The Cost of Grumbling | KORACH – WEEK 38

By Scott Volk

Num 16:1-18:32

The pattern in the wilderness is unmistakable – God moves mightily, and His people end up grumbling. It almost seems unthinkable that people could have the audacity to see the very provision of God in front of their eyes day after day, yet respond by grumbling and complaining.

We can look at this pattern and say to ourselves, “If I were in Israel’s situation, I would never grumble like the they did!” However, the stark reality is that we really don’t know how we would respond. I can only speak for myself, but all I have to do is think back to the last traffic jam I was involved in, or the last time that I desired to go golfing, only to wake up to thunder showers. The true test of whether we are grumblers will be put on display when our circumstances seem to contradict our deepest desires.

In this week’s portion, we read about the rebellion of Korah in Numbers 16. I wish I could say that this was an isolated event in biblical history; the truth of the matter is that these types of situations have been repeating themselves for millennia among the people of God, and they begin with grumbling and complaining. It is important to note that everything recorded in the Torah that the people of Israel went through “happened as examples for us” (1 Cor 10:5, 11) in hopes that we would avoid Israel’s mistakes.

In a nutshell, Korah is deeply bothered because he feels that he is getting the raw end of the deal. He is a Levite, like Moses and Aaron, but Moses appointed Aaron and his sons to the priesthood while assigning the rest of the Levites to serve in the tabernacle. Korah desires equal status with Aaron (Num 16:3) and gathers some 250 leaders in Israel to come against Moses’ leadership. Unfortunately, the cost of their grumbling was an expensive one — the earth swallowed them up, along with their families and all their possessions (Num 16:31-32).

I want to give you three important take-away points from this week’s Torah portion as follows:

  1. Take heed to what you listen to. 

It’s a fact: other people’s grievances can soon become your grievances too! There is a reason why the Bible warns us about the dangers of gossip and slander. But, not only is the gossiper and slanderer violating the Word of God, but they are also putting in danger the one who entertains what they are saying.

It’s interesting to me that all of the ‘grumblers’ listed in Num 16:1 were made up of Levites except one! On, the son of Petheth, was from the tribe of Reuben. Here is the remarkable thing about that — On and Korah were neighbors!!! You might wonder how I know that, but it is clearly written in Scripture that Korah and all the sons of Kohath camped on the south side of the tabernacle (Num 3:29). And, in Numbers 2:10, we read that the Sons of Reuben (among whom On was a part) camped on the south side of the tabernacle also!

Our proximity to people is not a bad thing — we are called to dwell in covenantal relationships with others. However, if those relationships are indeed healthy relationship, they will require speaking the truth in love and not entertaining a spirit of grumbling and complaining.

In On’s situation, it looks like he succumbed to the grumbling and was brought into the insurrection because he heard Korah’s case and ended up embracing it as his own (even though he was not even a Levite!!!).

  1. Be careful to have a biblical attitude toward God-appointed leadership.

The reason that the Lord places leaders in our lives is for the purpose of our protection. Throughout the New Testament, there are scriptures that encourage us to be subject to our elders (1 Pet 5:5) and not to entertain an accusation against an elder unless on the basis of two or three witnesses (1 Tim 5:19).

Unfortunately, all too many leaders have abused their authority and have demonstrated the results of non-relational authority which can tend to lean more towards dictatorship than servant leadership. However, in healthy biblical relationships, we must embrace what the Word says about our attitude towards leaders.

Don’t be like Korah! It is way too easy to grumble and complain when things don’t go our way. Woe to those who build a case against leaders because of their selfish ambition.

  1. When we grumble against God’s appointed leaders, we grumble against God Himself

Numbers 17:10 states,

But the LORD said to Moses, “Put back the rod of Aaron before the testimony to be kept as a sign against the rebels, that you may put an end to their grumblings against Me so that they will not die.” (emphasis mine)

When we grumble against a leader, we would rarely view that grumbling against God Himself. However, it is clear from this week’s portion that God takes it personally when we grumble against those He has placed in authority over us. Although the grumbling was naturally against Moses, God said that they were grumbling against Him!

The word grumble appears numerous times in this week’s portion and is the one word that stood out to me as I was preparing this blog. As we remember that Israel experienced all these things as an example for us, let us take every effort to avoid their mistakes, not the least of which was grumbling. It was an expensive mistake that cost many of them their destiny.

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About the Author

Scott Volk is Messianic Jew who came to faith in 1975. After graduating from North Central University in Minneapolis in 1988, Scott has served in various pastoral capacities in Arizona, Florida, and North Carolina . After more than 20 years in pastoral ministry, Scott founded Together For Israel, a non-profit ministry that exists to partner with the Church for the salvation of Israel (Rom 11:26). Scott and his wife Beth have been married for over 25 years and have a heart to see Jew and Gentile united as ‘one new man’ in the Messiah. They have five children and reside in Charlotte, North Carolina.

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