It starts early in life. “You’re not the boss of me,” we petulantly tell our parent, sibling, teacher, or other authority figure. From the beginning we want to be the one calling the shots, directing others around us to serve our needs, getting that shot of pride that feeds our ego.
The reading today concerns a story that serves as a reference for a number of Old and New Testament passage, Korah’s rebellion. It’s a tough lesson about leadership and how God’s kingdom is not a democracy!
Korah was a Levite, but he wasn’t happy about the task that he had been given. He appears to have been among those who were growing weary of the wilderness wanderings and wanted a regime change. He had persuaded a couple of other vocal individuals to help him whip up more opposition to Moses — 250 leaders from among the 12 tribes. They were the “Return to Egypt” party.
After an exchange of words, Moses told the 250 leaders to come to the Tabernacle with incense burners. Korah, Dathan, and Abiram — the ringleaders — refused to come with the others. Moses warned the other Israelites to get away from their tents, and after people Israel had complied, God opened up the earth to swallow Korah, Dathan, and Abiram and their families! At the same time, the 250 men who had gathered at the Tabernacle were consumed by fire from Heaven. Moses was told by the Lord to take the incense burners of these 250 (which, of course, survived the fire) and hammer them onto the altar of sacrifice as a clear reminder and warning to Israel ever after against opposing God and His leadership. The warning still applies.
But people still try to usurp God’s leadership. There are those who call themselves Christian who prefer the traditions of men (Mark 7:1-13) over the word of God. There are those who call for the leadership and authority of men over the kingship and authority of Jesus, because it is, after all, 21 centuries old. There are those who call for women’s leadership over men’s leadership in the church. There are those who call for egalitarianism in the home. And those who call for revolution, just because.
“Every person is to be in subjection to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those which exist are established by God. Therefore whoever resists authority has opposed the ordinance of God; and they who have opposed will receive condemnation upon themselves. For rulers are not a cause of fear for good behavior, but for evil. Do you want to have no fear of authority? Do what is good and you will have praise from the same; for it is a minister of God to you for good. But if you do what is evil, be afraid; for it does not bear the sword for nothing; for it is a minister of God, an avenger who brings wrath on the one who practices evil. Therefore it is necessary to be in subjection, not only because of wrath, but also for conscience’ sake. For because of this you also pay taxes, for rulers are servants of God, devoting themselves to this very thing. Render to all what is due them: tax to whom tax is due; custom to whom custom; fear to whom fear; honor to whom honor.” Romans 13:1-7, NAS95.
God calls for order (1 Cor. 14:33) and He has assigned leaders among mankind (e.g., 1 Tim. 2:14ff). And as has been said already in these books of Moses a number of times already, grumbling against God’s leaders, when they are following God’s will, is really grumbling against God Himself. The truth is that as much as we like the idea of democracy, God’s kingdom is not now, will never be, and never has been a democracy.
God is the rightful boss of me. I have no right to replace Him with me or anybody else. In fact, I am foolish to even attempt to do so. Not only is it actually impossible; it is absurd — like replacing Socrates with a simpleton.
See you tomorrow, Lord willing.