapter, I don’t believe we should think he escaped the Lord’s judgment. I say this because later on in this scripture, we will see that all two hundred and fifty men of the rebellion, who we saw mentioned in last week’s lesson (Num. 16:2), faced the Lord’s judgment (v. 35).
Let us notice that only those who were sinners were judged in this judgment. The congregation departs from the sinners and the sinners and their families exit their tents and stand waiting for the Lord’s judgment. Now, I suppose any family members that were not of the same mindset could have left these men to await their judgment but I believe the family members that stood with them were of the same mindset.
God’s judgment against mankind was and still is always specifically towards the sinners and not those who are of faith and are righteous in His eyes. Now, when the children of Israel sinned at Mount Sinai by worshiping the calf of gold, all were punished (Ex. 32:19-35). At that time, God made it clear to Moses that whoever sinned against Him, they would be blotted out of His book (Ex. 32:33).
After that time we saw that the Israelite man with an Egyptian dad was punished for his sin of blasphemy (Lev. 24:13-14, 23). Those that instigated the complaining about manna and blasphemed the Lord, were punished (Num. 11:33). The ten spies and those who stood in rebellion against going into the Promised Land faced the consequence of their sin (Num. 14:22-23). God has promised to separate the sheep from the goats and will cast all sinners away from His presence at the day of His final judgment at the Great White Throne (Matt. 25:31-46; Rev. 20:15). The righteous will not face such judgment from the Lord but will remain with Him in His heavenly kingdom.
Judgment of God and not man
Before the Lord’s judgment would fall upon these men, Moses makes it clear that this judgment was not his judgment but was God’s judgment (vss. 28-30). We must remember that these men had accused Moses of acting like he was their king and that he was more holy than they were (Num. 16:3, 13). So, in these men’s eyes, they likely would have seen these actions as Moses still acting like he was their king. Moses is making it clear that this judgment is not his to them and I believe to anybody else who may have not been of this crowd but had an inkling of this same thought.
So, to prove that it is not his judgment, Moses speaks of a judgment to come upon these men that he simply would not have the power to make possible by himself. If the men died from natural causes or some other common worldly fate that could cause death, Moses said then they would know that God had not sent him to lead the people and do all that he had been doing. However, if something like the ground splitting apart and the men falling into it and dying, then they would know that God was at work and that the men had rejected the Lord.
You may recall last week that I mentioned the Ten Commandments movie that starred Charlton Heston and Yul Brynner and how they got things wrong when it came to Dathan, the antagonistic Hebrew. In that movie, after the children of Israel sinned at Mount Sinai, Moses cast the stone tablets down to the ground and the ground split apart and the sinners fell into the ground, with fire spitting up, and they died.
Now, that did not actually happen at Mount Sinai as the people were made to drink the ashes of the calf of god and were then plagued. (You can read this in the passage of scripture I referenced earlier from the book of Exodus.) The Hollywood writers pulled the name of Dathan and the scene of the ground splitting apart from this chapter of Numbers.
Now, as Moses finished speaking those words, we are told that the ground split apart, a pit began to form, and swallowed up all the men that stood with Korah, their households, and all of their goods (vss. 31-32). We are told that when they fell into this pit, that they fell down alive into the pit (v. 33). I feel like this is mentioned in scripture for the specific reason to further illustrate that Korah, Dathan, Abiram, and their households did not die of natural causes but by an act of God.
This would leave no doubt to the people of the congregation that remained that Moses truly did work on behalf of the Lord. Now, I am of the opinion that this should have been clear for quite some time, especially when Moses would come from speaking with God and His face would shine in reflection of the glory of God (Ex. 34:29-35). That said, I have come to the conclusion that regardless of what the Lord does, the fully convicted sinner will always forget what He has done over time or simply just ignore the Lord and His works.
Those who were of the congregation that witnessed Korah, Dathan, Abiram, and their households fall into the pit fled from the collapsing ground (v. 34). They moved away from the area with the fear that the ground might swallow them up as well! Now, I would suggest that this is how the true believer ought to flee from those that are fully convicted in their sins. Yes, the believer should attempt to persuade the sinner to repent and turn to the Lord, but remember what I have said about sinners.
There are a few different types of sinners. There is a sinner that is blind to/ignorant of their sins. To the blind sinner, we must reveal the truth of their sin and persuade them to repent and turn to God. There is the lost sinner that is seeking for something to appease their soul; this sinner will turn to anything to satisfy them in their soul. Again, we must reach out to this sinner and attempt to persuade them to taste and see that the Lord is good and that His goodness is not temporary.
Then there is the sinner that is fully convicted. This sinner has heard the plea to repent and has chosen to reject God. This is the sinner that we ought to flee from and allow the Lord to deal with them! We should do just as those of the congregation, flee from this sinner lest we start to fall for and follow in their ministering of sin.
Our lesson closes with the two hundred fifty men that chose to follow the sinners being consumed by fire while offering their incense (v. 35). We saw why they were offering incense in our lesson last week (Num. 16:6). Those that follow in sin will, again, be judged in their following and participating in sin. This is a great lesson to all of those that choose to follow in the sin of Satan. Satan will one day be cast into the pit of the everlasting punishment of the lake of fire, and as we seen earlier in our lesson, this same judgment is what awaits all sinners.