From the moment of their first challenge in the desert, the Hebrew people begin to doubt and question Moses’ authority. Actually, it starts even before that when Moses presents himself to the people as their deliverer. But even with God backing him with signs and wonders, there’s still a niggling doubt in the minds of the people that Moses is the right one to lead them into the Promised Land.
With a stuttering problem and an obvious lack of confidence at times, Moses isn’t your most likely choice of fearless leader, but regardless of that, God chooses him anyway. After completing God’s P90X personalized training program, not even an MBA and a Doctorate in Psychology could have prepared Moses better for the task at hand. God knows exactly what He’s doing – problem is, the people don’t.
Ultimately, it isn’t about Moses. It’s about God and what He can do and the people get that, at least subconsciously because whenever something goes wrong, they take the opportunity to question whether or not God really knows what He’s doing. But their constant boundary-pushing, testing, tempting and provoking to see how far they can really go with God gets old fast.
In Numbers 16, a significant rival comes to the forefront. Korah, obviously an influential leader, rallies no less than 250 men to confront and ultimately overthrow Moses’ leadership. With his back against the wall, Moses stands up to Korah and presents him with a challenge. The scene reminds me of the prophet Elijah who dares 800 false prophets to call upon their gods to do what only God can do. At the end of the day, their false authority is exposed and the rebels are slaughtered in front of everyone, much like our story today, but with one major difference: these are God’s own people challenging His authority. How did it get to this?
Moses has no choice but to confront the rebels and call them to a showdown. First thing in the morning, Moses’ and Korah’s posses are to meet face to face at the tabernacle with burning incense as an offering to the Lord, knowing that only the ones God has chosen will be able to approach Him and live to tell about it.
Before sending them off, however, Moses gives them a chance to recant. He reminds Korah and the Levites that their role of ministering to the people is extremely significant, but they remain determined to climb the corporate ladder, stepping on Moses, Aaron and anyone else on their way to the top. The flaw with their plan is that God chose Moses, not them to be the leader. And there is no other factor which distinguishes true authority from false authority as plainly as that.
Although gifts, talents and abilities might well accompany the call of a leader, they’re more of a confirmation than a determining factor. Once a leader is chosen by God, they go through an battery of tests, trials and training before actually obtaining the position of authority. In the midst of that season or series of seasons which can last years or even decades, character development, a deep bonding and implicit trust in God should be the end-product.
Back to our story. In God’s presence, it becomes painfully clear that Korah and his men are operating under false authority. Like Aaron’s sons Hophni and Phinehas, Korah’s men pay a steep price for approaching God under false pretenses. If this was after Jesus’ blood was shed, there would have been redemption, but after warning the rest of the people to stand back and separate themselves from the rebellious, the ground opens up and swallows Korah and his men.
Even after Moses’ authority is so clearly established, the people have the nerve and audacity to criticize him and Aaron for actually killing God’s people. This daring defiance provokes a back-to-back encounter with God, leaving thousands dead at the scene. At Moses’ command, Aaron rushes in to stand in the gap and stops the plague from killing the rest of the nation. Afterwards in Numbers 17, God shows his approval of Aaron too, authenticating his leadership in hopes of putting this whole issue of authority to rest once and for all.
So how does this apply to you? We all know there are times when even true authority does not act according to God’s will. That’s because the leader is human and prone to mistakes. You may not necessarily respect the person in the leadership position, but it is wise to respect the office of authority given to them. To the best of your ability and with God’s help, submit to authority without compromising Biblical values and principles.
God may remove you from under them or He may remove them from over you. He may, however, choose to leave you there for a season to build your character or to even use you to transform them with the power of His love. Through prayer, humility and submission to God’s will via death to self, you will know exactly what to do and when to do it.
Do not leave in anger. Your actions will affect and influence others. his isn’t only about you. When you are 100% certain of God’s will and act accordingly, He will take care of the rest, even if others are adversely affected by your leaving. Encourage others to follow God, not you. Otherwise, you are in danger of becoming a false authority like Korah to the detriment of everyone, including yourself.
True authority is called by God. False authority is self-appointed. But even when the true leader has fallen and lost favour with God, it’s important to be like David, who respected Saul until he was removed from his throne. Your heart and how you respond to the leader in question will determine whether or not you will fulfill your own calling and destiny in due time.