Many people revolt against Moses and Aaron, accusing them of “exalting yourselves above the assembly of the LORD” (Numbers 16:3) and failing to bring them into the land with milk and honey (vv. 12-14). They quite conveniently forgot they’re no longer going to see the Promised Land because of their unfaithfulness to Yahweh (14:21-35). Thus, they blame Moses and Aaron for their own culpability (much as Adam and Eve blamed one another and God Himself rather than admitting what they had done).
Let this be a lesson for pastors. Sometimes, disciplining your flock in the Lord can be difficult (e.g., putting someone on a minor ban, excommunication, etc.). When you call one or several people out for their sin, they may just try to run you out of your office. This happened to my vicarage supervisor just before I had arrived. A considerable number of people did not like his stance on having no screens in the sanctuary and not using contemporary worship music (i.e., for being Confessional), and they secretly schemed to try and run him out of the church. Fortunately, foolish behaviour like this doesn’t usually work in our church body. They didn’t get their way. So, they had a temper tantrum and some of them left the congregation, which was really for the benefit of the congregation that left them in a far healthier state by the time I had arrived. (Most of the time, in the Lutheran Church, problematic people excommunicate themselves, which makes it easier for everyone.)
Korah and his co-conspirators didn’t get their way either (vv. 20-24, 28-35). I shouldn’t have to say this, but sometimes the obvious needs saying: Unless your pastor clearly does something heinously sinful for which he does not repent, like violating his ordination vows or something else evil, do not rebel against your pastor. Through the work of the Holy Spirit, your congregation called him to be your pastor and the Lord placed him there to be your shepherd. Part of that means disciplining you when you’re being sinful, when you have a false doctrinal view, when you don’t like necessary changes happening in your congregation, etc. If you don’t like it, listen to what your pastor and elders have to say rather than running him out of his holy office or gossiping about him. Quit acting like a child.
The day immediately following these events when God caused the conspirators to be miraculously swallowed up by the earth, more people of Israel grumbled against Moses and Aaron, blaming them for “killing the people of the LORD” (v. 41). They blamed them for something God did. Similarly, when you witness your pastor discipline someone or a group of people, or you hear of it, don’t grumble against him. He’s doing what God called him to do. These rebels didn’t get their way either (vv. 44-49). Perhaps the lesson is: be careful when you complain against the Lord’s anointed and explain everything in the kindest way (8th Commandment).
Theology Terms Used
- Confessional: a Lutheran who subscribes to the Lutheran Confessions in the unaltered Book of Concord.
- Excommunication: when a parishioner is kicked out of the church/congregation for adamantly refusing to repent of a sin or recant a heresy (following the guidelines of Matthew 18:15-20).
- Minor Ban: when a pastor, in his exercise of the Office of the Keys, prohibits a parishioner from receiving the Lord’s Supper because they’re unrepentant for a specific sin, lest they drink judgement upon themselves (1 Corinthians 11:28-29). If or when they become repentant, the minor ban is lifted.