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Lesson 7: Power Struggle *

Introduction: Have you ever had a dispute within your church? (Now that is a dumb question, right?) How can you know who is right and who is wrong? Sometimes it is obvious, but sometimes there are good arguments on both sides. What happens if you supported the losing side? How should you handle that? This week we look at a power struggle within the Israelite community. Let's dive in and see what lessons we can learn for church community today!

  1. The Dispute

    1. Read Numbers 16:1-2. What credentials does Korah have? (Very high. Not only was he the grandson of Levi, but he was the son of Kohath. The Kohathites "were responsible for the care of the sanctuary." Numbers 3:28. Of all the special work of the Levites, the Kohathites had very exalted work.)

    2. Read Numbers 16:3 and Numbers 16:12-14. What is the complaint against Moses and Aaron? (They considered themselves above everyone else, when their leadership brought obviously poor results.)

      1. If you were a bystander listening to the charges against Moses, would the evidence make you think the charges were true?

    3. Read Numbers 16:8-10 and Numbers 16:15. What is Moses' defense to these charges? (The people bringing the charges already have great authority, and they just want more because they are power-hungry. Moses has never taken anything from them, and he has never wronged them in any way.)

      1. Is Moses meeting the charges made against him? (When the charge is poor leadership, the answer "I have not taken any of your goods" does not meet the charge. As to authority, they both seem to be charging that the other has exceeded their legitimate authority.)

    4. Let's revisit one of Korah's claims. Re-read Numbers 16:3. Is it your impression that the whole community was holy? (If I were Moses' lawyer, I would have argued that the reason they were in this sorry situation is not due to a lack of leadership on the part of Moses, but rather due to the fact that the people were far from holy!)

    5. Read Numbers 16:4-7. What does Moses propose? (That God will settle this.)

      1. Is that an argument? (In any dispute, we should first turn to God. If I were Moses, I would have defended by saying "God chose me. I'm not usurping any of your authority. God did this." Saying that "God will settle this," is the practical equivalent.)

  2. The Showdown

    1. Read Numbers 16:16-19. Create a picture of this in your mind. It seems to me that Moses and Aaron are standing with a large group that is opposed to them. In human terms, they are badly outnumbered!

      1. Why is the whole assembly there? (This must have created great excitement in the camp. Now we've got something to talk about!)

        1. If you took a poll of the people, how do you think they would vote? Would they support Moses or Korah? (Since the Levites were the only ones who were faithful before (Exodus 32:26), and now they are in revolt, I've got to believe that Korah has the support of the crowd. Especially, he was arguing that they were all were holy - what an encouraging message! It seems the crowd has come in support of Korah, not just out of curiosity.)

    2. Read Numbers 16:20-22. Who should the assembly have supported? (It is clear from God's response that the people supported Korah. God is going to execute judgment on them, but Moses and Aaron intercede for them. You could not have a better friend than Moses.)

      1. How many times have you asked God not to harm your accusers? Not to harm those who wish to do you harm?

    3. Read Numbers 16:23-27. Do you think Korah and his followers are still confident in God's judgment in their favor?

    4. Read Numbers 16:28-30. Is this how we should settle church disputes?

      1. What if you are on the wrong side of the argument?

      2. Read the advice of Gamaliel in Acts 5:38-39. Is this the practical equivalent of what Moses is doing?

    5. Read Numbers 16:31-33. Have we a clear answer about who was right and who was wrong?

      1. In Numbers 16:27 we saw a reference to the "children and little ones" of the rebels. What do you say about the justice of swallowing them up? (God will make the judgment about eternal life or death. However, some of these little ones simply had the wrong parents.)

        1. Is this true today? If you are a parent, how important is it that you be faithful to God? (We can trust God to be more than just because He died for us, but this shows the sobering reality of the influence of parents on the welfare of their children.)

    6. Read Numbers 16:34. Why would they say that? (This makes clear that they had chosen the side of Korah.)

    7. Read Numbers 16:35 and Numbers 16:41. I'm sure that some of my readers are shaking their heads and thinking "God is pretty harsh." If that is your opinion, how to do explain Numbers 16:41?

      1. What would you have done, if you were God, to show the people that Moses and Aaron were your established leaders? (The people somehow think that Moses and Aaron did this in their own power. That they manipulated a god to do their selfish will. They don't understand that the great God in heaven is showing them His decision about leadership. Anything less dramatic than the earth opening up and fire coming down would certainly not have convinced the people.)

    8. Read Numbers 16:42-44. Is God right? (Friends, I vote with God here. How could His will be more plain? He needs a new crew.)

    9. Read Numbers 16:46-48. Aaron the High Priest "stood between the living and the dead." Of what does this remind you? (Read Hebrews 8:1-2. My judgment is that these people deserved death. My judgment is that I deserve death. Praise God for Jesus who paid the death penalty for me and now stands as my High Priest to give me eternal life!)

  3. The Case for Stupid

    1. Read Numbers 17:1-5. What persisted despite all of these terrible signs of God's power and judgment? (Grumbling!)

      1. What does God think will cure the problem? (A miracle that doesn't involve anyone dying.)

        1. What is your thought on this approach?

    2. Read Numbers 17:6-11. Who has God clearly chosen? (Aaron.)

      1. Why does God have the staff displayed publicly? (So all can see and understand the miracle and God's choice.)

    3. Read Numbers 17:12. Just how stupid are these people? Just how stupid are we?

      1. Has there been any learning whatsoever from this terrible experience? (Yes. In Numbers 16:41 they thought that Moses had some special (and evil) power to kill "God's people." Now, at least they understand that it is God who is doing this to the "lost.")

      2. Let's venture that you believe that you are not as dumb as these people seem to be. What is the lesson they should have learned? (God is in charge, God has His leaders. Rebellion against God and His leaders results in death. Only the intervention of the High Priest can save us from a deserved death.)

    4. Let's think back a few studies and consider the lessons we should have learned.

      1. What is the lesson we should learn from the failure of the people to enter Canaan? (We need to trust God when our lives are in danger. We need to trust God when difficult opportunities lie before us. Fear is not only contempt towards God, it will keep us from great blessings.)

      2. What is the lesson we should learn from the Sabbath wood gatherer? (We might believe that God has failed us, when it was our own failure of faith. Defiantly turning away from God and sinning only ends in destruction.)

    1. As you put this week's lesson together with the last two, how would you summarize our choice in life? (God is this wonderful and frightening power. If you trust Him, fabulous things are possible. If you rebel against Him, you are stupid. Into the middle of this terrifying Presence comes Jesus, who offers to save us from our sins.)

    2. Friend, the choices are clear. Which one will you make today?

  1. Next week: Priests and Levites.
* Copr. 2009, Bruce N. Cameron, J.D. All scripture references are to the New International Version (NIV), copr. 1973, 1978, 1984 International Bible Society, unless otherwise noted. Quotations from the NIV are used by permission of Zondervan Bible Publishers. Suggested answers are found within parentheses. The lesson assumes the teacher uses a blackboard or some other visual aid.

© 2021 Bruce N. Cameron, J.D.
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